By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2004-01-19 Print this article Print

In a pivotal moment of the 1999 movie satire "Galaxy Quest," a starship crew member whos safe on the ship advises another whos facing a massive rock monster to "look around—can you fashion some sort of rudimentary lathe?" Developers who have moved beyond the pilot-project stage may find that first-generation Web services tools are on the same level as that advice: useful in principle but far too low-level to meet the need of the moment. Hard-pressed enterprise coders using Java and C++ may find their Web services weapon of choice in Iona Technologies plc.s Artix Encompass. The Standard Edition of the product provides development tools and run-time environments for building service providers and consumers, while the Advanced Edition can also put a Web services face on existing applications that use Java, CORBA, IBMs WebSphere MQ, BEA Systems Inc.s Tuxedo or TIBCO Software Inc.s Rendezvous models.

Java support is new in Encompass 1.3, released earlier this month and priced beginning at $1,500 per seat. eWEEK Labs reviewed the Advanced Edition of this update on a Windows 2000 machine, but the product (itself a Java application) is also supported on IBMs AIX, Hewlett-Packard Co.s HP-UX, Linux and Sun Microsystems Inc.s Solaris platforms. Theres a resulting degree of common-subset simplicity, or even crudity, in the products user interface, but developers will have no trouble finding their way around the tools.

Java-related improvements in Version 1.3 include Java Messaging System connectivity (initially supported only for the Sonic Software Corp. SonicMQ implementation), generation of Artix contracts from compiled Java classes and development of Java-based clients. Also in this update are security enhancements including Kerberos authentication and compliance with the Web Services-Security specification.

Encompass demonstrates that theres more to Web services than the pure orthodoxy of SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) messages on HTTP transports. As noted in the accompanying analysis of the state of Web services, a developer can benefit from the Internets ubiquity while still using the more robust transport mechanisms mentioned above, as well as others including IIOP (Internet Inter-ORB Protocol) tunneling. In addition to the SOAP support expected of a Web services tool, Encompass translates among other established payload formats, such as the General Inter-ORB Protocol used by CORBA and its IIOP variant for TCP/IP networks.

What keeps the tools working is the Artix Bus that enables plug-in support for any supported protocol. Access to the bus is defined in WSDL (Web Services Description Language), with a logical component that specifies data structures and a physical component that specifies connection characteristics.

We especially appreciated the option of validating that WSDL upon initial access. When we made deliberate errors, the resulting diagnostics quickly zeroed in on the problem.

Encompass is aptly named. It gives a developer comprehensive support in ensuring that business logic is surrounded by accessible data, while reducing the labor involved in writing the supporting code to exploit Web services benefits.

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at salesforce.com, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developersÔÇÖ technical requirements on the companyÔÇÖs 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 companyÔÇÖs 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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