New CA Modeling Tool Supports WCF

Plex rapid application development environment now lets developers model and generate Microsoft .NET-based services based on Windows Communication Foundation

CA's latest release of its Plex rapid application development environment now lets developers model and generate Microsoft .NET-based services based on Windows Communication Foundation (WCF).

Plex is a multiplatform, model-driven development (MDD) environment that includes architectural and design objects known as patterns that can reduce the need to code repeatable elements in applications. Islandia, N.Y.-based CA, a supplier of IT management software, announced its latest version, Plex 6.1, on Tuesday.

WCF support in Plex 6.1 facilitates the mixing and matching of .NET-based services across the enterprise and with business partners, according to William Hunt, a CA product manager. With Plex 6.1, developers can build applications utilizing Windows Workflow Foundation and perform business process automation modeling using a single dev environment, Hunt said.

"As we see it -- and as we believe Microsoft sees it -- WCF is the future of how service-oriented architectures (SOAs) will be adopted in applications," Hunt said. "So it's important for us to provide this kind of capability going forward."

The tool is designed to support a number of platforms: Windows/.NET; Java/J2EE; servers that run Java on Linux, UNIX and other OSes; and IBM System i, formerly known as iSeries or AS/400. Plex 6.1 also runs on Windows Vista desktops.

Plex is historically popular among System i users, Hunt said, and its new WCF capabilities are aimed at helping AS/400 shops face a changing future.

"We see AS/400 users pondering what their modernization strategies will be," he said. "We also believe that the model-based development approach that we offer is ideal for the quick adoption of SOAs. That's because it's an environment that largely shields developers from low-level details of certain technologies."

The WCF capability is the most compelling part of this release, said John Rhodes, CTO and cofounder of ADC Austin, a system integrator based in Austin, Texas. Rhodes has used Plex for years, and his company was part of the beta program for version 6.1.

"It [WCF] enables Plex to generate Microsoft-compliant Web services," Rhodes said. "It helps customers expose their large models to external services."

ADC Austin did more than kick the tires on Plex 6.1. The company worked with the Indian University Foundation to codevelop an application to manage that organization's endowment using the new tool. They dubbed the application ETA, for "Endowment Trust Accounting."

This was ADC Austin's first real foray into WCF territory.

"This was a good way to see how Plex works in a real .NET framework," Rhodes said, adding that he is sold on the MDD approach to application development. MDD-style software development employs "models" from which code and other artifacts are generated. "We like Plex because it's one of the few tools that generates both C# and Java code," he said.

A growing number of vendors, large and small, are offering MDD tools and frameworks, including IBM (with its acquisition of Telelogic), Intelliun, and Mendix. For its part, CA offers four MDD tools: Plex; 2E; Gen, a dev environment for high-performance business applications; and Aion Business Rules Expert, a rules-based application development tool.

Other improvements to the Plex 6.1 release include easy viewing and documenting of group model updates, improved APIs for extending the Plex environment programmatically, and IPv6 support. More information on Plex can be accessed at CA's site here.

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John K. Waters is a freelance author and journalist based in Silicon Valley. His latest book is The Everything Guide to Social Media. Follow John on Twitter, read his blog on ADTmag.com, check out his author page on Amazon, or e-mail him at john@watersworks.com.