SilverStream eXtend App Server: Already on the Web Services Playing Field
It may be the early innings of the Web services era, but SilverStream Software is already using the combination of its newly reconfigured application server (SilverStream eXtend Application Server 3.7) and development environment (SilverStream eXtend Workbench 1.0) to step up to the plate and swing away.
While the giant software companies, like Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM, are first suiting up to get their Web services environments in order, smaller more nimble companies like SilverStream are already in the market. Obviously, SilverStream wants to get a jump on the competition, but in the long term the company must distinguish itself from the big boys.
To its credit, SilverStream previously developed a unique environment that marries Java and HTML, and now appears to be on the way to developing a unique application server and development environment for Web services.
The renamed SilverStream eXtend Application Server (formerly just SilverStream) has had several years of field use and qualifies as a veteran. This latest version is J2EE 1.2 certified and supports a long list of features: session-level failover, server-level failover, clustering, connection pooling, hot deployment, a remote server console, and Web server integration. Also worthy of special mention is its support for a built-in software dispatcher and external hardware dispatchers. The server comes with the SilverStream Management Console, one of the better remote server managers, and it supports security through HTTPS with SSL 3.0 or TLS 1.0.
The tuning of an application server for Web services depends a great deal on its capability to strip the SOAP messages from the HTTP, invoke the appropriate routines, and turn around to package and send the requested service (information or processing). With SilverStream eXtend, most of these operations are performed by the included jBroker Web package, which handles the XML-RPC (remote procedure call) processes. As always, the application server is the intermediary between a lot of other code and data, so its performance is dependent on other systems.
That said, in our testing, which loaded the complexity of the SOAP messages for the server, the app server performed well-enough to substantiate SilverStream's claim to be considerably faster than the Apache SOAP server. Long term, Web service performance is likely to be a crucial factor in acceptance (remember the fate of Java applets?), so let the performance race be joined.
Although SilverStream eXtend Workbench supports other application servers, it should be considered an integral part of the eXtend Application Server system. It uses a J2EE Web archive (WAR) environment, wizards, editors, and links to the application server to develop and deploy Web services. For example, jBroker Web is used to compile Web services components within a SOAP runtime environment. The Web Service Wizard creates Web services components from remote interface objects or Java objects from WSDL files. The Registry Manager is the tool for querying and publishing to Web services registries. Finally, the WSDL Wizard and Editor are used to create and edit WSDL files.
SilverStream has done a good job of making eXtend Workbench a convenient place to develop Web services. We found it better organized, albeit containing slightly less-sophisticated tools (e.g., editor and debugger), than Borland's Delphi or JBuilder. Helpful as the Workbench environment is, however, at this point, no one should approach any Web services development without already being knowledgeable about the "big four": J2EE, UDDI, SOAP, and WSDL.
SilverStream eXtend Application Server and co-functional products are focusing on Web services in a way that is streamlined and should be familiar to all Java developers. Based on the scope and approach of the eXtend product line, it's clear to us that SilverStream is betting the farm on Web services. If this is also your bet, then we strongly recommend considering this SilverStream offering.Pros: Focus on Web services has already produced performance optimization and a well-organized approach to service development
Cons: Something new, something old -- the combination still adds up to a Web services system 1.0 in which all the obscure corners and infelicities haven't yet been removed
Version Reviewed: 3.7.3
Reviewed by: Nelson King
Last Updated: 3/21/02
Date of Original Review: 10/11/01