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Set sights on services

Set sights on services

Web services boldly promise to speed up and simplify cross-platform application integration. However, to fulfil that promise, developers need comprehensive development tools to reduce the learning curve in creating and integrating Web services. One of the forerunners in the toolkit arena is Cape Clear with the release of its CapeStudio 1.0 IDE (integrated development environment) for Web services development.

The standards-based CapeStudio combines tools for searching UDDI (universal description, discovery and integration) registries for Web services, mapping translations between XML documents and SOAP (simple object access protocol) messages and automatically generating proxy code from WSDL (Web services description language) description files that can be used in client-side Java and Visual Basic applications. In addition, CapeStudio can produce skeleton code for building server-side EJB (Enterprise JavaBeans) applications.

For integrating in-house applications with Web services, CapeStudio offers a graphical tool set that speeds prototype creation, hides underlying complexities of technologies such as SOAP and XML, and mitigates any hand-coding errors.

The tool set is well-suited to Java and VB developers who have already invested in an IDE and deployment platform and are looking to integrate Web services into existing code or desktop applications. However, those looking to make their own Web services available to outside customers will want to upgrade to a heftier development platform, such as CapeConnect, which offers tools for generating WSDL and manipulating UDDI registry components.

Although much of CapeStudio's functionality can be culled from freely available tools at Web sites such as IBM alphaWorks, its modest price and impressive, albeit limited, capabilities make it worth considering for kick-starting enterprise Web services integration and streamlining productivity.

CapeStudio's standalone development environment is Java-based and adheres to Web services standards such as UDDI, WSDL, XML and SOAP. The included UDDI browser made it easy for us to search for Web services in both private registries and public repositories. The browser offers good search capabilities and criteria matching, but scaling the windows to view results proved a somewhat clumsy process.

When we found the WSDL file, which details the interfacing requirements of its corresponding Web service, we easily imported it into the WSDL Assistant. The Assistant analyses WSDL and generates client-side proxy code for Java or VB that can be plugged in to existing applications to provide SOAP-based messaging access to remote Web services objects.

For server-side functionality, CapeStudio generates EJB skeleton code for building stateless session beans as well as deployment descriptors for use with iPlanet, BEA, or CapeClear's own J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) application server. The resulting code demonstrated good recognition and management of the nested structures and complex data types we threw at it and offered clear gains in productivity.

To help map translations among the multitude of XML schemata, CapeStudio sports a graphical mapping environment for building XSLTs (extensible stylesheet language transformations) between XML documents, SOAP messages, and DTDs (document type definitions). The tool loads and compares the base and target documents and automatically generates the XSLT required to process and exchange data at run-time, making it easier to facilitate communications.

The tree-like hierarchical approach made easy work of associating elements between schemata. The graphical cues and rule-editing features accelerated the process, and the comprehensive element and data-type information window offered clear insight into the node on which we were working. CapeStudio's search and reporting capabilities are well-suited to managing large or complex mappings.

CapeStudio may not be the optimal development toolkit for all Web services deployment scenarios. It does not handle HTTP Get and Post bindings, and has some difficulties establishing proxy-based Internet connections.

We would also like to see improved error handling and descriptive feedback when working in the UDDI browser to facilitate troubleshooting. Moreover, CapeStudio does not include tools to code interfaces onto Web services, and it does not help port in-house applications to Web service availability.

What CapeStudio does do, it does well and even includes a good number of tutorials and guides to help get you started. CapeClear makes an evaluation copy available from its Web site for a free 14-day trial period.

The bottom line - Cape Clear CapeStudio 1.0Business Case: Cape Clear Software arms developers with an effective tool for successfully deploying Web services while saving your company money.

Technology Case: CapeStudio helps discover outside Web services and integrates them into Java and Visual Basic applications, but capabilities are limited.

Pros:

+ Supports World Wide Web Consortium, BizTalk XML schemata.

+ Independent Web-services platform.

+ Good code proxy generation.

+ Supports Xpath.

Cons:

- SOAP-only binding.

- Develops client-side only.

- Awkward viewing layout in UDDI browser.

Cost: $US445 per user.

Platform(s): Windows 2000, Windows NT, Linux, and Solaris.

Distributor: Cape Clear Software is distributed in Australia by Japara Solutions.

Ph: 0416 101 363, www.japarasolutions.com, www.capeclear.com.


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