A dose of Java strengthens WebLogic 6.0

BEA Systems' latest app server release boasts excellent use of J2EE and the potential to scale in stride with your company

Companies looking to decrease their applications' time to market, boost developer productivity, and relieve many of the headaches associated with integrating existing business systems often look to the application server for assistance -- and rightly so. By offering features such as load balancing, security, clustering, and many other basic types of plumbing, app servers have quickly gained popularity as the Cadillacs of middle-tier services.

As such, the list of vendors hawking application servers -- which reads like a who's who of computing -- is ever growing. Although currently ranked No. 1 in marketplace positioning, BEA Systems, with its latest version of WebLogic Server 6.0, faces stiff competition from fast-approaching rivals, including IBM with WebSphere, the Sun-Netscape Alliance with iPlanet, and newcomer Oracle with its Oracle 9i.

The Bottom Line

WebLogic Server 6.0

Business Case

Companies looking to implement an application server should consider BEA Systems WebLogic 6.0 for its ease of use, strong integration, and industry acceptance. Technology Case

Developers will find WebLogic's implementation of the J2EE specification rock-solid and therefore easy to use or extend.

Pros

  • Excellent use of J2EE specification
  • Assortment of sample applications to learn on
  • Easy to administer
  • Promising scalability potential

Cons

  • No help offered in installation
  • Passwords shown in clear text when starting server

Cost

0,000 per CPU for Advantage Edition; 7,000 per CPU for Premium Edition Platforms

Windows NT, Windows 2000, AIX, 4.3+, Red Hat Linux 6.1+, HP-UX 11.0+, Solaris 8, Tru64 Unix

BEA Systems, Inc., San Jose, Calif.; (800) 817-4232 www.bea.com

Looking to extend its lead, BEA's latest release delivers numerous enhancements, including updates to reflect recent improvements in the current Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) specifications, added support for EJB 2.0, and features such as the Java Management Extension (JMX).

Other new features include an implementation of the JavaMail specification along with a new internationalized message catalog that makes it easier to provide localized error messages for those who do business abroad.

This update of WebLogic also addresses one of the major drawbacks of past releases: the need for a separate Web server. In addition to being compatible with the HTTP 1.1 standard, WebLogic Server 6.0 supports both servlets and JavaServer Pages (JSP). As an added bonus, the server even offers virtual-hosting support, load balancing, and failover capabilities.

For shops considering asynchronous messaging as a means to not only effectively transmit events between applications, but also to loosely couple their systems, this latest release implements the Java Message Service (JMS). In addition to integrating well with the clustering service, the WebLogic Server's implementation of JMS boasts the capability of handling database, file, or even in-memory persistence, giving developers a choice between publish/subscribe and point-to-point messaging.

Because it is integrated with the core platform services, the server also can directly access all of the EJB and transaction services needed to fully access a message-based architecture from a single, manageable platform.

From a security standpoint, we were pleased to find that the solution offers administrators the ability to logically associate users, groups, and ACLs (access control lists) with specific security "realms." These realms, used to protect WebLogic Server resources, can be based on either a default setting, or one extracted from Windows NT, UNIX, or LDAP servers, or they can be custom developed.

Users can also establish SSL sessions with the WebLogic Server using HTTP, the BEA proprietary T3 protocol, or even Remote Method Invocation (RMI) via Internet Inter-ORB (IIOP) protocol.

Should your shop require the authentication of clients prior to access of the WebLogic Server, BEA offers the choice of user name/password combinations or digital certificates. We were pleased to find that BEA provides users with a mechanism for auditing events including failed login attempts, authentication requests, rejected digital certificates, and invalid ACLs.

From a database connectivity standpoint, we were pleased to find that BEA had included a Type-2 (database vendor-supplied libraries) Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) driver for Oracle, as well a couple of Type-4 (pure Java) JDBC drivers for Informix and Microsoft SQL Server.

To test the solution, we loaded it on a dual processor Gateway ALR7200 with 512 MB of memory running Windows NT 4.0 Enterprise Edition. Installation of the application proved to be straightforward with little input required. However, we would like to have seen help available for the fields requiring input.

Kicking the tires

Once installed, we found managing all of the bells and whistles of the WebLogic Server fairly easy thanks to the robust, Web-based Administration Console. Based on an implementation of JMX, the console provided us with all the facilities needed to manage our WebLogic Server's resources. In fact, we were able to configure attributes of resources, deploy applications, and monitor our resource usage, including server load, JVM memory usage, and even database connection pool loads, all using the friendly interface.

Although we loved the look and feel of the server, as well as the added capabilities, we were a bit disappointed with the number of missed quality issues. A good case in point was that when we chose not to register the server as a Windows service, we were required to enter a password to start the server. Although this in itself did not bother us, we were troubled by the fact that the password was echoed back to us in clear text, creating a potential security hole. The fact that our scrolling down on a list caused the last entry to be repeated numerous times did not help either.

Should you prefer to try before you buy, BEA offers a free, fully functional 30-day trial version on its Website. As a way to jump-start setup and usage, WebLogic Server 6.0 comes replete with numerous components, Web applications, servlets, and more, as well as Sun's Pet Store application, an application for purchasing pets online as a means for individuals to demonstrate features of the server and J2EE.

In all, we found BEA Systems WebLogic Server 6.0 worthy of a Very Good score. Despite the mentioned shortcomings, its ease of use, numerous new and enhanced features, and an excellent implementation of the J2EE specification, make it well worth a look.

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This story, "A dose of Java strengthens WebLogic 6.0" was originally published by InfoWorld.

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