Introduction to AquaLogic User Interaction Development

by Jennifer Shipman
04/19/2006

Abstract

User interaction around SOA focuses on bringing together information and services from any system in order to serve the needs of users. BEA AquaLogic User Interaction (ALUI) provides an open, extensible solution that makes heterogeneous information and applications more accessible by providing them as services that deliver unified, collaborative, context-based experiences for all users across the enterprise. The ALUI architecture was designed for customization and integration, and the AquaLogic Development Kit (IDK) delivers a rich set of tools to facilitate implementation. This article provides an introduction to AquaLogic User Interaction focused on development features and concepts.

What is ALUI?

BEA AquaLogic User Interaction (ALUI) is a suite of integrated products for creating interactive solutions, including portals and composite applications. ALUI makes it simple to create, deploy, and manage service-oriented applications that facilitate complex processes and connect user activities that span multiple, heterogeneous systems. ALUI provides:

  • a powerful, interoperable infrastructure that integrates ALUI components into a cohesive Web-based environment
  • features and tools to support administration, collaboration, content management, and usage tracking
  • a well-tested, extensible, and customizable user interface
  • a collection of integration services to connect with existing applications and repositories

ALUI delivers this functionality through a collection of products:

AquaLogic Interaction (ALI) is the portal component of ALUI. It provides the framework for applications and integrates AquaLogic components into a cohesive Web-based environment. ALI provides a service-oriented framework to quickly deploy applications, standardize application look and feel, provide administration functionality, and make applications easy for end users to find. An advanced HTTP engine supports calls to remote Web services and handles gateway and tag transformation for remote content, allowing you to deploy and manage hundreds of applications. For details on architecture, see Overview of the ALI Architecture in the ALI online documentation.

AquaLogic Interaction Activity Servers are integrated applications that provide additional functionality surfaced through the ALI user interface.

  • Analytics collects information on activity within the portal and Web applications, helping administrators respond to user needs.
  • Collaboration allows employees, customers, and partners to work together easily and efficiently via the Web. Remote services can access Collaboration functionality through the AquaLogic IDK.
  • Publisher enables users to create new Web content and keep portals and composite applications up to date. Remote services can leverage Publisher's content management capabilities through the AquaLogic IDK.
  • Process provides tools to create and deploy new applications that encompass business processes.
  • Search indexes all the information and resources deployed across the enterprise, making information easy to find. Remote services can access and customize Search functionality through the AquaLogic IDK.
  • Studio gives users without extensive technical development skills the ability to create Web applications.

ALI Integration Services combine the full range and functionality of existing enterprise systems into composite applications. The AquaLogic IDK provides a collection of APIs for creating Integration Services, including Portlets, Content Crawlers, and Identity Services.

Every AquaLogic User Interaction component is designed to provide a personalized experience for each organization, and for specific groups and users. The rest of this article explains how the AquaLogic Interaction Development Kit (IDK) is used to customize and extend AquaLogic User Interaction functionality.

AquaLogic Interaction Development Kit (IDK)

The AquaLogic Interaction Development Kit (IDK) allows users to design customized interfaces and extend ALUI functionality to create powerful applications that meet the needs of any organization. The IDK supports both Java and .NET development environments.

  • The UI Customization Toolkit provides tools to customize the content, design, and functionality of the portal to meet user needs. Using these tools, you can modify the ALI user interface to meet the needs of any organization, including adding custom branding, creating user-specific experiences, modifying standard UI text, and adding custom functionality.
  • Integration Service APIs deliver a simple, consistent way to integrate data and functionality from existing systems. Using these APIs, you can create Web services that import user information and content from external repositories, authenticate users against existing systems, and expose functionality from external applications within the ALI user interface.
  • Remote APIs give access to key information and core functionality in AquaLogic Interaction, Collaboration, Publisher, and Search, including user profile data, Knowledge Directory content, portal objects, and security. Using these APIs, you can embed key functionality from ALI products in custom applications and services.

To download the IDK, go to the AquaLogic Interaction Developer Center. Let's now look at each of these components in a little more detail.

UI Customization Toolkit

AquaLogic Interaction includes a unified Web environment with personalized pages, portlets, and easy navigation to applications and communities. Built-in templates support rapid creation of pages, portlets, content, projects, applications, and Web services. A broad range of advanced development technologies including .NET Web Controls, AJAX, and adaptive portlet technologies allow you to deliver powerful solutions quickly.

The ALI online documentation contains detailed information on UI customization. For more details on the built-in tools that allow administrators to customize the portal UI, see Basic Portal UI Customizations. For details on the development features provided to support advanced customizations, see Advanced Portal UI Customizations and Portal Component Replacement.

Integration Service APIs

Web services integration technology provides a consistent way to access data and functionality in existing systems. Enterprise software vendors have adopted Web services almost universally as the ideal way to expose data and execute operations between programs over the Web. Web services offer a standard way for developers to integrate systems, resources, and databases into Web-based applications. Service-Oriented Applications hosted by the portal can be used to integrate functionality from a wide range of Web services.

The AquaLogic Interaction Development Kit (IDK) allows easy integration of external systems and applications. With AquaLogic Interaction you can integrate components running on Java and .NET platforms into the same page or application, and develop integration services using a broad range of Web standards, including SOAP, JSR-168, and WSRP. AquaLogic Interaction runs portlets and other integration services remotely, improving stability and supporting the deployment of a larger number of applications.

Integration services are categorized in three groups: Portlets, Identity Services, and Content Services.

Portlets

Portlets make it possible to integrate content and functionality from external systems in the AquaLogic Interaction UI. The back end for a portlet can be any Web application that returns HTML or XML over HTTP; portlets can be written in any language that communicates over HTTP. Each portlet is self-contained and executes its particular functionality in a separate process. Most portlets connect to an external application for data or functionality. For an introduction to portlets, see Developing Portlets in the ALI online documentation.

Identity Services

Identity Services synchronize users, groups, and user profiles with traditional systems of record, including LDAP directories and Windows domains. For an introduction to Identity Services, see Developing Identity Services.

Content Services

Content Services import and index content from external sources, including network file systems, databases, and Web sites. For details, see Developing Content Services in the ALI online documentation.

Remote APIs

The IDK's Programmable Remote Client (PRC) provides APIs for a wide range of ALI functionality, as well as Collaboration and Publisher operations. In addition to enabling the automation of bulk operations such as user creation or project creation, these APIs allow you to embed AquaLogic Interaction, Search, Collaboration, and Publisher features into composite applications. The PRC supports calls to access, create, or manipulate user information, portlets, projects, search queries, documents, and administrative objects. These APIs allow you to access key information such as user profile and security information, and integrate external systems deeply into core ALI functionality. For an introduction to the PRC, see Extending Server Functionality with Remote APIs in the ALI online documentation.

For a full listing of topics in the ALI online development documentation, see the Table of Contents. For a full listing of ALUI product documentation, see edocs.bea.com.

Summary

BEA AquaLogic User Interaction (ALUI) is an integrated set of products used to create enterprise portals, collaborative communities, and composite applications, all built on a service infrastructure. The ALUI architecture makes it simple to create, deploy, and manage service-oriented applications that leverage multiple, heterogeneous systems. ALUI and the IDK allow you to provide useful, personalized experiences for all users across the enterprise without duplicating existing data and functionality.