The BEA WebLogic Platform and Host Integration
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Integrating Host Applications with BEA WebLogic

Although there are challenges to integrating host applications, many options exist. By expanding the reach of WebLogic 8.1 Server and development platforms, you can create a comprehensive host integration environment. Examples follow.

Extending BEA WebLogic Workshop

BEA WebLogic Workshop enables developers to build enterprise-class applications on WebLogic platforms while hiding much of the complexity associated with traditional J2EE application development. To make it easier to connect to IT resources such as legacy applications, WebLogic Workshop provides Java controls.

By supporting Java controls, developers can expose host integration application components in the Workshop visual design tools. Java controls eliminate the need for Workshop developers to write tedious API-level code when trying to connect with existing IT assets. In addition, host integration solutions like WRQ Verastream enable legacy applications and logic components to be exposed in a WebLogic Workshop project and used by a J2EE developer to create custom controls that can then be assembled into new or existing web service applications.

Extending BEA WebLogic Integration

BEA WebLogic Integration provides a development and runtime framework that unifies all the components of business integration—business process management, data transformation, trading partner integration, connectivity, message brokering, application monitoring, and user interaction—into a single environment. It also offers a broad array of adapters that allow for integration with third-party applications.

While the BEA portfolio of adapters does not provide connections to commonly used host systems through the terminal screen, WRQ Verastream host integration tools and adapters can complement WebLogic Integration. By using a JCA 1.0-compliant connector that you can access from a WebLogic Integration, WRQ Verastream provides presentation-level integration of applications residing on multiple hosts. The result? Bi-directional, real-time host connections by default.

Extending BEA WebLogic Server

As mentioned earlier, BEA WebLogic Server is a full-featured, J2EE standards-based application server providing a foundation for organizations to build their applications. The EJB component model is the standard component framework among Java application developers. BEA developers can, in turn, integrate host application data and logic using EJB component technology, bypassing any need for custom programming. BEA developers can then encapsulate complete host functionality into JavaBeans, EJBs, or web services to be deployed in BEA WebLogic Server and directly integrate the legacy data into Java applications.

Extending BEA WebLogic Portal

BEA WebLogic Portal provides an infrastructure for simplified production and deployment of custom-built portal sites. It supplies a graphical environment for developing portals as well as browser-based assembly tools targeted toward business experts. The primary integration point between WebLogic Portal and external applications is a portlet. BEA provides a number of different approaches for producing portlets, allowing developers to create a portlet that frames a JSP from a web service, based on a JCA adapter, or from a custom-developed interface. Any of these approaches can be used for integration between host integration applications and WebLogic Portal so you can create host portlets that make legacy data available and encapsulate complete business functionality.

Host Integration in a BEA WebLogic Environment

There are many scenarios in which developers can access and utilize legacy components directly from the development environment to rapidly build new applications. For one electronic equipment vendor in particular, decreasing costs, increasing sales efficiency, and increasing customer satisfaction was a top priority. As such, the organization decided to:

  • Build a web application that integrates information from a variety of systems, so sales people would have a 360-degree view of the customer's ordering process

  • Provide a portal where customers can find product information and place orders online

The information needed to support these two initiatives resides in diverse systems, including:

  • Inventory, running on an OpenVMS platform
  • Customer information, in an IBM DB2 database
  • Financial information, in an IBM CICS-based application
  • Supply chain management, on mySAP™

This IT organization had standardized on the J2EE platform and selected BEA WebLogic Server to run its Java applications. With BEA WebLogic Integration as the application-integration platform of choice, the development team soon realized that inclusion of the supply-chain management information in both projects could easily be done by using BEA WebLogic Integration together with the BEA WebLogic adapter for SAP. However, both the web-based application and the portal application needed to include data and logic that reside on IBM and OpenVMS hosts.

The development team used the BEA WebLogic CICS adapter to access the CICS-based financial application running on the IBM mainframe. Initially, the development staff considered using the BEA WebLogic DB2/390 adapter for access to the DB2-based customer information. However, because this customer information must be updated frequently, accessing the data in the DB2 database directly would have forced the development team to rebuild all the database rules and business logic. Instead, the team opted to use WRQ Verastream to complete the company’s host integration requirements. By using WRQ Verastream in conjunction with BEA WebLogic Integration, developers were able to integrate data and logic from all host systems, including the customer information and inventory systems. Using the screen interface, developers encapsulated customer data, as well as inventory data and logic, which were made available as BEA WebLogic Workshop Controls.

Another option would have been to integrate WRQ Verastream with BEA WebLogic Integration using the WRQ Verastream JCA Connector. In that scenario, Verastream would act as a 3270 and VT420 host integration adapter to WebLogic Integration. From WebLogic Integration, a developer could define business processes that include supply-chain management, financial, customer, and inventory processes or information.

Host Integration and BEA WebLogic: What to Look For

Legacy applications containing critical data and logic can sometimes bog down the completion of new projects. A complete solution to host integration should offer the benefits above, thereby giving J2EE and BEA WebLogic Workshop developers the tools they need to meet the challenges of integration head on.

To ensure new portal, web services, and mobile applications bring business agility instead of setbacks, IT organizations should seek an adaptable approach for connecting host applications with WebLogic. When using WebLogic with a host integration tool, legacy applications should not present a barrier when deploying new applications in heterogeneous environments. Host integration features to look for include:

  • Shorter development cycles. An effective host integration tool should automatically generate integration code, which in turn accelerates deployment timelines.

  • Flexibility and choice. Developers and integrators should have the freedom to choose the component technology that best suits their environment. Options include JavaBeans, Workshop controls, EJBs, and web services.

  • Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) support. SOA is an ideal framework to leverage functionality in old and new systems, allowing the organization to respond faster to new opportunities. When complementary technologies like WebLogic and host integration are built upon SOA, the foundation is more solid. Once complex and highly specialized functions locked within mainframe applications can be reused repeatedly as services on a project-by-project basis, they can be easily integrated into a web application that requires little or no training.

  • Use of existing skills. Developers should not need to learn new programming languages to develop new applications that leverage host assets. The familiar context of WebLogic Workshop makes it easier for Workshop developers to integrate host data; no new training or tools are needed.

  • Non-intrusive approach. New software installations or host changes should not be required so developers can quickly get projects underway without worrying about host system integrity. Legacy applications, containing critical data and logic, can sometimes bog down the completion of new projects. An effective host integration tool offers J2EE and BEA WebLogic Workshop developers what they need to handle this tough integration challenge.

Conclusion

Developers can use the BEA WebLogic platform to easily create new portal, web services, and mobile applications that increase business agility. Because these new applications require that legacy assets are incorporated to be effective, host integration is an essential piece of the development puzzle. An effective host integration tool delivers unencumbered access to critical legacy data, ensuring that the IT team can develop new applications and then quickly move on to the next project.

Host integration with WRQ Verastream offers BEA WebLogic developers many benefits including shorter development cycles, flexibility and choice, support for SOA, the ability to leverage existing development skills, and a non-intrusive approach. Because WRQ Verastream automatically generates integration code, BEA and Java developers can accelerate deployment timelines from years to weeks. Developers and integrators can choose the component technology that best suits their environment including options such as JavaBeans, BEA Workshop controls, EJBs, and web services. The familiar context of BEA WebLogic Workshop makes it easier for Workshop developers to integrate host data without needing new training or tools. Since no software installations or host changes are required, developers can quickly get projects under way without worrying about host-system integrity or disrupting business.

References

Tom Bice serves as Manager of Integration Strategy for WRQ Verastream, a leading legacy integration solution. Tom brings over 10 years of legacy integration expertise and has held various Product Management, Product Marketing, and consulting roles within the host integration industry.