In contrast to other Web scripting languages, JSP presents the greatest training hurdle for Web designers wanting to design applications because of Javas mandatory data typing and exacting syntax. M7 Corp.s M7 Application Assembly Platform 3.0 (which eWEEK Labs reviewed in final beta form) provides a spoonful of sugar to help the Java go down.
It provides an object mapping layer, a data persistence library and a visual pro-gramming tool that allows for graphical assembly of Web applications while only requiring developers to know a little bit of Java syntax.
M7 will be an attractive option for organizations that have invested in Java application servers but would like to provide a larger pool of people with tools to create Java Web applications.
Final code should ship this month. The package costs $12,500 per CPU on the application server and $3,000 per developer. It is certified to run on BEA Systems Inc.s BEA WebLogic Server 6.1 or 7.0 (eWEEK Labs used WebLogic 7.0 during tests), IBMs WebSphere Application Server 4 or JBoss Group LLCs JBoss 3.0 with Tomcat 4. This 3.0 release includes some tool usability enhancements as well as support for external source code control systems.
M7 doesnt require any EJB (Enterprise JavaBeans) features in its host application server, so lower-end versions of WebSphere or WebLogic that dont support EJB will still work with M7, providing an opportunity for cost savings on the server side. M7 cant create EJB, either; those who need to produce EJB for code reuse and interoperability reasons will have to use another tool. However, we were able to easily invoke EJB already deployed on our test application server from M7 applications we created.
M7s entirely graphical design process may annoy those who like to have precise control over application behavior and design, but, on the flip side, we found that applications come together very quickly using the wizards and high-level page creation tools M7 provides.
We could flip to a text-editing mode in addition to the visual mode; the text editor provides color-coding and indentation help but not keyword completion, outlining or other modern editor features.
M7 is part of a newly emerging segment of the development tools markethigh-level Java development tools. M7 doesnt compete directly against tools such as Borland Software Corp.s JBuilder or IBMs IBM WebSphere Studio because, while M7 generates Java applications, it doesnt require developers to write Java code directly.
M7s closest competitor is BEAs BEA WebLogic Workshop (see review) a product that also uses highly graphical development tools to make J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition) development simpler.
WebLogic Workshop provides a much stronger code editor and provides tighter integration with other WebLogic server products, plus it enables the creation of Web serviceswhich we couldnt do with M7. It also provides direct connectivity with Java Message Service and JCA (J2EE Connector Architecture) adapters (the latter are now available for many enterprise resource planning applications), something M7 developers would have to write their own Java code to do.
Given the substantial improvements in the upcoming 2.0 release of WebLogic Workshop, combined with its sub-$1,000 cost (a 12-month trial edition is a free download), we believe Workshop is a better option for BEA customers.
However, Workshop works only with WebLogic Server, so organizations that want cross-application server development or better code portability will get that through M7.
Timothy Dyck is a Senior Analyst with eWEEK Labs. He has been testing and reviewing application server, database and middleware products and technologies for eWEEK since 1996. Prior to joining eWEEK, he worked at the LAN and WAN network operations center for a large telecommunications firm, in operating systems and development tools technical marketing for a large software company and in the IT department at a government agency. He has an honors bachelors degree of mathematics in computer science from the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and a masters of arts degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada.