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Eclipse Europa, part 3: Data access tools key for SOA

The third of a four part series on the Eclipse Foundation's major Europa release at the end of this month previews the latest version from the Eclipse Data Tools Platform (DTP) focusing on the need for service-oriented architecture (SOA) implementations to establish links to multiple data sources.

Service-oriented architecture (SOA) developers reaching the point where they need to make connections to multiple data sources are a target audience for the Eclipse Data Tools Platform (DTP) update that will be part of the June 29 Europa tools release from the Eclipse Foundation.

Data might also be coming from other Web services or file systems. DTP provides you with the plumbing to get at that data.
John Graham
DTP chairSybase, Inc.

The DTP committers are well aware that SOA architects and developers are discovering that as their implementation mature, data access is a prime consideration, said John Graham, DTP chair, and staff software engineer at Sybase, Inc.

"In the Web services and service-oriented architecture world you still need to bring in data," he said, noting that while this may seem obvious, awareness of the importance of data is growing among SOA architects and developers. "You typically need to get at heterogeneous data. Data might also be coming from other Web services or file systems. DTP provides you with the plumbing to get at that data. So if you're building Web services tooling on top of it, that's one layer that you don't have to deal with."

For developers already working with Eclipse, Graham said the Eclipse Web Tools Project (WTP) has adopted DTP framework for the relational database component of Web services development. The Eclipse SOA Tools Project (STP) is still in a pre-1.0 version for Europa, but he said the committers have said they will use DTP framework for data access.

Graham said the committers working on the projects are in communication, including face-to-face meetings several times a year, and he expects integration of DTP to grow as the STP technology matures.

The Data Tools Platform project at Eclipse, which is roughly two years old and includes Sybase, Actuate Corp. and IBM working together as committers has so far concentrated on relational database access, but that is expanding to other data sources with each release, he said.

"The project is providing the plumbing that you would need in Eclipse tooling to interact with a variety of data sources," Graham said of its goal. "We chose to concentrate on relational databases to start with. We have a connection management framework, a framework for managing drivers or libraries you might have on your machine. So as a developer sitting down with Eclipse you can make connections to a variety of data sources using our frameworks and then build your tools up based on information you get from interacting with those data sources. We provide frameworks for heterogeneous data access."

The frameworks and tools from DTP make use of the Eclipse Open Data Access (ODA) frameworks, which allow developers to build links to different types of data "whether it's flat files or binary data or multi-dimensional data or relational data," Graham said. "So we have those frameworks and that's leveraged heavily. If you're doing reporting you have to get data from a variety of sources to be able to render it in a standard way. So ODA is a very important part of DTP. For a Web services developer they can leverage the foundation of the tools we have and build out Web services tooling that interacts with these various channels.

In the Eclipse Calisto train release in June 2006, the project was at 0.9 status, he explained. In December, the 1.0 version was released.

"What's new in the 1.5 release coming out with Europa is we have some really deep support for more databases," he said. "We have strong support for Apache Derby. We have support for Sybase SQL Anywhere, as well as support for [the SQL Project] HyperSonic. We're providing both frameworks and tools. We have SQL development tools for developers to write SQL statements."

Several commercial vendors, including Sybase and Nexaweb Technologies Inc. have built commercial products based on the DTP frameworks and tools, Graham said. Nexaweb Studio uses DTP for binding visual Ajax and Java components to relational databases for viewing, creating and updating data using the platform's Enterprise Data Services technology. The DTP technology is also implemented in Sybase WorkSpace 1.5 for SOA development.

For more information
Eclipse Europa, part 1: Modeling project supports SOA

Eclipse Europa, part 2: SOA tools ready for test drive

"Sybase WorkSpace, which is an Eclipse-based product, is a key component for service-oriented architecture," Graham said. "WorkSpace goes all the way from the UML modeling and data modeling all the way through application development. The key point is that it is a unified development environment. It uses DTP for its data access, not just databases, but to go out to application servers and enterprise service buses to find data there."

As with most of the Eclipse projects, Graham said, the DTP tools and frameworks will continue to evolve and there will be new features in the train release scheduled for June 2008.

"One thing we have coming up post-Europa is a visual query builder," he said. "We have a basic SQL text editor. This will be a drag and drop editor. We have an initial code contribution from IBM. So next year, this will be one of the components. We have other things in discussion with the community. So this will continue to grow and deepen."

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