Java pros reap benefits from Jakarta

SAN FRANCISCO (09/26/2003) - Senior Java developer Stan Baranek is a member of the Java elite.

For three and a half years he has been writing mission-critical software for biotechnology giant Genentech -- work that involves the construction of EJBs that run on BEA Systems Inc. WebLogic Server, Genentech Inc.'s platform of choice.

Ask Baranek what excites him most these days, and he's got one word for you: Jakarta.

The Apache Jakarta project is an open source initiative that has produced several important freeware productivity tools for Java programmers. Foremost among them is Struts, which provides a framework for front-end and middle-tier J2EE development.

"Everyone wants to use Struts, because it's the up-and-coming thing," Baranek says. "It's become very big in just the last six months to a year." What is most appealing about Struts, he says, is that "a lot of the code is already written for you; so, you don't have to do the difficult things, you just have to rely more on the business logic."

But Struts isn't the only open source bounty Baranek has reaped from the Jakarta project. As do many high-end Java developers, Baranek picks and chooses his tools rather than working in a single integrated environment. Jakarta has provided two tools that Baranek relies on heavily: Log4j for logging and Ants for deployment.

Log4j enables Java programmers to insert log statements into code for debugging purposes. Although this is considered a low-tech approach to debugging, logging is often the only debugging option for distributed applications, which are the bread and butter of developers such as Baranek. "Log4J does all our logging, sends us an e-mail if any exception occurs with the application. ... And it's super easy to use."

Ants has been a boon in helping Baranek and his development team deal with application deployment. "Deployments have been an issue with Java in the past," Baranek says. He notes that rolling out -- and later redeploying -- distributed Java applications can be a huge hassle. "With Ant, if you build it once, the next time you just double-click on it to do the same process over again. It's very powerful in that you can get it to deploy dynamically to different servers once you learn how to use it. It's made life much easier."

Both Log4j and Ants are lightweight tools, an important criterion for Baranek. "When you're doing Java development, Web servers and whatnot can really bog down your machine and just make things a lot slower.... I appreciate a lot of the lightweight tools you can collect yourself."

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