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What's New with WebLogic Server 8.1

If you're already a user of WebLogic Server, you might be wondering what new features are in version 8.1. BEA WebLogic Server is already the leading J2EE application server by market share and version 8.1 has many added features that make the best application server even better. These include vastly improved support for Web Services, security, developer tools, performance and administration enhancements, and extensions to the J2EE specification.

Web Services Support

These days, Web Services are on everybody's mind and WebLogic 8.1, in conjunction with WebLogic Workshop, provides the simplest and most powerful way for developers to create them. This standalone GUI tool connects to WebLogic and enables developers and nonprogrammers to create Web Services based on existing application components such as EJBs, Java classes, and other Web Services. Web Services built can be synchronous or conversational.

WebLogic Server 8.1 provides improvements in Web Services themselves. In addition to supporting SOAP 1.2, WebLogic Server 8.1 adds the capability to add digital signatures and encryption to Web Services. It's also possible to use JMS as the transport protocol over HTTP/S and invoke asynchronous web services.

New Security Model

Version 8.1 expands on WebLogic Server 7.x security architecture and improves the functionality for creating security roles and policies. Version 8.1 features improved key store and SSL configuration support and adds the support for Java Cryptography Extension (JCE) packages. JCE is a set of packages from Sun that gives a framework to construct strong cipher encryption, key generation and agreement, and message authentication code algorithms.

In general, version 8.1 provides JAAS as an alternative to JNDI authentication. Version 8.1 implements and surpasses the J2EE 1.3 specification for single sign-on by supporting failover and load balancing of this feature in a cluster. It also comes with a rules-driven graphical Security Policies Editor that's integrated into the WebLogic Administration Console and is used to create a mapping between a WebLogic resource and users, groups, and security roles.

Developer Tools

Version 8.1 updates and adds tools to help developers create and deploy Web applications. The new appc compiler replaces the ejbc and jspc compilers and adds features to enable developers to generate and compile classes needed to deploy EJBs and JSPs to WebLogic Server.

WebLogic 8.1 also comes with new client JAR files that are much smaller then the required weblogic.jar and weblogicaux.jar files required for client applications in 7.x.

The EJBGen tool enables developers to create remote and home interfaces and deployment descriptors by adding Javadoc tags to their bean class file. Instead of creating and maintaining five or more files per EJB, this tool reduces the number to one.

WebLogic Builder provides a GUI for editing application deployment files. It works with JAR, EAR, and WAR files, including those created for other application servers.

Ant, the Java-based build tool from the Apache Group, is now deeply embedded within WebLogic Server. Ant tasks have been created for compiling and deploying EJBs and working with Web Services.

To help with the creation and editing of XML, WebLogic Server now includes an XML editor. The BEA XML Editor can also validate XML code against a DTD or XML Schema.

BEA has worked closely with its partners to ensure tighter integration between WebLogic Server and many IDEs, including Borland JBuilder and Visual Café.

Performance Enhancements

BEA continues to improve the performance of WebLogic Server with each new release, and version 8.1 is no exception. It is in the top ten application server configurations as measured by Ecperf. Ecperf is a benchmark for measuring the performance and scalability of Enterprise JavaBeans on J2EE application servers. The URL for Ecperf is http://ecperf.theserverside.com/ecperf/.

BEA is now including its own high-performance JVM, JRockit, with WebLogic Server on the Windows and Linux platforms. Although JRockit out-performs most other JVMs, BEA includes it with WebLogic Server at no extra cost.

Some other performance enhancements in WebLogic Server 8.1 include improved JSP string handling and compilation time, overall application deployment performance, and three new algorithms to improve client load balancing through affinity policies. Those algorithms are

  • Round-robin affinity— This algorithm cycles through a list of WebLogic Servers in order.

  • Weight-based-affinity— This algorithm works by the assignment of a weight of 1 to 100 to each server. The weight corresponds to the proportion of work that the server will bear.

  • Random affinity— Applies only to EJB and RMI object clustering; in random load balancing, the requests are assigned to each server at random.

Administration Enhancements

With WebLogic Server 8.1, system administrators now have many tools to help them with a variety of tasks, including

  • Configuring clusters and domains

  • Deploying applications

  • Monitoring the health of servers in a cluster

Another feature that will benefit system administrators is that WebLogic Server 8.1 can respond to events such as server failures and take corrective action automatically.

The Admin Console has improved both visually and functionally. BEA has enhanced the configuration wizards and reorganized the server configuration tabs, the SSL and Key Store tabs, and added deployment and JDBC assistants. There are now many more parameters that can be viewed and modified on the Admin Console. This includes JRockit JVM monitoring and a new timer service to send notifications at certain dates, times, or intervals.

Additionally, the functionality of the Admin Console can be extended with custom code that utilizes the Sun Microsystems Java Management Extensions (JMX) specification. This enables third parties to create custom screens to monitor and control the software packages they're selling. Companies can also choose to build Admin Console extensions to improve their capability to monitor and control their own applications.

WebLogic also includes Node Manager for management of distributed managed WebLogic instances. Version 8.1 enhances Node Manager by improving logging and monitoring capabilities and the capability to configure a managed server during the installation process.

Extensions to the J2EE Specification

BEA has never stopped at merely being J2EE compliant, and WebLogic Server provides many services above and beyond the specification. These extensions are discussed throughout the book.

As an example, the messaging services provided by WebLogic Server extend the JMS 1.0.2 specification with features such as clustered JMS connection factories and JMS destinations, using multicasting to deliver messages, and asynchronous sending of messages to improve performance.

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