Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The story so far...

Apologies to those who have been watching this space and seeing no updates. In my defence I have been particularly busy...

So I have some catching up to do.

I have a number of things on my mind, I think I'll start with a little bit of a report back on the goings on on the project for the last few months.

When we started on the project, a websphere/RAD based enterprise development with web services and session beans we eschewed the default RAD/WAS approach of hand coding the wsdl's. They were deemed to complex, and to be honest, there is some truth in that. However, like a fellow esteemed developer pointed out (web services duplication language) there is a lot of duplication in a wsdl so once the basic wsdl has been coded it is merely a case of copy paste. Furthermore, if the best practice approach of having one request object which encapsulates all the objects, once the methods have been setup (in the wsdl's) and the xsd are outside of that file, then changing the parmaeters of the method does not require editing of the wsdl. In fact it is very seldom that I find myself editing the wsdl file.

Thus the first round was via a a simplified wsdl where the xml containing the parameters was passed as a string. This string contained the method to be called as well as the parameters of the method. This approach was quite convenient because it meant only one ejb session bean and one web service (wsdl file), thus adding functionality at this level did not necessitate a new ejb/wsdl. Quite nice, but it is not particularly explicit (the outside does not know what is available), and furthermore it was an off standard approach.

Thus effort was made to beak the back of the IBM websphere wsdl generation and web service “topology”. It wasn't as difficult as initially thought. There were a number of teething problems brought on by the fact that the calling context was dotnet and thus had different requirements. Time was spent refining the process and today we have an automated object generation from the wsdl's. What is ironic and should not be surprising is that the whole wsdl to java generation sub-system has nothing to do with RAD, it only has dependencies on WAS. The generation and wsdl tooling of RAD is for want of a better word, crap.

This approach worked well for us. We have ant scripts to generate the dto's from the wsdl and it is nicely integrated into eclipse (notice the emphasis even though we're actually using RAD).

All very well, but the whole time RAD was holding us back in terms of productivity efficiency. The pressure from the business in terms of time frames etc increases all the time, and we found we were just losing too much time due to the idiosyncrasies of RAD.

To give you an example, my RAD platform can no longer refactor! You might ask, what? Yes, when I try and refactor it throws an exception, some yarn about JSF! Wt_? You might ask, what have you done? And I would answer by challenging you to tell me exactly what I could possibly have done. Put it this way, I did not delve into the class files of RAD and change them to specifically make it stop refactoring (there is about 6 gigs of RAD on my hard drive), for what else could I have done to make it stop refactoring? The second question I would ask is how can software possibly let you disable some functionality in some way. It's like driving a car, when you drive a car and it breaks down suddenly you don't exactly ask what did you do to cause it to break down? So it is the wrong question. The very fact that I can cause my IDE to break down in some way is ridiculous.

So this week we embarked on a mission to use Jboss in development. We will still be deploying onto WAS (our build server) that the front end people will use to test against but the DEV will be on eclipse/JBoss. This transition has gone better than I think you'd expect. Jboss is a quality product.

It is hundreds of times faster, more efficient, more light weight – not that it can't mix it with the “big boys”. It is not a monkey and WAS the elephant, it is in fact as nimble as the monkey and as strong as the elephant.

There has been minor differences between WAS and JBoss, this is to be expected. We had a minor issue today with the JAX-RPC mapping differences. I do not foresee a show stopper in this endeavour.

That is an update from my side in terms of what's been going on. See my other post for a programming specific ideas.

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