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Sonic gets a workbench

Screwdriver, wrench, SOA modelling tool….

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While it can make a technology seem more artisan than artist, the appearance of a Workbench for developers is usually a sign that the technology is starting to have some reasonable traction amongst users. That is what has happened with the launch of Version 7.0 of Sonic Software’s Enterprise Service Bus.

The major addition to the system is a Workbench environment aimed, according to the company’s technology evangelist, David Chappell, at raising the level of developer productivity in SOA projects, as well simplifying project lifecycles. It exploits a visual modelling environment as the basic tool for building business process models, providing as a by-product an implicit bridge between traditional applications developers, architects and business analysts.

The modelling tool is based on Eclipse and Business Process Modelling Notation (BPMN), which allows the processes to be modelled without having to delve down into defining specific details or dependencies. Once established, the model can then be configured by drilling down into it to define specifics and set dependencies.

When modelling is completed the workbench then provides tools for testing and deployment. According to Chappell it is a simple task to move modelled development scenarios onto the testing stage as a complete entity. Indeed, this capability can also be used to move scenarios between different members of a development team. Chappell sees this as a core part of building a communications bridge between the different team members.

Sonic is using some new technology, which has patents pending, to provide distributed debugging capabilities. This allows developers to debug not only their own work but also take a step into services deployed on other machines. According to Chappell, this automates a capability that was previously only possible by expert hand-crafting in Eclipse.

Deployment from the workbench is, he said, still one area with a few problems. “These can occur with those applications or tools that have inbuilt inflexibilities, such as the hardwiring of server names, which can cause deployment conflicts,” he said. This problem is quite common with older applications and tools which, Chappell concurred, could now be classed as “dumb, with hindsight.”

Version 7.0 of the ESB also now incorporates the four key standards for web service delivery. These are WE-Reliable Messaging, WS-Addressing, WS-Security and WS-Policy, and Chappell claims Sonic is the first vendor to have them in a shipping product.

It also includes an extended version of the Continuous Availability Architecture (CAA) introduced in version 6.0. This is known as CAA Fast Forward, which skips the normal write-to-disk stage of high availability and recovery systems by utilising a real-time replication approach. ®

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