J2EE and XML Development by Kurt A. Gabrick and David B. Weiss

Reviewed by: Songmuh Jong, send e-mail
Published by: Manning Publishing Co., go to the web site
Book in PDF formatt: go to the site
Apache Jakarta Ant Project: go to the site
Requires: Distributed computing environment
MSRP: US$39.95; Cdn$59.95

This book consists of 6 chapters which focus on XML-related technologies and the application of XML in distributed software. The book is an advanced treatment of enterprise programming using XML with lots of dynamite discussion. Each chapter is a condensed discussion of its own topic. From each section, one or more web sites are referred to for further discussion.

Chapter 1 gives an introduction to distributed computing using J2EE and XML. The next chapter starts with a glossary and tutorial of the XML terminology, then goes into the Java API for XML. Chapter 3 discusses how XML can help us develop a flexible and robust application logic. It discusses the use of XML interfaces between components and the use of XML as a persistent representation of the application data. Another important topic in Chapter 3 is the query and storage of XML data. Chapter 4 discusses system integration using J2EE approach and XML approach. Chapter 5 covers the user interfaces. Chapter 6 is a case study using a computer repair company as an example. It discusses real-time access to manuals, diagnostic material and repair history through a hand-held device with wireless Internet access. A simple tutorial on the Apache Jakarta project, Ant, is provided in Appendix C. This Appendix is an important part of the book because the authors use Ant as the build tool. Every chapter comes with a build file for Ant.

I am impressed by the broad treatment of related subjects in this book. Not only does it list many aspects of application development, it also covers the important topics of testing and problem tracking. The discussion on the options for integration is also very good. It details the role of XML in each option, including data-level, message-level, procedure-level and object-level integration. Using a web service scenario, the authors explain SOAP with excellent code fragments. The authors also provide some eye-opening suggestions that might be implemented in the future, for example, serializing a Java object as an XML document, transmitting it to the remote system and reactivating it there; serializing a Java object to XML and passing it to a non-Java based remote object.

The discussion of JDOM and DOM reflects the current unsettled state of the Java community. On one hand, the authors prefer the JDOM package. On the other hand, JDOM is not an officially accepted package. The authors suggest that storing data in relational databases is still the better approach than XML databases or technologies in handling data persistence. This is quite true at this moment. The authors also mention the object-relational mapping product from WebGain TopLink. Unfortunately, WebGain recently disappears from the market. That shows the fluctuation of this field.

It is also important that the authors point out a performance reduction when using XML. However, it would be even better if some benchmark data or codes written with and without XML were provided. Even though this book is understood to be an advanced treatment of XML, the lack of extensive examples makes the whole discussion high-spirited but empty. This is especially true in the discussion of Java API for XML. Almost every subsequent chapter refers to Chapter 2 for specific technologies, yet there is no code example to be found anywhere. Notice that the Fig. 6-10 in Chapter 6 gives a directory structure that is different from the actual downloaded files. You need to modify the directory structure to make it work.

Although XML is an evolving field, this book does an excellent job in itemizing the key points of the whole subject. It is an important contribution to enterprise computing. Readers with some background of J2EE and XML should read this book to get the whole picture. Due to the nature of the discussion in the book, it is impossible to compile most of the code example into a standalone application. It should also be pointed out that this whole book is available as a free PDF download from the Internet (see below).

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