Product Reviews: Openmake 6.2 and SOAPscope 3.0

Openmake makes for easy compiling

Openmake 6.2
Cost: $299 per client, $3,900 per KB server
Catalyst Systems Corp.
Glencoe, Ill.
Rating: 4 out of 5

Openmake uses a distributed build architecture tied together by SOAP messages. At the heart of the build process is the KB Server, which maintains a knowledge base of how to build various types of software. Client workstations use the Openmake Browser to talk to the KB server, set things up and kick off builds. Finally, one or more build servers handle the actual build tasks, receiving commands from the clients and using the Openmake KB to know how to build various types of software.

The KB server is one of the key strengths of Openmake. Rather than scripting everything yourself, you can depend on the KB Server to know how to compile dozens of types of software: .NET apps, Java Jar files, MSVC apps, Visual Basic OCXs, InstallShield and Wise installers, Delphi DLLs and more. The KB Server also manages build logs and impact analysis, making it easy to determine the effects of apparently small changes on the system.

Openmake builds are normally handled by command-line tools, but there is also a minimal amount of integration with Visual Studio .NET; you can set up external tools in the VS .NET menus to create and execute Openmake builds. There is also integration with Eclipse for people on the Java side of the great divide.

Setting up Openmake is a non-trivial undertaking, and using it may take some getting used to. But then, so does any other process change. The real benefits of this approach should be most apparent in large enterprises building complex software that encompasses multiple vendors and technologies. You can think of Openmake as a sort of referee, ensuring that builds are done repeatedly regardless of which tools any individual developer prefers.

Other features like online build logs allow you to use Openmake as a tracking tool as well, cluing everyone into how the build process is going. You would likely find this overkill on a simple project, but as the complexity of your software increases, you will need to investigate this level of tool.

SOAPscope freshens Web services

SOAPscope 3.0
Cost: $99
Mindreef Inc.
Hollis, N.H.
Rating: 5 out of 5

Mindreef has just pushed out another major update of SOAPscope-- major enough that it definitely warrants another look. The product continues to add new features at a rapid clip and, if you are working with Web services, it remains an essential diagnostic and debugging tool.

The basic idea is simple: SOAPscope lurks on your network, intercepting SOAP messages and filing them away in its own database (there are a variety of ways to configure the sniffer portion). Once collected, you can view the requests and responses in a variety of formats, from raw SOAP to color-coded XML to simplified pseudocode view. You can also inspect the associated HTTP headers, see statistics on the Web service’s performance and analyze the SOAP for potential problems.

WSDL analysis is part of the product as well. Pick a WSDL endpoint and you can dig into it, compare the current WSDL with past versions from the same endpoint, or look for problems. You can also see how many of the methods in the WSDL you have exercised with SOAP calls, and view statistics grouped by the WSDL file.

Version 3.0 adds a lot of new yummy goodness to this basic picture. For starters, they have now integrated the WS-I Basic Testing tools, so you can get a full interoperability report without ever leaving SOAPscope. Visual Studio .NET users will appreciate the new VS .NET integration. Without leaving the Microsoft IDE, you can now add a Web reference to any service you have looked at with SOAPscope, analyze messages, or exercise the Web service you are writing without having to put together any client code.

Other new features include a task tray icon to manage the SOAPscope server and viewer, support for SSL and gzipped messages, and the ability to compact the SOAPscope database for better performance after you have deleted old messages.

If you are serious about developing or consuming Web services, this product is likely to help you avoid tearing your hair out, and at a very reasonable price.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.


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