08 janeiro 2014

WebLogic in Comparison: RebelLabs Java Servers Report

RebelLabs did a great job comparing the main Java servers out there, where some are pure Servlet/JSP containers, others are full Java EE compliant. But they didn't want to include in the list Oracle WebLogic nor IBM WebSphere apparently for no logical reason but "they are suited for large enterprise production environments", and because the report is focused on developers.
"The Great Java Application Servers Debate"

So, I decided to write this blog post to include detailed information about WebLogic, since WLS is free for developers, even if you are going to deploy GlassFish/JBoss/Whatever in production. Which is why I didn't get why RebelLabs didn't want to compare WebLogic.

Remember, I will detail WebLogic from a "developer point of view", using the same categories RebelLabs used in their report. Here we go:


Download & Installation

WebLogic 12c is certified for Java EE 6, and 12.1.1 was released on Dec 2011. The second release is 12.1.2 and is from July 2013, part of the full Cloud Application Foundation 12c release. For developers, there is a ZIP distribution sized at 184Mb.
  1. Accept Licence agreement
  2. Download installation package *
  3. Extract the archive
  4. Run configure.sh (Linux/Mac) or configure.cmd (Windows)
  5. You are ready to go!
* you must have an OTN account, required for other things like access Oracle Forums

The configure.sh script will ask you if you want to create a domain. Say "yes". Then you are asked to provide username/password for it, because we do care about default security. And right after the script finishes creating the domain, you can point to http://localhost:7001/console, because the script will automatically start WebLogic for you. To start WebLogic again, just call: 
$ cd user_projects/domains/mydomain; sh startWebLogic.sh
Conclusion: License accepted only once. Bigger than others indeed but enhanced default security. Starts server automatically right after creating domain.


Tooling support

The RebelLabs report says WebLogic is only integrated with JDeveloper. But that's a big mistake. WebLogic is well integrated with NetBeans, Eclipse, IntelliJ, and can even be used with Apache Maven and Ant. For a "big fat bloated enterprise production-only app server", I would say WebLogic is in very good shape for development environments.

Eclipse: you can either download Oracle Enterprise Pack for Eclipse bundled with Eclipse, or just the update by either downloading the repository, or pointing to the repository URL.

NetBeans: support comes out of the box since version 7.1 (released in January 2012). Here's an article hosted on netbeans.org about NetBeans and WebLogic.

IntelliJ IDEA: Jetbrains comes with native support for WebLogic not only version 12, but also older versions. 

Apache Maven: in release 12.1.2, Oracle WebLogic has an enhanced Maven support with more goals and easier installation into Maven repositories. Check the documentation to learn more.

Apache Ant: for several versions WebLogic has been coming with Ant support. And continues to do so. Check the documentation for 12.1.2

If you are developing with Eclipse, NetBeans, or JDeveloper, you can even enable FastSwap, a feature that reloads changed classes on the fly. I've blogged about how to enable and use FastSwap with NetBeans a while ago.

Conclusion: has support for 99,9999% of tools used by developers. FastSwap for on-the-fly class update. IntelliJ and NetBeans with OOTB support. Eclipse plugin or full distribution with OOTB support.


Server Configuration

In the report, RebelLabs gave GlassFish a score of 3, which is weird because the way they described this section, seems like everything is perfect. The "Reason" line gives no negative reason at all! So I asked them on Twitter.

In WebLogic, you can basically do everything through the Web console available in the Admin Server. From there you can create clusters, create new managed servers, add Java EE resources like JMS queues, Data Sources. You can create Work Managers, do Security management. Anything. But for developers that don't want to follow steps documented in Word files full of screenshots of all these Web interfaces, they can simply write a Python script, and whenever they have to configure something [again], all they need to do is to run the script. The feature is calledWebLogic Scripting Tool, or simply WLST, and several companies have been using this for many years. It's great for configuration automation and also manageability. If you want to record the commands you type in the WLST shell for future executions, call startRecording(). If you don't want to write a script from scratch, the Adminstration Web console comes with a "Recording" feature that will record all your actions and create the script for future executions. And you can also connect through JMX.

If you are really into XML configuration, you can access the domain folder, then edit theconfig/config.xml file and do your magic. But they will only take effect after a restart.

And finally, most changes don't require a server restart.

Conclusion: Python scripts. JMX. Rich web console. Recording features. XML. Most changes go live without restart.


Documentation & Community

Documentation for WebLogic is very complete, and the new 12.1.2 documentation website has an updated Look & Feel. It is easy to navigate and comes with a search (basic and advanced) feature. The community is not as small as you may think. Oracle runs the Oracle ACE program and highlights outstanding professionals all around the world. The Oracle Partner Network is also big, with several folks running meetings, bootcamps, hackathons, etc. Take for example the last edition of UK OUG Tech 13, where attendees developed Puppet modules during a WebLogic Hackathon. And finally there's an Oracle Forum for WebLogic which is ran by theOracle Technology Network team. 

Community is not related to only Open Source products. Doesn't matter if it's Open Source or not, if there's enough people working with a product, there's a chance for a community be born.

Conclusion: There is a community. Not as know as Open Source ones. Widespread around the world. Decentralized.


Features & Open Standards compliance

WebLogic 12c is Java EE 6 Full profile certified. Customers can also develop rich web applications withOracle ADF, and they also get extra features/support for TopLink, like Oracle Coherence Integration. TopLink can be seen as an extension of EclipseLink, the Open Source JPA implementation, maintained at the Eclipse Foundation, but with great contribution from Oracle. WebLogic 12c has also support for OSGi bundles.

For administrators and devops, in addition licensed customers gain several other products and support. So for example, if you are comparing WebLogic Standard Edition with JBoss, don't forget that WLS SE comes bundled with support for: 
  • Oracle HTTP Server (enhanced Apache)
  • Oracle TopLink/ADF
  • Configuration Wizard / Upgrade Framework / OPatch
  • Oracle Java SE
  • Oracle WebLogic Management Framework
  • WebLogic JDBC Drivers, Server Clients, Apache Plugin
  • HTTP Pub-Sub Server
If you want more details about what you get by buying WebLogic, see this table. It will show also what other flavours of WebLogic (Enterprise/Suite) have to offer.

Conclusion: of course 1 apple will be cheaper than 4. :-)

Conclusion: Java EE 6 and OSGi. Extra features/products for licensed customers starting since WebLogic Standard Edition. Most complete application server, with support for all products involved in a basic infrastructure for running server-side Java applications.


Administration & Management/UI

As I pointed in the "Server Configuration", WebLogic has several ways for the developer to configure whatever the dev wants. But to give you an impression, here's a screenshot of the Admin Console, to create a JDBC Data Source:
Conclusion: Rich web console. Allows to control, from the Admin Server, all resources, as well monitor and manage servers in one or more clusters.


Cost $$$ / Licensing

The pricelist is available publicly and can be easily googled. No secrets, full transparency, from how much you pay (at maximum, since there's always a conversation with the sales rep), to what you get in exchange. Remember: when you license and contract support for WebLogic Standard Edition, you pay per processor socket (not per core), and you get support for Oracle Java SE (JVM), Oracle HTTP Server (Apache), and several other features/products. Other editions are priced differently but come with even more features.
But anyway, WebLogic comes with no charge for developers.
Conclusion:  When comparing cost to other application servers, remember that WebLogic comes with supported JVM (Oracle HotSpot), support of an enhanced Apache (Oracle HTTP Server), and other things that most application servers don't offer when you license or subscribe for support.


The Results

I've seen developers running Tomcat or JBoss or GlassFish, and going into production with WebSphere or WebLogic. But with the information above, I say that, overall,  WebLogic has evolved a lot especially in the new 12c version, with a smaller ZIP distribution, easy and secure installation, enhanced Maven support, great features for managing, awesome tooling support, and most important, free for developers. And don't forget the community! 
If a developer wants to develop pure Java EE applications, WebLogic is a very strong candidate. Even if the customer is running WebSphere in production :-)
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