BEA promises easier Web services development framework

Adam Bosworth, senior vice-president of engineering at BEA Systems Inc., showed off an alpha version of a forthcoming application development framework for building Web services in San Francisco at the InfoWorld (U.S.) Next-Generation Web Services conference.

Bosworth began by saying that, when it comes to Web services, there are three pillars of application integration: coarse-grained messaging, asynchronous messaging, and loosely coupled applications.

“These aren’t options, would-be-nice’s,” he said.

In this keynote, Bosworth focused on the last two. Asynchronous messaging is important to the reliability of Web services because it enables a user or system to access a Web service when they want to, even if that particular service is inaccessible at that time.

“When you talk to another application, there may be reasons it doesn’t want to talk to you,” Bosworth said.

For instance, if the Web service is bogged down with too many messages, such as last-minute orders during the holiday season, asynchronous enables the user to send a request and the service to reply when it can. Another example Bosworth pointed to is when human intervention is required prior to a response, such as when banks need a human to approve a document before it is sent back.

On the loosely coupled applications front, Bosworth said that is important to ensure that changing anything doesn’t break the XML messages, whereas in a client/server architecture changes almost always lead to breaking code.

“The idea behind Web services is that we need to fix this problem,” he said.

To that end, Bosworth demonstrated BEA’s forthcoming application development framework, code-named Cajun.

“The No. 1 goal we have is .Net interoperability,” he said.

Bosworth continued that BEA is focusing on three things: Providing a general model for Web services; making that scalable; and approaching Web services development in such a way that the average developer doesn’t have to think about the plumbing.

He built a simple Web service from scratch, and showed the audience some of Cajun’s features, namely controls.

A control is simply a packaging that prevents developers from having to set everything up programmatically.

“As a developer, I’m just thinking about the business logic I need,” he said, adding that developers won’t have to think about the plumbing.

But Web services are not yet to the level that BEA is hoping for, Bosworth said, at least not for business-to-business transactions.

“The hole is there is no standard for reliability and security in SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol),” he said.

The version of Cajun that Bosworth showed was in the alpha testing phase, but he said that BEA will be demonstrating a more up-to-date version at is BEA eWorld conference late next month in San Diego. In the updated version, BEA will give a glimpse of a new user interface and mapping capabilities. BEA also issued a statement on Thursday that said it will unveil a new version of its WebLogic application server and new developer resources at eWorld.

Earlier this week, Bosworth said BEA’s push for server-side controls is gaining ground in the Java community. The BEA controls are the same as controls in PC-centric products, such as PowerBuilder and Visual Basic. “We show that there’s a way to use these controls that makes the entire programming model much easier,” he said.

Microsoft and Sun Microsystems also made toolkit announcements this week. Sun, based in Palo Alto, Calif., offered an early access release of its Forte Developer 7 suite, which makes it easier to use C, C++, and Fortran applications with Sun ONE (Open Network Environment). Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft posted Visual Studio .Net and the .Net Framework to its MSDN Web site for downloading.

“You can make a Web service do anything you want today, but I think we can make it a lot easier,” said Eric Rudder, senior vice-president of developer and platform evangelism at Microsoft.

Indeed, customers are looking for ways to make Web services creation and deployment easier before moving to a Web services architecture, said David Marshak, an analyst at Patricia Seybold Group in Boston. “Companies don’t want to embark on a three-to-four year project until they know the technology is solid.”