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BlackBerry MDS Studio

Plugging a BlackBerry into the world of web services

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The recent 4.1 release of BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) from Research in Motion (RIM) opens the door to a new set of mobile development tools and technologies.

BlackBerries aren't just for email – they're also a secure pipe to and from your network. With the latest build of RIM's MDS (Mobile Data Services) platform bundled with BES 4.1, BlackBerries are able to take advantage of any web services in your, and your partners', networks, and can quickly become a secure input device.

If you've got BES 4.1 running on your network, turning your Blackberry services on is nearly as easy as downloading RIM's MDS Studio application, although it's a hefty download at well over 230MB. You'll also need to pull down the documentation and sample applications at the same time. The Studio includes a BlackBerry simulator, so you can test applications as you build them.

Screenshot of Blackberry MDS Studio.

MDS Studio is a relatively simple development tool and is used to marshal and map web services as if they were application components. An MDS application will consist of a mix of screen elements along with data and message components. You don't need to write much (if any) code to build an application – and new applications can be deployed extremely quickly using the BES's built-in software deployment tools. An application can be built in a morning and delivered the same afternoon (once tested!).

While MDS Studio is focused on extremely rapid application development, with a Quick Start that will all but build your application for you, it also gives you the tools you need to customise your applications. You can let the Studio manage messages and client data, leaving you to build the UI you want, or you can create an application from scratch, developing your own data model and messages.

MDS Studio uses WSDL to show the methods and properties associated with a web service. Web services will need to be registered with the BES MDS server – as MDS handles application security and network connections. You'll find this keeps client-side code to a minimum, something that's all too important when developing for mobile devices. Wizards guide you through the various stages of application development, and the final application can be modified and tuned through the IDE's component property tools.

If you've designed an HTML form in Dreamweaver (or even in FrontPage), then you'll find the MDS Studio UI tools easy to use. There aren't many UI components – but BlackBerries aren't really renowned for their graphics performance. Components can be linked to service properties, and JavaScript adds business logic to your applications. For more complex applications a Workflow Wizard can help link various web services into a single application.

If you're starting to deploy a service-oriented architecture, then RIM's MDS and the MDS Studio are well worth considering. If you need to deploy simple service connected applications to users on the road, and need to do it quickly, MDS Studio can take a set of service interfaces and turn them into an application in minutes. However, for all its speed and simplicity MDS Studio isn't a panacea. It will work well with well-defined services – but if your SOA architecture is a maze of service components, success may not be so easy to find. ®

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