Effective Enterprise Java at Öredev

Just three weeks ago, I was asked to step in for Ted Neward to give a tutorial at Öredev on Effective Enterprise Java. As I did not have time to get the tutorial materials printed, I present them here on the web for the participants and others.

1. Effect Enterprise Java architecture in 2009

Since the Effective Enterprise Java book was written, many of the topics regarding transactions, concurrency and shared state have been resolved. Here are the basic guidelines of an enterprise application in Java as of 2009:

  1. All processing is triggered by an event, such as an http-request, a timer or an incoming message
  2. Each processing event is handled in an isolated scope, never touching the data of another processing event. All coordination of data happens through the data layer. This means that objects are either stateful and short-lived or stateless and immortal.
  3. Each processing event is either completed or aborted totally. Very few applications will benefit from trying to automatically recover from most problems.
  4. Inconsistent updates are resolved when transactions are committed, usually through optimistic locking.

Some things I told the attendants to consider: First, today most people consider EJBs to be more trouble than value (with the exception of Entity beans 3.0 which is JPA which is really mostly Hibernate, which really isn’t very much EJB). Second, all triggers can be forged. We return to the second issue when we discuss security.

2. Web integration testing

I showed a practical demo using WebDriver and Jetty to perform web integration tests as JUnit test. The remarkable things about this example is that it requires no installation of an app server (Jetty is installed as a Maven dependency), it requires no separate starting of an application server (Jetty can run embedded in the test) and it is very fast (Jetty starts up in about 200 milliseconds).

3. Hibernate integration testing

I showed a practical example of how to test a DAO implemented with Hibernate. The remarkable things about this demonstration was that, again, no installation or startup is required (I use H2 as an in-memory database).

Hibernate is a power tool. I use the following analogy: If you’re building a tunnel and need to mine through a mountain, you want to use dynamite. If you want to remove a rock from you back yard, you may want to use dynamite. But if you don’t know what you’re doing, chances are you may blow your foot off.

Hibernate is like that dynamite. You need knowledge and safety measures to deal with it correctly, but when you do, it can save you a lot of effort. Creating JUnit tests for your Hibernate code is one such safety measure.

4. Security

Almost all the threats an application developer should be concerned with are in the same class, namely that of Injection attacks. An injection attack is when a client tricks another process into treating data as instructions. For example by using SQL meta-characters:

Little Bobby Tables

An important source of injection vulnerabilities is HTML injection, also known as Cross-Site Scripting (XSS).

In both situations, and in all others, there’s one important guideline: Data from the outside world should be considered “tainted”. Never use tainted data in unsafe ways. When reading input parameters, validate against malicious characters (but please don’t make poor “O’Reiley” unable to use your system). When writing HTML pages, always escape tainted data. When using tainted data during access to the database or with HSQL or JPAQL, always use PreparedStatement and send in data as parameters.

Another often overlooked exploit is request forgery, often used in combination with phishing attacks. To protect your users from request forgery, supply an authentication token as a hidden field with all forms. Or if you’re lazy: Make sure all operations have confirmation dialogs.

5. Continuous Deployment

Continuous Deployment is the practice of rolling out a deployment to a server after every successful build on your Continuous Integration server. I described two ways of doing Continuous Deployment during the tutorial, but I will restrict this discussion to the more modern one.

Most teams doing continuous deployment use Maven or Ant to invoke the deployment tools of their respective application servers. Many application servers make this pretty hard, but the hardest part of the battle if finding out what command needs to be invoked. The Continuous Integration server can be configured to run this task.

After doing deployment, it is a good idea to run some sort of system level integration tests. Teams use replay of production data, load generators like JMeter and webcrawlers that validate HTML and CSS to do automated non-functional integration tests. If you keep your logs clean, you can actually gain quite a bit of confidence just by looking at the logs after applying simulated load to your system.

Some projects take this even further, by continuously deploying to production. Both IMVU and Flickr are known to practice this.

At any rate, the practice of doing continuous deployment should lead you to consider how to simplify your deployment and runtime configuration, which will result in an easier installation procedure into production, even if it’s not automated.

Summary

Effective Enterprise Java development has progressed a lot since 2004. Much of the emphasis now is on how to improve testing in enterprise Java applications. The way applications usually process data has stabilized as well, with most application preferring each event to be processed in an isolated, transactional context with very little automated recovery.

In the end, Effective Enterprise Java is a lot simpler in 2009 than it was in 2004.

Material

  • My slides, including topics that we didn’t discuss as well as code for all the examples
  • The complete source code for one iteration of my Enterprise Java Kata, including a pom.xml file with all dependencies needed to get the tests running

Copyright © 2009 Johannes Brodwall. All Rights Reserved.

About Johannes Brodwall

Johannes is Principal Software Engineer in SopraSteria. In his spare time he likes to coach teams and developers on better coding, collaboration, planning and product understanding.
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