IBM and BEA Court Enterprise Developers

Vendors tout new products and services designed to appeal to their bread-and-butter application server constituencies—enterprise developers

In application server marketing, as in politics, one rule rises above the rest: Jeep your existing user base happy. A political base, in application server terms, anyway, is composed largely of the developers who program for a specific platform, be it IBM Corp.’s WebSphere, BEA Systems Inc.’s WebLogic, or application servers from Oracle Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc.

With this in mind, IBM and BEA last month announced new products and services designed to appeal to their bread-and-butter application server constituencies—enterprise developers. IBM’s WebSphere 6 announcement, for example, included a rebranded integrated development environment, the former WebSphere Studio Site Developer and WebSphere Studio Application Developer giving way to Rational Web Developer for WebSphere Software and Rational Application Developer for WebSphere Software, respectively. BEA, for its part, announced new code-sharing and collaborative features for its dev2dev community of WebLogic Workshop developers.

Both IBM and BEA officials spoke to the importance of courting developers. “We have a very large and established community of developers on dev2dev, and we’re very committed to keeping them happy,” says Scott Regan, senior director of developer marketing with BEA. “At this point, more developers are building on WebLogic than at any point ever before, and we’ve grown that community at this point about 75 percent since we launched our WebLogic Workshop tool.”

Ditto for IBM, which launched WebSphere 6 about a year after it shipped WebSphere 5.1. “We have really focused a lot on developer productivity. We have focused a lot on bringing this up to the latest version of the standards, and I would claim that we’re giving [developers] the most advanced support for Web services standards of any development platform, Java or non-Java,” comments Bob Sutor, director of WebSphere Infrastructure Software for IBM.

The buzz du jour in software development is automation, which—at this stage of the game, anyway—mostly describes the elimination of rote or otherwise mundane programming tasks. Not surprisingly, both IBM and BEA trumpeted new features or services designed to address these issues.

WebSphere 6, for example, ships with new features to facilitate what Sutor calls rapid development and deployment. The idea, he says, is that programmers can include comments that describe what certain pieces of code are supposed to do, and WebSphere Application Server will do the rest. “You write a little Java code, you provide a few hints in the code, along the lines of ‘This is intended to be this type of Java architect, you take this file and you put it in this directory,’ things like that,” he explains, describing these comments as a kind of “metadata.”

Sutor says IBM has also expanded wizard support in the new WebSphere IDE, which should result in productivity improvements for developers.

“For the common tasks that we now cover in the wizards, we have figured that we have been able to improve efficiency by about 75 percent,” he says. “We want to make sure that we can help you maximize the amount of time that you’re actually working on the code instead of spending time making sure the pieces are in the right place.”

BEA, for its part, has already built some degree of automation into its WebLogic Workshop, says Michael Hudson, a J2EE developer with Engineering Technologies Inc. “BEA has its WebLogic Workshop environment which pushes the idea of using business process diagrams to generate or ‘manufacture’ one-off implementations of software product lines,” he explains, noting that these process diagrams are somewhat similar to what Microsoft Corp. is now calling “domain specific languages.” The idea is to encapsulate the expertise of a particular domain—e.g., of relational databases with the structured query language (SQL)—so that programmers don’t necessarily have to know anything about it (see

Other proponents of programming automation envision a thriving market for off-the-shelf components, in which organizations can purchase—or in some cases download for free—pre-fab components or code samples to suit many of their development needs. To some extent, that’s the kind of collaboration BEA’s dev2dev effort is designed to support, and last week the application server powerhouse announced a refinement of that vision, called dev2dev CodeShare.

“This allows members of the actual dev2dev community to propose and create and collaborate on their own software projects. Any member of the developer community can propose a project”—which Regan says could be anything from a software component to a code sample that reflects a programming best practice—“and CodeShare provides all of the tools that [developers] need to be successful, including source code control, bug tracking, and discussion groups.”

CodeShare is based on CollabNet Enterprise Edition from CollabNet Inc., a provider of open source developer collaboration tools. While CodeShare can support large WebLogic development projects, most collaboration, Regan acknowledges, will involve sharing simple snippets of code. “The number one thing developers always ask for in any community is code samples, and we’re hoping that CodeShare will really help to dramatically increase this kind of collaboration,” he says.

BEA also struck a deal with technology publishing specialist O’Reilly Media Inc., says Regan. “We’re adding some deep technical content from the folks at O’Reilly. What you’ll see this week is just some articles, deep technical articles, and within the articles, how-to’s and best practices,” he concludes. The next version of BEA’s WebLogic application server is still on track for next year, Regan says, and that BEA is scheduled to ship a first beta sometime soon, possibly by the end of the year.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.