Here is your chance to get the inside track on WebLogic: Eric Stahl of BEA answered readers' tough questions about BEA products and where they're headed in the coming year. Eric has spent the last three years at BEA Systems and is currently the director of product marketing for WebLogic Server and WebLogic JRockit. Eric's team is focused on product communications, developer relations, market analysis, competitive analysis, analyst relations, benchmarking, and other product-focused activities.
<J. Michael Towry>: Will the upcoming WLS 8.1 release contain any new features from J2EE 1.4/EJB 2.1? Is there a "ballpark" ETA for a WLS version with a complete J2EE 1.4 implementation?
<Eric Stahl>: Through our ties to the JCP and the WS-I, we supported the push back of the J2EE 1.4 because we think it should incorporate the Basic Profile. But our release train has a lot of momentum, and we think we have a great new package in WebLogic 8.1, so J2EE 1.4 will be delivered in a future release.
<Tony Ciafardoni>: I've used Workshop with WLS 7.0.1. How will Workshop be extended and enhanced in WLS 8.0?
<Stahl>: Check out the new Workshop beta and hopefully you'll be impressed. We've added the ability to access all aspects of the platform, so it's a major advancement. This allows you to develop your core application from a single environment, integrate it with back-end resources, and expose it through the portal. It's a great end-to-end view.
<Sreedhar>: I'm searching for the best application server for our Web-based product. Can you briefly explain the advantage of WebLogic Server over other application servers? It will be very useful for us.
<Stahl>: We think WebLogic Server is easier to use (development, administration, and integration), and industrial strength (reliability, scale, security). I'd recommend looking into our Workshop Application Framework; our clustering architecture; our configuration, management, and security capabilities; and the extension of the application server with the WebLogic Platform, which includes WebLogic Portal and WebLogic Integration. Beyond the product, look at the ecosystem. We've seen massive consolidation in the application server space over the last few years, and BEA has been fortunate enough to come out on top. This drives the larger developer, ISV, hardware, and SI partnerships that ultimately offer more choices to our customers. Also, many best practices are established through the many books, magazines, user groups, and other WebLogic resources that are available.
<Mike Gardner>: Considering how complicated a server-side product WebLogic Server is, do you consider 2.25 years from product launch to desupport a long enough time? Please consider (especially for large shops): (1) jumping on a new product version is foolhardy; six months of settle-time is prudent... with SP1 or SP2. (2) Multiple projects, with different or possibly the same resources, have to be aligned. (3) Stress-tested burn-in time in dev, test, and QA is prudent. (4) IT departments have more to do than upgrade infrastructure.
So it's reasonable that a year has already gone by before WLS can be migrated confidently into production, leaving a little over a year before production problems are not supported.
<Stahl>: We just announced the EOL of WLS 5.1 to be February 1, 2004. It was shipped April 4, 2000, so it has a four-year window, but I understand the concern. We are taking a close look at our release mechanics and welcome as much input as we can get. Have your BEA reps direct your requirements to our product management team.
<Ganesh Venkatesasundaram>: When will WebLogic's JRockit JVM support the Unix (HP-UX) platform?
<Stahl>: Our philosophy was that neither Windows nor Linux had good, independent JVM representation, so we set out to deliver the world's fastest and most reliable JVM on those platforms. Through our alliance with Intel, we have optimized WebLogic JRockit for IA 32- and IA 64-bit platforms running Windows and Linux. We feel that HP will continue to invest in and deliver the best JVM for HP-UX.
<Anas Mughal>: What advantages does WebLogic have over WebSphere?
<Stahl>: We believe that customers benefit from the intersection of easy-to-use products with industrial-strength reliability. IBM has always been able to get a system going, but at tremendous cost, due to nonintegrated products and an army of consultants. I strongly suggest that anyone interested in seeing the difference between the products put the PowerPoint slides down and run through a simple installation, configuration, and just kick the tires of both products. Also, our most recent benchmarks with WebLogic Server 8.1 are the best in the business. Combine that with our tight alliances with Intel, HP, Sun, Dell, the packaged application vendors, the system integrators, and the developer community, and we think we have a compelling story to tell.
<David Glasser>: What technical advantages does WebLogic have over JBoss that justify the sizeable investment in a per-CPU WebLogic license? To put it another way, what do I get for my five- or six-figure investment in WebLogic that I can't get for free from JBoss?
<Stahl>: Most customers I talk to want to look at the total cost of a project and do what they can to drive the cost down. That includes all the hardware, software, and human costs associated with a project. It turns out that the application server license is a very small percentage of the total project cost, yet has a huge impact on everything else. With better scalability you need less hardware, which drives out cost. With developer and administrator productivity tools, like WebLogic Workshop and our management, monitoring, and security frameworks, not only can fewer people do more in less time, the resulting application is more industrial strength.
Also, with out-of-the-box integration with all the leading system management, security, tools, LDAP, and other peripheral technologies, WebLogic can easily be integrated into an existing architecture. Finally, with the WebLogic platform we add native BMP, adapters, and B2Bi capabilities on the back end, with personalization, content management, and the portal framework on the front end. In the end customers pay for licenses because WebLogic drives down hardware, development, integration, and administrative costs while increasing reliability.
<Emeric Vernat>: Do you plan to invest in a partner program with an IDE's manufacturer(s)? Do you think of the possibility of buying Borland?
<Stahl>: BEA partners with many tools partners. We also sell and support JBuilder, WebLogic Edition.
<Rory Sherman>: When will WebLogic Server support Java 1.4.1?
<Stahl>: WebLogic Server 8.1 supports 1.4.1.
<Keith Wilson>: When will WebLogic's JRockit JVM implement Java 1.4 and the Java Servlet 2.4 and JSP 2.0 specifications?
<Stahl>: WebLogic JRockit, which currently holds the world record SPECJbb benchmark numbers for four CPU systems, is based on JDK 1.4.1. Servlet and JSP support is implemented in WebLogic Server, which is compliant with J2EE 1.3.
<Tim Dawson>: As more and more of app server "added functionality" becomes part of one spec or another, do you plan to continue to differentiate WebLogic Server in the future by adding additional proprietary tools/APIs, or by improving the administration of the server (i.e., through better deployment/maintenance/monitoring/scalability/log file management, etc.).
<Stahl>: As an Executive Committee member of the JCP and a founder of the WS-I, BEA has always been very committed to open standards. The standards aspect of our differentiation is based on how quickly we can implement the latest standards, and the quality of those implementations, such as scalability, reliability, etc. But standards only go so far. We have always added substantial functionality around the standards and focused on two areas. First, we need to make them easy to use through our tools or value-add APIs. Second, we need to make them industrial strength, as we've done through our clustering architecture and security framework. One other important point is that we have a history of pushing many of our innovations back into the standards bodies. If a new standard ever comes out that overlaps with our own implementation, we'll go for the standards-based approach wherever possible.
<Joe Weber>: Where do you see WebLogic Workshop going in the future? Do you feel you've gained enough market share to make it a worthwhile development?
<Stahl>: In February we announced WebLogic Workshop 8.1, which extends the development environment and application framework well beyond Web services to include design views for Web apps, business process management, custom controls, adapters, personalization, the portal framework, and all other aspects of the WebLogic Platform. Aside from exposing all of the platform services, the framework allows non-J2EE developers to easily build applications, which is a huge win for developers. For J2EE developers we've incorporated EJBGen, making it much faster and easier to create EJBs. It's a unified development environment for all applications that we think will change the way people look at application platforms.