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3.2 J2EE Applications

A J2EE application, an enterprise application that conforms to the J2EE specification, is structured as shown in Figure 3.2 and consists of the following:

  • Zero or more EJB modules

  • Zero or more Web modules

  • Zero or more application client modules

  • Optionally, JAR files containing dependent classes or components required by the application

  • Any combination of the preceding, as long as it contains at least one module

03fig02.gifFigure 3.2. Contents of a J2EE Application

A J2EE application is represented by, and packaged in, an Enterprise Archive (EAR) file. The modules that comprise the EAR file are themselves packaged in archive files specific to their types. For example, a Web module is packaged in a Web Archive (WAR) file, and an EJB module, containing one or more enterprise beans, is packaged in a JAR file. WAR files can exist as independent deployment units from EAR files.

EAR files also contain a deployment descriptor file—an XML document describing the contents of the application and containing instructions for the deployment of the application. In particular, the deployment descriptor specifies the security settings to be enforced by the runtime environment. Each WAR file packaging a Web module, JAR file packaging enterprise beans, or JAR file packaging an application client module contains its own deployment descriptor as well.

3.2.1 EJB Modules

An enterprise bean is a Java component that can be combined with other resources to create distributed client/server applications. Instantiated enterprise beans reside in enterprise bean containers, or EJB containers. An EJB container provides an interface between the enterprise beans and the application server on which the enterprise beans reside. An enterprise bean is typically accessed using Java RMI-IIOP. An ORB manages the interaction between clients and enterprise beans, using IIOP. ORBs enable clients to make requests and receive responses from servers in distributed computing environments. Alternatively, enterprise beans are accessible through JMS. It is also possible to invoke an enterprise bean as a Web service via SOAP, as explained in Chapter 14 on page 497.

There are three types of enterprise beans: entity beans, session beans, and message-driven beans. Entity beans store persistent data and typically use database connections. Entity beans are of two types: CMP entity beans and BMP entity beans.

  • Entity beans with container-managed persistence (CMP) let the EJB container transparently and implicitly manage the persistent state. The enterprise bean developer does not need to code any database access functions within the enterprise bean class methods.

  • Entity beans with bean-managed persistence (BMP) manage persistent data in a manner defined by the application developer in the bean code. This usually includes writing to databases.

Session beans do not require database access, although they can obtain it indirectly, as needed, by accessing entity beans. Session beans can also obtain direct access to databases and other resources through the use of resource references, which include the use of JDBC. Session beans can be either stateless or stateful.

  • A session bean is said to be stateless if it provides a stateless service to the client. A business method on a stateless session bean is similar to a procedural application or static method; there is no instance state. Therefore, all the data needed to execute a stateless session bean's method is provided by the method arguments.

  • A session bean is said to be stateful if it acts as a server-side extension of the client that uses it. A stateful session bean is created by a client and will work for only that client until the client connection is dropped or the bean is explicitly removed. Unlike a stateless session bean, a stateful session bean has state or instance fields that can be initialized and changed by the client with each method invocation.

Message-driven beans are enterprise beans accessible asynchronously via JMS rather than synchronously through such protocols as RMI-IIOP. The EJB V2.1 specification expands the scope of message-driven beans beyond JMS to support any messaging system.

An EJB module is one or more enterprise beans assembled into a single deployable unit. As we have observed, an EJB module is stored in a standard JAR file, commonly referred to as ejb-jar. This file contains

  • One or more deployable enterprise beans

  • A deployment descriptor, stored in an XML file

Specifically, an EJB module's deployment descriptor file declares the contents of the module, specifies the structure and external dependencies of the enterprise beans in the module, explains how the enterprise beans are to be used at runtime, and defines the security policies applicable to the enterprise beans within the module. The format of the security policy is defined by the EJB specification (see Chapter 5 on page 157).

3.2.2 Web Modules

A Web module represents a Web application—an application that can be accessed over the Web using HTTP. A Web module is used to assemble servlets and JSP files, as well as static content, such as HTML pages, into a single deployable unit. As we said earlier, Web modules are stored in WAR files, which are enhanced JAR files with a .war file extension, and contain

  • One or more servlets, JSP files, and other supporting files

  • A deployment descriptor, stored in an XML file

The deployment descriptor file, web.xml, declares the contents of the Web module. This file contains information about the structure and external dependencies of the components in the Web module and describes the components' runtime use. In addition, the deployment description file is used to declare the security policies applicable to the universal resource identifiers (URIs) that are mapped to the resources within the Web module. These security policies include both the authorization policy and the login configuration information. The format of the security policy is defined by the Java Servlet specification.

Servlets are Java programs running on a WAS and extend the Web server's capabilities. For example, servlets support generation of dynamic Web page content, provide database access, concurrently serve multiple clients, and filter data by MIME type. Servlets use the Java Servlet API. By analogy, servlets are the server-side equivalent of client-side browser applets.

JSP files enable the separation of the HTML coding from the business logic in Web pages, allowing HTML programmers and Java programmers to more easily collaborate in creating and maintaining pages. This process is described in greater detail in Section 4.1.2 on page 104.

3.2.3 Application Client Modules

Application clients are first-tier Java-based client programs. Even though it is a regular Java application, an application client depends on an application client container to provide system services. An application client module packages application client code in a JAR file. This JAR file includes a deployment descriptor XML file, which specifies the enterprise beans and external resources referenced by the application.

The security configuration of an application client determines how the application will access enterprise beans and Web resources. If the J2EE components that the client application accesses are secured, the client will be authenticated accordingly. In order for an application client to retrieve authentication data from an end user, configuration information must be specified in a deployment descriptor XML file, application-client.xml, associated with the client application. Application clients typically run in an environment that has a Java 2 security manager installed and the security policies enforced based on the J2SE security policy framework (see Chapter 8 on page 253).

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