Aug 27, 2004 (10:08 AM EDT)
Review: Unify Has Designs On Building Web Apps

Read the Original Article at InformationWeek

More and more businesses are leveraging the power of Web-based applications to automate and ease the end user's experience. There are numerous middleware products that can help companies build Web applications, but Unify's NXJ 10.5 is one of the most comprehensive. NXJ is an enterprise Rapid Application Development suite in the business process management (BPM) space that allows solution providers to help customers build almost any transaction-based business application requiring end-user interaction.

NXJ arrives with a sophisticated business process engine that controls interactions between users and applications. To build these processes, NXJ includes a Process Designer that uses graphical models to build processes. Process Designer is easy to learn, since all the process definitions are listed inside the executable actions in its workspace. Process Designer walks the user through all the steps necessary to complete a task and lists all possible business rules, activities, status and operations. It does require some Java programming experience.

Solution providers experienced with Seagate's Crystal Reports will be able to work with Report Designer right away because the design interfaces use many of the same features, including wizards that combine data using simple SQL steps.

NXJ's Reporting Engine, meanwhile, can seamlessly export and deploy reports to HTML, PDF and PostScript. Report Designer provides a three-step wizard that automatically places reports on a server for remote viewing. Since NXJ combines all of its servers into a single platform, business users can manage almost every step required to deploy application components. NXJ is the only BPM product with this kind of functionality.

NXJ includes a Web services development environment called WASP Designer, which uses the Eclipse IDE. Essentially, WASP Designer is a Java- class editor that helps developers combine code quickly to create a Web service. This tool requires extensive Java programming experience. Competing development software from BEA Systems and Borland both do a much better job of helping developers create Java-based Web services. WASP Designer only shows sample application code without relating it to a larger process. The sample code provided to show developers how to connect these business processes is poor, and there is a lack of coding continuity between tools.

Because of these complexities, solution providers who integrate this solution should also be ready and able to provide technical support. Additional support is by contract only, though it is available 24x7. Solution providers do have an advantage in that NXJ is compatible with all major J2EE servers including BEA WebLogic, IBM WebSphere and JBoss.

NXJ costs between $3,000 and $11,500 per seat, depending on which components are used. Deployment is priced separately and begins at $18,000 per CPU. The company offers a 30 percent margin. NXJ's Application Designer controls separate components from various tools and combines them into an application. The tool has a powerful IDE that visually connects components using properties from forms, fields from tables and variables from code. Application Designer also differentiates code generated from each component so developers can control component behavior at all times. For non-Java developers, the learning curve is very slight because of the tight integration of various tools. Unlike the WASP Designer, these tools hide a lot of the J2EE code complexity, so only a moderate Java skill set is required to develop these applications.

The software's proprietary event-driven scripting language enables developers to execute operations in NXJ's Interaction Server. This optional scripting feature can help developers add event-based functionality to forms with little coding. NXJ also includes a portal engine so users can easily manage their Web applications. Through the Application Designer, interactive forms can be turned into portlets and be deployed instantly to NXJ's portal server. The company also includes Web-based administration for all the components.

CHANNEL PROGRAM SNAPSHOTS
> UNIFY NXJ 10.5
COMPANY: Unify
Sacramento, Calif.
(916) 928-6400
www.unify.com
DISTRIBUTORS: ASI, Creative Health, FusionStorm, ISV Channel, Sacramento Technology Group
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Note: Vendors can earn up to five stars for technical merit and five for their channel program. If the average of these two scores is four stars or greater, the product earns CRN Test Center Recommended status.