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Introducing Enterprise Java Application Architecture and Design

  • March 3, 2009
  • By Dhrubojyoti Kayal
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These days, the cost of hardware, like CPU and memory, has gone down drastically. But still there is a limit, for example, to the amount of memory that is supported by the processor. Hence, there is a need to optimally use the system resources. Modern distributed applications are generally built leveraging object-oriented technologies. Therefore, services such as object caches or pools are very handy. These applications frequently interact with relational databases and other information systems such as message-oriented middleware. However, opening connections to these systems is costly because it consumes a lot of process resources and can prove to be a serious deterrent to performance. In these scenarios, a connection pool is immensely useful to improve performance as well as to optimize resource utilization.

Distributed applications typically use middleware servers to leverage the system services such as transaction, security, and pooling. The middleware server API had to be used to access these services. Hence, application code would be muddled with a proprietary API. This lock-in to vendor API wastes lot of development time and makes maintenance extremely difficult, besides limiting portability.

In 1999, Sun Microsystems released the Java EE 2 platform to address the difficulties in the development of distributed multitier enterprise applications. The platform was based on Java Platform, Standard Edition 2, and as a result it had the benefit of "write once, deploy and run anywhere." The platform received tremendous support from the open source community and major commercial vendors such as IBM, Oracle, BEA, and others because it was based on specifications. Anyone could develop the services as long as it conformed to the contract laid down in the specification. The specification and the platform have moved on from there; the platform is currently based on Java Platform, Standard Edition 5, and it is called Java Platform, Enterprise Edition 5. In this article, we will concentrate on this latest version, referred to officially as Java EE 5.

Java EE Container Architecture

The Java EE platform provides the essential system services through a container-based architecture. The container provides the runtime environment for the object-oriented application components written in Java. It provides low-level services such as security, transaction, life-cycle management, object lookup and caching, persistence, and net-work communication. This allows for the clear separation of roles. The system programmers can take care of developing the low-level services, and the application programmers can focus more on developing the business and presentation logic.

As shown in Figure 5, there are two server-side containers:

  • The web container hosts the presentation components such as Java Server Pages (JSP) and servlets. These components also interact with the EJB container using remoting protocols.
  • The EJB container manages the execution of Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) components.



Click here for a larger image.

Figure 5. Java EE platform architecture

On the client side, the application client is a core Java application that connects to the EJB container over the network. The web browser, on the other hand, generally interacts with the web container using the HTTP protocol. The EJB and web containers together form the Java EE application server. The server in turn is hosted on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM).

Different containers provide different sets of low-level services. The web container does not provide transactional support, but the EJB container does. These services can be accessed using standard Java EE APIs such as Java Transaction API (JTA), Java Message Service (JMS), Java Naming and Directory Interface (JNDI), Java Persistence API (JPA), and Java Transaction API (JTA). The greatest benefit, however, is that these services can be applied transparently on the application components by mere configuration. To inter-pose these services, the application components should be packaged in predefined archive files with specific XML-based deployment descriptors. This effectively helps cut down on development time and simplifies maintenance.

Java EE Application Architecture

The Java EE platform makes the development of distributed n-tier applications easier. The application components can be easily divided based on functions and hosted on different tiers. The components on different tiers generally collaborate using an established architectural principle called MVC.

An MVC Detour

Trygve Reenskaug first described MVC way back in 1979 in a paper called "Applications Programming in Smalltalk-80: How to use Model-View-Controller." It was primarily devised as a strategy for separating user interface logic from business logic. However, keeping the two isolated does not serve any useful purpose. It also suggests adding a layer of indirection to join and mediate between presentation and business logic layers. This new layer is called the controller layer. Thus, in short, MVC divides an application into three distinct but collaborating components:

  • The model manages the data of the application by applying business rules.
  • The view is responsible for displaying the application data and presenting the control that allows the users to further interact with the system.
  • The controller takes care of the mediation between the model and the view.




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