How to learn WS-BPEL 2.0?

Nearly four years ago I joined the WS-BPEL 2.0 technical committee, and from nearly the first day people have been asking me, "how do I learn BPEL?" At long last I have a good answer -- the NetBeans 5.5 enterprise pack (EP). The EP includes an integrated version of Open ESB, including its WS-BPEL 2.0 service engine.

The EP includes an intuitive interactive graphical process diagram editor. If you really like the XML language the TC crafted, there is two-way editing (between the graphic and text views of the process). This makes writing process definitions easier, since it handles a lot of the "boilerplate" XML, and makes it much harder to make a mistake. This can make learning the language syntax less painful, and shorten the learning curve. (The EP includes WSDL and XML Schema editors with similar capabilities, making these related document types easier to learn and create.)

Syntax isn't the whole story, though. What about the run-time dynamics of WS-BPEL? How can you learn them? How can you gain insight into the internal workings of the language? The best way I've seen to date is to use the EP's BPEL debugger. This allows you to do all the things you'd expect: stopping process instances, inspecting variables, setting breakpoints, etc. This lets you see what is happening "under the hood" of the BPEL service engine, answering the common question "why did it do that?" in a way that is very instructive.

If you are curious about WS-BPEL 2.0, check out the Enterprise Pack, and take the BPEL debugger for a test drive.

FYI, the WS-BPEL 2.0 service engine itself comes from Open ESB 2.0.

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