Framing the SOA Scene

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2006-12-11 Print this article Print

Task-centered tools and virtual stacks combine to let developers compose a better picture

As any reasonably experienced photographer can tell you, a tightly framed long-lens photo may suffer from shallow depth of field. Developer tools and application platforms represent a similar trade-off: Its traditionally been hard to zoom in on part of a complex application, or to achieve tight management of a particular slice of an application stack, without letting other things fall out of sharp focus.

Developments this month from the Eclipse Foundation and from GigaSpaces let developers choose their own preferred field of view.

From Eclipse, the news is the December 11 Version 1.0 release of Mylar, a task-focused user interface for the Eclipse integrated development environment that provides what Id call "just enough" intelligence to make it actually helpful—instead of being annoyingly intrusive in the manner of some other attempts at an intelligent software construction set. I had the benefit of a Web-remote walk-through of the Mylar environment with creator Mik Kersten, whos doing this work for his PhD thesis: Mylar looks like a useful step toward getting things back in balance, as developers find themselves surrounded by voluminous frameworks and services that their conventional tools are right to make visible—but that a developer mostly doesnt need to consider at any given moment.

From GigaSpaces, Im looking forward to the release this month of GigaSpaces 5.2, an update to the companys JavaSpaces-based GigaSpaces infrastructure platform. A virtual middleware stack, the companys representatives promise, will make it possible for developers constructing composite applications based on SOA tech-niques to focus on what looks like an image of a single server—even if the reality behind that image is an arbitrarily deep and wide net-work of diverse resources.

Developers no longer suffer from the need to get out the magnifying glass of a dedicated and difficult-to-use debugger, or to get out the sextant and navigate their way through an unmarked landscape of IT silos to find the resources that their applications require. Using modern and freely available tool foundations like Eclipse or NetBeans, targeting the readily discoverable resources of a services environment using tools like SOA Softwares newly released Workbench, gives developers the equivalent of a fast and flexible zoom lens that even knows where its pointing.

But as any good photographer will also tell you, its the photographer—not the camera or the lens—that turns an ordinary scene into a great picture.

Tell me what you want to focus and frame at

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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