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Interview: Author of New Book on SOA-Based Composite Application Development

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Interview: Author of New Book on SOA-Based Composite Application Development

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A brand new book on SOA has just come out, entitled Building SOA-Based Composite Applications Using NetBeans IDE 6. Here its author, Frank Jennings, is interviewed. He tells us about the suprising wealth of SOA features he found in NetBeans IDE and shares some tips about writing programming books.

Frank, first please tell us who you are and what you do?

I’m Frank Jennings. I work for Information Products Group at Sun Microsystems in Bangalore, India. I’m currently getting paid to evangelize Solaris Developer Tools, Web Stack, and NetBeans for building enterprise grade applications. I joined Sun 3 years back. In these 3 years I have worked on Sun Java System Web Server, HCTS, Sun Device Detection Tool, and Web Stack.

Now, what's this new book about?

The book's aim is to help enterprise application architects and developers to get to know various SOA tools available as part of the NetBeans IDE. These tools enable them to build enterprise-grade, scalable applications in a very short period. This book deals with NetBeans IDE and Project OpenESB, an Enterprise Service Bus runtime using Java Business Integration (JBI), in addition to other tools.

Why did you write it?

I was analyzing various SOA tools available in the market today, those enabling you to build composite applications with minimal programming effort. The tools that are extremely good and graphical are not free, nor open. The tools that are free are not well documented. NetBeans IDE has excellent support for building composite applications using the OpenESB runtime.

However, traditionally, NetBeans IDE has been branded as an IDE for building Java applications. But now it's clear that NetBeans IDE can be used for managing C/C++/Ruby/PHP projects as well. There is a growing awareness of NetBeans IDE's breadth of scope that you see increasingly today, though still few are really using NetBeans IDE for building composite applications for enterprise deployment, mainly because they are not really aware of NetBeans IDE's SOA capabilities.

So, I thought of writing a book that focuses only on OpenESB and NetBeans. My aim was to educate enterprise architects on how they can design complex composite applications with heterogeneous partner links through various editors and aids provided by NetBeans IDE.

This isn't your first book, how does it relate to the other one?

My earlier book was SOA Approach to Integration. That book dealt more on the SOA approach to the integration of legacy applications and newly developed solutions, via modern technologies, particularly web services, XML, ESB, and BPEL. In this case, the book vendor-neutral as it dealt only with standards, best practices, and enterprise integration patterns.

After authoring part of that book, I felt that I should also put my SOA preaching to practice by exploring and writing about a specific ESB vendor’s product. I was working with Sonic ESB for some time at that point. But , after leaving Progress, I thought I should focus only on a standards-compliant and open ESB implementation.

So that idea, combined with excellent support from the OpenESB team, prompted me to author this book with another industry expert in SOA, David Salter.

How long did it take you to write this book?

The book initially was meant for NetBeans Enterprise Pack 5.5. That was sometime back. SOA support in NetBeans evolved at an alarming pace to us while writing the book! The GUI, palettes, and menus were changing in every other build! Our technical editor went bonkers getting regular updates in terms of screen shots, code snippets, and other UI related elements. Even at the time of publishing this book, we didn’t know where exactly the BPEL Mapper window would show up. In NetBeans IDE 6.0, it was shown as a separate window when you click on a BPEL Assign activity, while in the early 6.1 builds it showed up as a tab. Even without the book being published, it was rewritten several times. The effort lasted almost 2 years.

What did you learn from writing it?

I’m never authoring another book again! But, seriously, it was a good learning experience. Now I can appreciate NetBeans IDE better and advocate NetBeans for enterprise development to all my architect friends.

What tips would you give someone who wants to write a programming book?

Firstly, you don’t have to have a "Best Seller" idea in order to market your ideas. In fact, if you can put your ideas down on paper in a simple structured TOC form, you have already started writing the book. Understand the market and find a publisher. Or you can publish your books through Lulu.com. There you get to play the author, editor, and publisher, all at the same time.

That said, a book may not be necessary in all cases, especially when you don’t have a lot to talk about in that domain. Go blog instead!

Are there other books that you'd like to write or are planning to write?

I would like to do more books on Enterprise Messaging and BPMN. But it may not be in the very near future. :-)


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