Two of the major issues facing agencies considering application server deployments are the integration of the application server within an existing infrastructure and the degree to which distributed applications can grow over time. There are also other challenges inherent in these types of projects, such as security, reliability and the cost investment needed for a successful deployment.
The application server market has expanded dramatically over the past two years. There are more than 53 commercial and open-source application servers from which to choose. Among this heavy competition, BEA Systems' WebLogic Server 4.02 stands out as an application server that is well equipped to meet the challenges of deploying distributed World Wide Web applications. The newest version of WebLogic Server supports a broad range of platforms, including Sun Microsystems' Solaris, Microsoft's Windows NT, IBM's AIX and Linux.
WebLogic Server stands out among the crowd for other reasons, too. In particular, BEA has strengthened WebLogic Server's clustering capabilities in this release. WebLogic Server supports server-level failover capabilities for those who use the application server in a clustered environment. Thus, if a server requires maintenance or an unplanned outage occurs, other servers in the cluster can assume the load without interrupting access to the applications. In addition, the clustering capabilities found in WebLogic Server include dynamic operations. This allows new servers to be added on the fly to increase performance or capacity. Alternatively, servers can be taken offline for maintenance without affecting end users. We found WebLogic Server easy to install and get going. The documentation provided is well detailed and, in particular, the text on the clustering configuration was useful. In a short time we were able to successfully set up a WebLogic cluster.
During our evaluation, we found two other additions to WebLogic Server's cluster support especially useful -- the ability to cluster individual Web pages and Enterprise JavaBean (EJB) components. We used this support to closely manage server load and failover mechanisms within our application logic. You can use this support flexibly to protect the availability of individual mission-critical applications.
Java developers also will find WebLogic Server's integration with major tools quite appealing. BEA supports tight integration with Symantec's Visual Cafe Enterprise Suite. Moreover, WebLogic Server hooks in well with IBM's Visual Age for Java, Inprise' JBuilder, and Microsoft's Visual J++. EJB modeling and generation tools and object relational mapping tools also work well with WebLogic Server.
WebLogic Server offers database connectivity options that will meet the needs of many agencies. Relational databases, such as Oracle's Oracle, IBM's DB2 and Microsoft's SQL Server are accessible via native Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) drivers. Those using object databases, such as Object Design's ObjectStore or any other JDBC-accessible database, will find the hook up an easy one.
Similar to its rival IBM, BEA has added linkage between its other product lines and its application server. In particular, WegLogic Server now offers integration with BEA's Tuxedo and WebLogic Enterprise (formerly known as M3). WebLogic Server gains greater transaction management capabilities because of the product ties.
BEA expects to introduce Version 4.5 of WebLogic Server later this fall. According to company officials, Version 4.5 will focus on providing greater support for Java 2 as well as adding greater strength to WebLogic Server's clustering capabilities.
In particular, Version 4.5 is said to support key Java 2 Enterprise Edition features, such as Java Messaging Service and JavaServer Pages. Java Messaging Service enables distributed Web applications to communicate asynchronously using queuing or publish and subscribe technologies. JavaServer Pages enable users to add dynamic Java application content within Web pages. Future clustering enhancements are expected to include memory-based replication, a feature that should improve the product's performance. Load-balancing algorithms also will gain greater strength with the inclusion of support for weighted and parameter-based routing.
BEA's WebLogic Server is well worth a test drive. Of the many application server solutions out there, WebLogic Server is right on the mark for agencies that need to support higher-end Web application deployments. Available platform support, heavy-duty cluster capabilities -- down to the application logic level -- and integration with tools and databases make WebLogic Server quite appealing.
WebLogic Server 4.02
Price and availability
BEA's WebLogic Server 4.02 is available on the open market for $US10,000 per CPU. A clustering deployment edition is $15,000 per CPU. An evaluation copy is available at the company's Web site.
BEA's WebLogic Server 4.02 is a solid application server that is well suited for agencies that need to support high-end Web applications that will grow over time. Broad platform support assures a neat fit in many computing environments. Server-level clustering as well as Web page and component clustering offer increased scalability and added reliability. WebLogic also sports good integration with major development tools and relational and object databases.