BEA Exec Panel Explores J2EE Integration Needs

During JavaOne, BEA Systems held a panel discussion to discuss its WebLogic 8.1 J2EE app server and tools upgrades, shipping this summer. Execs also discussed their current and future needs for better Java support to cut dev learning curves, speed app deployment and improve Java interoperability with web services, and even .NET. See how their needs stack up with yours.

Tags: J2EE, Integration, Java, BEA, Support, Productivity, Framework,

Later this summer, BEA Systems will officially ship its WebLogic 8.1 J2EE app server upgrade, (along with its development framework and support for portal and integration features).

During JavaOne, a variety of WebLogic 8.1 beta users met with the press to share their views on the products' performance, as well as a wide variety of issues important to Java developers, including the benefits and challenges of J2EE, the state of the "developer-as-integrator" and even to the need for J2EE to better intemperate with non-Java platforms, particularly web services and .NET.

Rick Jackson, BEA's vice president for product and solutions marketing led off the panel by noting the tough balancing act faced by many developer shops using J2EE. "We've found with out customers that leveraging J2EE is a very difficult process," he said. "In fact, it was like we went back into the Stone Age, as far as developer support was concerned."

The complexity of J2EE, and the lack of resources, Jackson said, has been a drag on the growth of the J2EE community. "In the Java community, only one in ten can use J2EE so our question is: How can we scale out J2EE?"

BEA's response to this question will come in two main technology pushes: (1) WebLogic Workshop 8.1 will offer interfaces and visual tools that abstract the complexity of J2EE; and (2) A framework approach where, as Jackson put it, "integration is not an afterthought anymore."

"J2EE experience is hard and expensive to come by," Jackson added. "There is a steep learning curve, and so when we looked at how to improve J2EE dev productivity we looked at VB and .NET as valuable approaches. Our goal is to
improve the productivity of the developer."

In the following comments from BEA beta users, IDN summarizes where customers see today's needs, and where they are taking their development efforts in the near future.

Scott Metzer, CTO of TrueLink (TransUnion):
We have a high-level of integration when we do application development and management, so web services will be important to us. We're also looking for tools that support managed JMS (Java Messaging) versus proprietary approaches.

Integration is more error-prone than many developers and integrators
would like. Today, a lot of the work is "do it once" and shoot it on to QA. So, integration work isn't in the model today. So, there is a challenge of integrating components. With web services and other framework models, you are integrating as you develop. The WebLogic 8.1 beta offers some integration templates and they show a solid understanding of life design and support. We'll be looking for more of those capabilities.

While portability is a core key feature of Java, productivity and interoperability are more significant to us today. [So], I'm glad to see that vendors are supporting WS-Security, and we see that [standard] as a path for us to interoperate and integrate our J2EE and Microsoft platforms.

Mike Komadina, Solutions Director, Deloitte/RoundArch
We're seeing a push to the real-time enterprise, where there are new ways of measuring IT effectiveness. For us, we're seeing customers looking for: ease of deployment, and the availability of a framework environment that brings together application development, presentation, and integration.

This also means that developers are becoming more aware of integration issues. There's no doubt there is a change. Developers now view this [integration] as job security even though some of these integration tasks are what someone with EAI (enterprise application integration) skills would have done in the past. A framework makes things easier to manage objects

With our customers, their early web services projects were not done on J2EE, in fact they were done separate from J2EE platforms. Now, many are using J2EE and .NET and deploying on multiple platforms.

Frank Martinez, CTO, Blue Titan
Customers are looking to standardize their application development process, to create a seamless flow from low-level programmers to high-level application developers and architects and modelers at the front and, and operations and managers at the back-end of the life-cycle. We need a friendlier J2EE to achieve this common model and accelerate SOA.

For J2EE work, we decided to go with BEA. Without that decision, we would have had to develop and maintain our own infrastructure for JMS. That's orders of magnitudes higher costs than just using BEA. The alternative of going out of business, is less desirable. You don't get integration for free.

As far as future Java standards, I have some concerns. The stack is one concern. BEA has done a damned good job on making sure Java and J2EE are vendor-independent going forward. But, support for other leading technologies will be important. The way we [the Java community] deal with XML is also important. I want to see the Java vendors treat XML as a first class citizen. I also see the need to make sure Java and J2EE better interoperate with .NET. BEA has a plan to offer broad and deep support for .NET, but I'm not sure that feeling is shared Java-wide.

BEA's WebLogic 8.1 will be generally available this summer.