Prior to joining BEA over 3 years ago, I never used WebLogic Server and had to come up to speed very quickly. I have assembled my list of favorite resources for acquiring WebLogic knowledge. Now that Oracle has declared WebLogic Server as the strategic application server platform I expect that many Oracle employees, customers and partners will be in a similar situation as I was when I joined BEA. The good news is that there are many excellent ways to come up to speed in many different media formats.
Step zero is to understand some of the concepts and terminology that are specific to WebLogic Server. There is a very short and easy presentation that does this that has been posted on slideshare. If you need the very high-level, then start here. Of course you can get all of this from the documentation in a more verbose way; however I have not found a better concise introduction than this presentation.
Oracle has a very nice concept called “Oracle By Example” where they explain in detail with screenshots how to perform specific tasks. Now there is a complete Oracle By Example section on WebLogic Server with lessons for Installing and Configuring Oracle WebLogic Server Instance , Create a Basic Cluster, Using the WebLogic Server Administration Console and many others. You have to crawl before you walk and run, so be sure to check these out as they are great for getting started.
It surprises me how often people do not know that WebLogic Server has example source code and an sample domain that can be installed with the product. In the past this was part of the default installation, but I believe with 10gR3 that you now have to specify the option to install the samples as part of a custom installation. If you did the default installation you should be able to add the examples by running the installer again and selecting the custom installation to add only the examples to an existing installation. You can see detail about the samples by opening the file <WEBLOGIC_INSTALLATION>\wlserver_10.3\samples\server\wls_samples_overview.html
Check out the complete index of the 10gR3 examples on the image below and see how many specific examples are included. For example, there web services examples for several of the WS-* specifications, in some cases mixed and matched together. A simple rule of thumb is to always check the examples whenever you are getting started with a feature for the first time or you need a refresher on a feature you have not used in a while. Many of the examples also can be used as a template to build on for your scripts and code.
The examples instructions also include instructions on how to start the Examples Server also known as the samples domain, so be sure to check those instructions out as most examples will get deployed to the samples domain located at <WEBLOGIC_INSTALLATION>\wlserver_10.3\samples\domains\wl_server
Although it is not as fun as watching a screencast or as quick as a topic tailored presentation, you absolutely must become familiar with the standard documentation when you get in to any level of detail on WebLogic features. Here are a couple non-obvious items from the docs table of contents that I have circled on the left that you should note.
What’s New – Provides a breakdown by subsystem of what has changed between releases, sometimes there are new features that do not get featured on the front-page, but that are very nice to know about.
Known and Resolved Issues – These can come in very handy when you trying to discover if an issue you’ve run into is currently known about and potentially resolved. It has the specific bug number (known as a CR in WebLogic speak) that can come in handy when interfacing with support.
Supported Configurations – I cannot stress enough how important it is that you review the documentation for the specific OS / Chipset / JVM combination that you are using in various environments. When using proprietary OS’s like HP-UX or AIX for example, only very specific JVM versions are supported and there may be specific patches required for the OS, the JVM, and WebLogic Server. I have seen issues come up many times in the field when these pre-tested and certified versions are not adhered to strictly. Take a look at this page for AIX 5.3 for example which gives precise version information and special installation instructions and patch information for this combination.
Documentation Search Tip - One short-cut that I use often when searching the documentation is the google “site:” syntax. So for example, to constrain my search the WebLogic Server 10gR3 documentation for the words “deployment descriptor” you can specify the path to restrict the results to. I type this in the google search bar:
site:http://edocs.bea.com/wls/docs103/ deployment descriptor
In fact, I have another short-cut that simplifies this further, I use a tool called SlickRun where I can create my own short-cuts by keyword. I have created a “wls” keyword so I can type the following command into a prompt that is always keyboard accessible:
wls deployment descriptor
and SlickRun will open my browser, put in the google site syntax for me, and substitue the “deployment descriptor” phrase to be my search terms. But I digress…
The final thing I will mention about the documentation is that it is a living set of documents. If you find a gap that needs to be filled, an area that needs improvement or more detail, or a mistake then please participate in making the documentation better by sending feedback via the link at the bottom of each page or emailing it to docsupport at bea dot com.
Many of the resources mentioned here are part of the Oracle Technology Network which has tons of information. Here are some of my favorites for WebLogic:
WebLogic Server Product Page – This is the center of the universe for WebLogic. Do not miss the recorded demos (a list is below).
WebLogic Server Product Blog – Many great posts by the product team.
There are many product specific forums on the Oracle Technology Network that are monitored by experts to answer informed questions. In WebLogic Server’s case there are even sub-forums for specific sub-systems of WebLogic Server that are often monitored by developers and experts in those subject areas. In addition to the Generic WebLogic Server forum that I like to read, there are currently forums specific to JDBC, Security, Web Services, etc. This is not a comprehensive list and they are adding more all the time, so check the Application Server category to see if there is a specific WebLogic forum for your question. One of the most important things to remember is that the detailed, well-researched, and well-explained questions are most likely to get a helpful response. If you are lazy and have not used some of the resources above or if you do not provide enough detail so that someone with no context can figure out what you are asking, then you end up wasting people’s time. There is also a read-only archive of the former BEA dev2dev forums that is especially helpful for researching questions on older releases.
I really like using the RSS feeds from the forums to find out about new postings in my RSS Reader. You can also do other handy things like watch a specific thread so you receive emails about any updates to that thread only instead of for the entire forum.
Oracle provides a formal support process for their customers with defined Service Level Agreements and the forums are not a substitute for that. They are a community-based volunteer mechanism to help both the questioners and the responders further their knowledge. So if you use the forums to post questions, give back and help answer some of the questions too. Even if you only start by redirecting people to previous answers or a better forum to post their question in, you can help build the community and learn yourself.
Whenever an issue or question comes up that has urgency, I urge my customers to open a support case. I use this simple support quick reference guide with my customers that has all contact information and describes how to open a support case, escalate an issue, etc on only one page. It’s easy to print out and post somewhere where management, developers and administrators can see it. WebLogic support is still handled by the http://support.bea.com website as of this post, but over time it will migrate to the My Oracle Support website formerly known as Metalink.
Support Patterns - The WebLogic support patterns are a fantastic way to try self-service support on common issues. These are used by the support engineers and are common enough to be published for anyone to use. They are broken down by topic area and I often find myself pointing customers to this information. For example, if you need to troubleshoot multicast issues in a cluster there is a page dedicated to that topic.
I’m sure that I have omitted some excellent resources by accident. There are published books on these topics and many WebLogic blogs out there, not all of which are hosted on blogs.oracle.com.
Once you participate in the community awhile you make connections with experts in many subject areas. The relationships that I have built up over time with the product team and specialists are helpful, but it did not happen over night. So my advice is to participate in the community and take advantage of the many resources out there. Leave a comment if you have any favorites resources that I left out.