BEA rides Java toward SOA
Manageability shines in complementary WebLogic and AquaLogic ESB releases
If WebLogic represents the Java side of BEA, AquaLogic is where Web services and SOA are found. The “Aqua” prefix and the company’s campaign to “think liquid” refer to the integration of enterprise data via Web services -- specifically, the data is no longer frozen in various applications. The product line is a blend of new offerings and existing software that’s been repackaged. At the heart of it all is AquaLogic 2.1, the ESB that BEA is promoting in the face of stiff competition. (We reviewed most of its competitors last July.)
As an ESB, AquaLogic does a good job of providing the plumbing for Web services and other forms of interapplication networking. It supports multiple transports -- although not RMI (Remote Method Invocation), IIOP (Internet Inter-ORB Protocol), or CORBA. It can also interface with various true messaging middleware products. (It offers reliable messaging but doesn’t interface directly with message-queuing middleware.) XLST (XSL Transformation) transforms can be applied to EDI transactions for enterprises that still rely on that technology.
AquaLogic also provides the traditional enterprise features expected in ESBs, such as data transformations specified via XML configuration files, rules- and content-based routing, and on-the-fly encryption.
The ALSR (AquaLogic Service Registry), which is based on technology OEM’d from Systinet, complements this bus. ALSR provides an enterprise-wide UDDI 3.0 directory for facilitating location and access to corporate Web services. This registry stores data such as services, schemas, transformations, and policies. It can import items directly from the company’s WebLogic Workshop environment, which is used for development of Web services.
AquaLogic delivers most of what other ESBs offer today and somewhat less than what the top players do, notably Sonic Software’s. Where AquaLogic really shines, however, is as a management layer for SOA. The management console is remarkably clean, intuitive, and easy to navigate. As with the WebLogic console, most items have embedded links to help files that provide fairly detailed explanations. A wealth of sample apps and tutorials on BEA’s own Web site further facilitates use of these tools. At sites that use both WebLogic and AquaLogic, the AquaLogic console can provide end-to-end management of the infrastructure.
A key point is that configuration and deployment of Web services is done without scripting. Rather, these activities rely purely on XML configuration files. BEA legitimately argues that using configuration rather than traditional tools greatly facilitates resource management. AquaLogic’s deployment environment eases the building and testing of configuration files, which BEA calls artifacts -- a word borrowed from application modeling. An undo feature makes it simple to reverse the changes, and its opposite, a hot-deploy option, enables immediate implementation if the testing validates the design.
Although these tools are easy to use, they lack the basic support found in true development products for the past two decades. For example, there is no diff utility that can tell you how an artifact has changed -- only that it has been modified. Moreover, artifacts cannot be locked, so two admins could inadvertently be modifying the same file -- a remarkable oversight. Finally, AquaLogic has no WSDL editor, meaning that changes in a Web service that go beyond simple configuration must be done using other tools and then be imported back into the environment.