Thursday, March 27, 2008

Book review: "Building SOA-Based Composite Applications Using NetBeans IDE 6"

Authors David Salter and Frank Jennings have written a very targeted book specifically for enterprise developers wanting to use NetBeans with the SOA plugins.

Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) can be loosely described as implementing business processes by combining web service calls to available services. Just as you would probably not want to perform database operations without transactions, when you combine web service calls for specific business processes you want to wrap them in transactions and using BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) modules makes it easier to express logic and error handling. The BPEL designer plugin lets you work with a graphical interface and avoid tedious hand editing of XML files.

Just like using full J2EE stack adds a lot of complexity, with attendant benefits, to large scale Java server side development, SOA also adds a lot of "baggage" to building systems using web services, but as systems become larger and more complicated that structure can really pay off.

There are no magic bullets in software design and development that remove the requirement for hard work in analyzing system requirements and iteratively work on design and staged prototypes: for SOA applications you need to understand your business processes, what events can occur, and what error conditions need to be handled. If you don't understand these basics, no framework is likely to save a project. If you do understand these basics, and you want to use Java SOA frameworks and tools, then this book is a good guide to getting started. I do have a few minor complaints about this book: figures are not numbered (perhaps not such a bad idea, I am just used to seeing figures identified) and there is sometimes too much detail given for some developers: the reader is carefully led through setup, using the IDE plugins specific to SOA (BPEL builder, WSDL and XML Schema editors, etc.) and sample applications with many screen shots. Even with these small complaints, this highly targeted book should be very useful to Java developers looking to develop SOA applications. It would be best if readers already had at least a little knowledge of SOA, BPEL, etc. since this book mostly covers using the tools in NetBeans to facilitate build SOA applications.

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