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Introducing Enterprise Java Application Architecture and Design

  • By Dhrubojyoti Kayal
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UML is a graphical language used for modeling and visualizing architecture and detailed design in complex enterprise systems. It is based on a specification developed by Object Management Group (OMG). I will use UML 2.0 notations (which is the latest version) available at http://www.uml.org/. However, UML is not limited to architecture and design but can be used in all phases of software development. UML provides a rich set of notation to depict the classes and objects and various relationship and interactions. Modern UML modeling tools such as IBM Rational XDE, Visual Paradigm, Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect, and so on, allow design patterns and best practices to be applied during system design. Moreover, with these tools, the design model can be used to generate significant portions of the application source code.

There are several kinds of UML diagram. But for analysis of Java EE design patterns, I will concentrate primarily on class and sequence diagrams and a simple extension mech­anism called stereotypes. If you are new to UML or eager to know more, the best UML reference is UML Distilled Third Edition by Martin Fowler (Addison Wesley, 2005).

Class Diagram

A class diagram depicts the static relationships that exist among a group of classes and interfaces in the system. The different types of relationships that I will discuss are generalization, aggregation, and inheritance. Figure 8 shows the UML notation for a class used to represent the details of an insurance claim. It is represented by a rectangle with three compartments. The first compartment is the name of the class. The second compartment denotes the attributes in the class, and the last one shows the operations defined on these attributes. Note that the + and – signs before the attribute and method names are used to represent the visibility. The + sign denotes public visibility, and the – sign denotes private visibility or that the attribute is not accessible outside this class. Also note that, optionally, you can denote the data type of the attributes, method return type, and parameters.

Figure 8. UML class notation

Interfaces lay down the contract that implementations must fulfill. In other words, classes that implement an interface provide a guaranteed set of behavior. An interface is represented by the same rectangular box as a class, but with a difference. The top compartment shows the class name augmented by a stereotype <<interface>>. Stereotypes are a mechanism to extend an existing notation. Some UML tools also represent interfaces with a circle with no explicit mention of the methods. Figure 9 shows the two different forms.

Figure 9. UML interface notations


In the next few sections, I will examine the important relationships that exist between the classes in a software system.


The generalization relation indicates inheritance between two or more classes. This is a parent-child relationship, in which the child inherits some or all of the attributes and behavior of the parent. It is also possible for the child to override some of the behaviors and attributes. Figure 10 shows the generalization relationship.

Figure 10. Generalization


Association shows a general relation between two classes. In an actual class, this is shown with one class holding an instance of the other. An insurance policy always has one or more parties involved, with the most prominent being the policyholder who owns this policy. There can be an agent who helps and guides the policyholder to take this policy. Association often shows named roles, cardinality, and constraints to describe the relation in detail, as shown in Figure 11.

Figure 11. Association

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This article was originally published on March 3, 2009

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