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The application developer's perspective on Java Connector Architecture.

ABSTRACT

This research tests the hypothesis that "Using the Java Connector Architecture, the application developers realize at least 25% cost-efficiency in building applications which connect new web-applications to the existing enterprise information systems". The integration of new applications with existing enterprise information systems (EIS) is problematic for most corporations throughout the world. EIS vendors have been providing proprietary interfaces as a solution to this problem, but until now no uniform standard architecture has existed. J2EE and its Java Community Process (JCP) partners offer a single and uniform standard, called the Java Connector Architecture (JCA), for integration solution. This study analyzes the main components of the JCA, reviews the abundant vendor support for the JCA and illustrates how applications developers within the IT department use this standard cost-efficiently. The focus of this paper is on the JCA from an application developer's perspective rather than from the vendor's point of view. This study critically evaluates how the JCA meets challenges, such as scalable, transactional, and secure access issues faced by application developers in enterprise application integration (EAI). A small survey is conducted which tests the hypothesis arriving at a conclusion that by using the JCA to link the heterogeneous enterprise information systems with application servers, a company is able to fully leverage its business value and protect its IT infrastructure investment cost-efficiently.

INTRODUCTION

For successful e-business operations, a company's IT department integrates its new web-based applications with the existing enterprise information systems (EIS). Application developers throughout the world are facing challenges with integrating information and business processes within and between companies. EIS and other vendors provide their own proprietary interfaces with varying levels of support for integration solutions. Unfortunately, there is a lack of standard infrastructure for communicating with disparate systems. To solve this problem, Sun Microsystems and its Java Community Process (JCP) partners provide an industry standard called the J2EE platform. This platform includes numerous J2EE technologies, such as EJB, JMS, JSP, Java Servlet, the Java API for XML processing, RMI-IIOP and JDBC, which ease the difficulty of the EAI. Sun is continually improving its existing technologies while creating new ones. Sun's J2EE platform now includes a new standard for integration, namely the Java Connector Architecture (JCA), in providing connectivity between the J2EE compatible application servers and the existing EIS. The JCA is viewed from both the vendor's and application developer's points of view. From the vendor's perspective, the JCA provides a set of standards concerning connection, transaction and security for building resource adapters, which connect e-business applications with various types of EIS. From the application developer's point of view, the IT department is required to have the knowledge to develop applications according to this standard for integration between the new web-applications and the existing EIS. The objective of this research is to evaluate the cost-efficiency of the JCA from the applications component developer's perspective.

RESEARCH METHOD: ITS IMPORTANCE AND SCOPE

Research Method: After analyzing JCA's main features and reviewing the reports on the support for its development and implementation given by the business community and different types of vendors, this research evaluates how the JCA meets the challenges faced by application developers in integration solution. A survey is conducted. From the results, this study empirically tests the hypothesis "Using the Java Connector Architecture the application developers realize at least 25% cost-efficiency in building applications that connect new web-applications to the existing enterprise information systems". The cost-efficiency is derived from two sources: 1) a fewer number of adapters, and 2) time saving in application development. As cost-efficiency from the fewer number of adapters is evident, this research tests the hypothesis on the basis of the time saving in application development. It also tests the cost-efficiency at different levels, such as at least 50%, 25% and 10%. In the hypothesis, at least 25% cost-efficiency is mentioned because it is considered as a reasonable amount for management to reallocate the application developer's time. This study compares the JCA with other technologies for integration. A conclusion is derived from these evaluations on the cost-efficiency of the JCA from the application developer's perspective.

Research Importance: Before the implementation of the JCA, [x.sup.*]y adapters are needed for integration if a company has x number of application servers and y number of EIS. The application developers must deal with [x.sup.*]y adapters. This process is complex and expensive. About 40% of programming efforts and 30% of IT investments (Leclerc, 2001) are used for this integration solution. This research points out how the application developers are able to build applications for the EAI easily and efficiently in an inexpensive way, and it also supports the managers' decision as to whether they can reallocate the IT resources, especially the application developer's time and effort. The scope of this research includes:

1 An Overview of the JCA

2 Vendor Support to the JCA

3 Evaluation of the JCA from an Application Developer's Perceptive

4 Empirical Evaluation of the JCA and Hypothesis Testing

5 The JCA in Comparison with Other Technologies

6 Limitations of This Research and the Future Research

7 Conclusion

AN OVERVIEW OF THE JCA

Java Connector Architecture (JCA) is a scalable, standard architecture for heterogeneous back-end enterprise information systems to "plug-and-play" with any J2EE compatible application servers (Sarathy, 2001). This connector architecture operates as part of the application server. To achieve its goal of integration solution, the architecture provides a simplified and uniform connectivity between the J2EE platform compatible application servers and the disparate EIS, which is implemented by EIS-specific resource adapters plugging into application servers.

The resource adapter is a system-level software driver that provides connectivity between the application server and the EIS. The resource adapter remains within the address space of the application server. The interface between the resource adapter and the EIS is specific to the EIS, and is a native interface. The Java Connector Architecture is diagrammatically represented in Figure 1 (Sharma, 2001, Pudichery, 2002).

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Java connector architecture has three components:1) System Contracts between application servers and resource adapters, 2) Common Client Interface, and 3) Packaging and Deployment Interfaces for resource adapters.

System Level Contracts between application servers and resource adapters play the role of Service Provider Interface (SPI). The SPI enables the container to gain connectivity to multiple EIS with different types of contracts: Connection Management, Transaction Management, Security Management, Transaction Inflow, Message Inflow, Life Cycle Management and Work Management (Sun Microsystems, 2003). These contracts support inbound and outbound connectivity within the EIS enabling the resource adapter life cycle and thread management.

Common Client Interface (CCI) is a standard client API for application components. The CCI provides a mechanism for accessing heterogeneous systems, such as SAP R/3, Siebel, CICS and legacy applications, in a single and uniform way using the common client API. It is independent from a specific EIS. The resource adapter supports the CCI as a common client API for EIS connectivity. The integration tool vendors and EAI vendors do not have to adapt diverse EIS-specific client API for accessing diverse EIS.

Packaging and Deployment Interfaces provided by the JCA enable the various resource adapters to connect into the J2EE application servers. These include Java classes and interfaces developed by resource adapter providers.

VENDOR SUPPORT TO THE JCA

For successful implementation of the JCA, the vendors associated with integration solution need to support the JCA standard in their products. For example, EIS vendors ought to provide resource adapters; application server vendors should incorporate system level-contracts; EAI and integration tool vendors need to build JCA compliant connectors and define the CCI support for accessing heterogeneous EIS. A study conducted by Hansen and Mamorski (Hansen, 2001) reports that most of the EIS, application server and integration tool vendors, strongly support the JCA. EIS vendors, such as Siebel, JD Edwards, Lawson, PeopleSoft and SAP are providing the JCA adapters.

Many Application Server vendors incorporate the JCA standard in their products. For example, BEA Systems has adopted the JCA across the BEA Web Logic e-Business Platform. Borland Software Corporation has implemented this standard in Borland's AppServer 4.5 (Sun Microsystems, 2001). IBM, in its WebSphere, and HP Bluestone in its Total-e-Server, have actualized this standard. Application server vendors are able to leverage the strength of resource adapters to integrate the EIS without additional work.

Integration tool vendors, such as Attunity, Merant, Mercator, Sybase/NEON, TIBCO, Vitria, and WRQ, who now have proprietary standards within their integration servers, support the JCA because it increases the value of their products.

Moreover, Sun is maintaining support and commitment from several corporations through the Java Community Process (JCP). The JCP participates in developing and revising Java technology specifications.

EVALUATION OF THE JCA FROM THE APPLICATION DEVELOPER'S PERSPECTIVE

The application developer's perspective focuses on how the JCA solves challenges facing the application developers in integrating the J2EE compatible-standard enterprise applications with the existing IT infrastructure. One main challenge is discovering how the JCA enables the application developers to build applications which will provide a scalable, transactional and secure access of web applications to the EIS easily and cost-efficiently (Sharma, Stearns and Ng, 2001).

Scalable Access: One important job of the application component developer is to make the web applications scalable. A large number of clients and web applications in e-business have to access the EIS and legacy applications. They are not able to access the existing EIS concurrently due to the limited number of expensive connection resources. The existing connections are allocated to the incoming web-applications in a scalable way, which is achieved through connection pooling. The JCA supports connection pooling, but it does not define any specific mechanism for pooling. The new web-applications receive connections to the EIS using a set of standard programming model. The application component developer in the IT department needs to know the common client interface (CCI) of the standard programming model to provide applications, the required scalability and to reuse the existing connections.

Transactional Access: In the integration process, every application performs a certain type of transactional operation with the EIS data. Moreover, there are a multitude of users accessing the same EIS, which have different transactional characteristics requiring multiple resource managers. In these circumstances, possibilities exist for an application to end up with the wrong data or the EIS data may be corrupt. The application developer's job is to ensure the integrity of data through the enforcement of ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation and Durability) properties of transactional operation while integrating with the EIS. The implementation of the ACID properties guarantees that all operations are performed successfully keeping the EIS in a consistent state when the operations are complete, that this data is manipulated in isolation by each single transaction, and that the updates completed through transactional operations are durable. Guaranteeing the ACID properties of transaction is costly if the application developers use complex programming models. The Java Connector Architecture together with other J2EE technologies facilitates the application developer's work by providing a transaction management contract which enables him/her to use a standard J2EE programming model without worrying about the transaction management complexities when an application is trying to gain transactional access to EIS data.

Secure Access: Another job of the application component developer is to provide a secure access to the EIS for the web applications. Any unauthorized access to the EIS may destroy or corrupt the EIS data that is expensive to the enterprise. The security measures include authentication and authorization and access control to the EIS. Authentication identifies the user. Authorization and control access decide whether the user has the privilege to access the specific EIS. Generally, the application developers allocate time to enforce these measures for a web application's access to the EIS. These security measures are provided by the security management contract of the JCA. The only thing that an application developer has to do is to specify declaratively these measures for application in the deployment descriptor. This security goal is achieved through the EIS sign-on mechanism. The security management contract of the JCA saves much time for the application developers.

Easy to use: Until the JCA is implemented, if a corporation desires to integrate its J2EE application servers with diverse EIS, it may have to use proprietary systems provided by EIS vendors (Radding, 2001). If a company decides to use EIS proprietary tools, separate bridges are required for each application server and for each enterprise information system. It is an expensive and time-consuming venture. The JCA connectors solve this problem in a single, uniform interface, called CCI, and the "plug-and-play" method of resource adapters. Each EIS vendor provides only one standard resource adapter per type of the EIS (Cattel, 2001), which can be plugged into application servers. A company may then buy off-the-shelf JCA connectors, if available, or it may write its own adapter. Thus the JCA provides an interoperability standard, which makes the enterprise application integration (EAI) much easier now than ever before.

Cost-Efficiency: Cost efficiency is derived from two sources: 1) fewer number of adapters and 2) less time needed for application development.

Fewer Number of Adapters: The connector architecture supports application integration at minimal overhead and maintenance support. Enterprises have been using proprietary EIS tools for the integration of web applications with the EIS. If a company has x number of application servers and y number of EIS, it needs x * y separate bridges for the integration. This procedure is costly and expensive, but by using the JCA, the company needs only x + y resource adapters. The result is a substantial cost reduction.

Less Time for Application Development: The JCA enables the application developers to save a tremendous amount of time in providing scalable, transactional and secure access of web applications to the EIS. A resource adapter, plugging into an application server, implements the system-level contracts, and thereby, it can easily achieve a scalable, transactional, and secure integration between the application server and the EIS in a way specific for the given EIS. The application developers using the standard programming model save time in application development. They can focus on the development of business and presentation logic of application components without fretting over system-level issues.

EMPIRICAL EVALUATION OF SURVEY RESULTS AND HYPOTHESIS TESTING

Empirical Evaluation: Data for this research was collected through questionnaires sent to the IT departments of Fortune 500 companies. One hundred IT professionals representing different companies were contacted and asked to complete the questionnaire regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the JCA.

Twenty-four (24%) responses were received. Three companies do not use the JCA; therefore, only twenty-one responses are included in this evaluation. These participants represent twenty-one different companies and use different types of application servers, such as BEA WebLogic, IBM WebSphere, Sun iPlanet, and Jboss.

Twenty participants responded that the JCA saves time in building applications that connect the new web applications to the EIS. There is a difference of opinion on how much time is saved in linking web applications to the EIS data compared to the previous system they had been using. Table 1 shows the percentage of time saving in relation to their previous system and the number of responses.

The above responses are subdivided according to the company size. The survey participants were asked to select their company size among the Fortune 500 companies. They were given three choices: large, medium and small. Table 2 illustrates the company size and the number of responses at different levels (percentages) of time saving in application development.

One correlation addressed in Table 2 reveals that larger companies reflect a higher percentage of saving time for the application developer in building the applications.

Hypothesis Testing: Assuming that if p>0.5, the hypothesis is accepted, a binomial test is conducted. The two groups, such as "50% or more" and "25%--49%" cost reductions, are combined into one, which determines the probability of success; and the other two groups, such as "10%-24%" and "less than 10%", are combined into another which determines the probability of failure. The binomial test resulted in accepting the hypothesis at a 95% confidence level. Similarly, the hypothesis is tested with changing the values of the cost-efficiency into "at least 50%" and also "at least 10%". At "50% or more" cost-efficiency level, the hypothesis is rejected, and at "10% or more" cost-efficiency, it is accepted at a 100% confidence level. Bear in mind that the sample size is small.

THE JCA IN COMPARISON WITH OTHER TECHNOLOGIES

A comparison of the JCA and Microsoft.Net technologies: Microsoft.NET platform have integration technologies, such as the Host Integration Server ,COM TI and MSMQ; however, these technologies are used only for certain specific integration solutions.

In this empirical study, twenty participants (98%) responded that the JCA is superior to the Microsoft.NET platform technologies for EIS integration and that Microsoft does not currently possess any product of the same caliber as the JCA.

A comparison of the JCA with other J2EE technologies: For integration solution, Sun Microsystems has other technologies, such as EJB, JDBC, JMS, and Java-XML. The legacy codes in the EIS are wrapped into EJB components and then are connected to the application servers (Fisher, 2001). Wrapping legacy codes into EJB components is expensive and requires skills in advanced Java programming. The message beans of the EJB are used for asynchronous messaging mechanism between applications. They can not be used for synchronous messaging. Another technology is the use of JDBC; however, JDBC API is used only for relational database integration. Similarly, SUN has a powerful JMS message queuing for integrating enterprise systems; however, if the data is not relational and the enterprise systems are not capable of message queuing, a company must turn to the JCA, which allows enterprise systems to be accessed through their native API. Another technology is the Java-XML. Back-end EIS applications are converted into XML documents which are linked to application servers; similarly, EJB components are given the XML format and are transferred across the enterprise. The new version of the JCA has the capability of converting the EIS into XML format, and of transferring it across the enterprise. The JCA complements other J2EE technologies (Stolker, 2001).

When the JCA is compared with other J2EE technologies in the order of preference, 40% of the respondents gave Java-XML first preference, 35% of the respondents gave the JCA the second preference, and 25% of the respondents gave EJB the third preference. All respondents agree that the JCA complements the J2EE other technologies in integration solution.

LIMITATIONS OF THIS RESEARCH AND THE FUTURE RESEARCH

The JCA is comparatively a new J2EE technology for enterprise application integration. The first version of the JCA had many limitations. Numerous companies delayed implementing the JCA until a new version was created. When the questionnaires for this study were sent out, there was scarcity of data on this topic resulting in the small sample size of twenty-one. With a minute sample size of twenty-one, it is virtually impossible to adequately determine whether the hypothesis is accepted or rejected. As it is an important issue in application development for the EAI, further studies with a larger sample size are needed in the future. Another area of future research is to determine the correlation between the size of the company and time savings in application development and its significance level. By that time, there will probably be more technologies for the EAI. Comparative studies of the technologies for the EAI will also be beneficial for successful businesses.

CONCLUSION

The JCA is an interoperability standard for the enterprise integration solution. It is implemented through the plugging of resource adapters into the J2EETM platform compatible application servers. It meets the challenges, such as scalable, transactional, and secure access issues, faced by application developers in integration solution. This research tests the hypothesis that "Using the Java Connector Architecture the application developers realize at least 25% cost-efficiency in building applications that connect new web-applications to the existing enterprise information systems". Empirically, we accept the hypothesis at a 95% confidence level; but it should be noted that the sample size in this study is small. Comparatively, the JCA is currently superior to Microsoft.NET technologies, and it complements the other J2EE technologies. The Java Connector Architecture is a single and uniform standard for the integration of web-based new applications with back-end EIS. By using this standard to link the heterogeneous enterprise information systems with application servers, a company can fully leverage its business value and protect the IT infrastructure investments cost-efficiently.

REFERENCES

Cattel, R. & Inscore, J. (2001). J2EE Technology in Practice. Addison Wesley, NY.

Fisher, P. & Reckford, S. (May 2001). EJBs to the Rescue. ADT Magazine, 1-11. http://www.adtmag.com/ article.aspid=3445

Hansen, M. & Mamorski, P. (May 15, 2001). Java Connector Architecture: The Future of EAI. EAI Journal, 1-6. http://www.eaijournal.com/Article.asp?ArticleID=348&DevelopmentID=5

Leclerc, Andre (2001). Distributed Enterprise Architecture, Cutterconsortium, 1-46. http://www.cutter.com/consortium/freestuff/dcar0005.html

Pudichery, Joseph, P. (December 2002). JAVA 2, Enterprise Edition and E-business Application Integration, Academy of Information and Management Sciences, 135-143.

Radding, Alan (April 30, 2001). Java Hits New Sweet Spot. Information Week, 1-3. http://www.informationweek.com/835/java.htm

Sarathy, V. & Sharma, R. (May 2001). Integrating Java applications with the Enterprise. EAI Journal, 50-55. http://www.eaijournal.com/PDF/JCA%20-%sarathy.pdf

Sharma, Rahul (Aug. 1, 2001) J2EETM Connector Architecture. Sun Microsystems, 1-7. http://www.java.sun.com/j2ee/Connector/

Sharma, R., Stearns, B., Ng, T. (December, 2001). J2EE Connector Architecture and Enterprise Application Integration, Addison -Wesley, New York.

Stolker, Theo (June 18, 2001). Why You Need to Look at the J2EE Connector Architecture in 2001. ebizQ, 1-7. http://www.e-serv.ebizq.net/aps/stolker_1.html

Sun Microsystems (February 26, 2001). Sun Microsystems Announces the BETA Availability of the JAVA 2TM Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE TM) Connector Architecture. Sun Microsystems, 1-9. http://www.java.sun.com/pr/2001/02/pr010226-01.html

Sun Microsystems (April, 2003). J2EE Connector Architecture, Sun Microsystems, 1-5. http://www.java.sun.com/j2ee/Connector/

Vawter, C. & Roman E. (June 2001). J2EE vs. Microsoft.NET. A comparison of Building XML-based web services. The Middleware Company, 1-37. http://www.theserverside.com/resources/article.jsp?1=J2EE-vs-DOTNET

Joseph P. Pudichery, Duquesne University
APPENDIX A
Questionnaire on Java Connector Architecture

1. What type of company do () Government () Financial
you represent? () Manufacturing () Transportation

 Other: --

2. Is enterprise () Yes () No
application integration
(EAI) critical to the
function of your company?

3. Are you using Multitier () Yes () No
Client/Server Systems?

4. Which platform are you [] J2EE [] Microsoft
using for your business platform Net Other:
(e-business) transactions?

5. What is the size of your [] Large [] Medium
company among the Fortune
500 companies?

6. Which Application [] Weblogic [] Websphere
Servers are you using? [] GemStone/J [] Microsoft
 Product

 Other (please specify)--

7. Your application server () Fully () Partially
supports the J2EE platform:

8. What are the main [] Connecting heterogeneous clients
problems you face in and servers
Enterprise Application [] Connecting heterogeneous back-end
Integration (EAI)? systems
 [] Connecting legacy applications not
 written in Java
 [] Connecting non-relational database
 [] Connecting mainframe transaction
 systems
 [] Building applications quickly and
 efficiently

 Other (please specify)--

9. What are the main J2EE [] Java Servlet [] RMI-IIOP
Technologies you use for [] JTS [] Java IDL/
Enterprise application CORBA
integration (EAI) solution? [] Java Mail [] Java-XML
 [] Java Connector Architecture (JCA)

10. Please specify and [] EJB [] Java Servlet
prioritize three J2EE [] JMS [] JTA
technologies that are the
most useful for the [] JDBC JNDI [] Java Mail
EAI solution: [] Java Connector Architecture (JCA)

11. Back-End EIS [] Legacy System written in Java
applications in your [] Legacy System written other
company consist of: than Java
 [] Relational Database
 [] Non-Relational [] ERP
 Database
 [] Mainframe Applications

 Other (please specify) --

12. Technologies you use [] Integration [] JDBC
for integrating Web Brokers
Application with [] Wrapped in EJB
Back-End EIS Applications: [] Converting into XML documents
 [] Java Connector Architecture
 [] Vendor Proprietary Interfaces
 [] IBM's External Call Interface

 Other (please specify)--

13. How do you rate the [] Superior to Microsoft.NET Tools
Java Connector Architecture [] Inferior to Microsoft.NET Tools
(JCA) for enterprise [] At the same level.
application integration
compared to Microsoft.NET
Tools?

14. In your opinion, some [] Lack of bi-directional
limitations of the Java communication
Connector Architecture are: [] Lack of support for asynchronous
 transaction
 [] Lack of support for metadata
 [] Lack of built-in support for XML

 Other (please specify)--

15. In using the JCA, what [] 50% or more [] between
percentage of time do you [] between 25% - 49%
save in building 10% - 24% [] Less than 10%
applications to provide
connections between the new
webapplications and the
existing enterprise
applications (EIS),

16. Do you think the JCA is [] Yes [] No
superior to Microsoft.NET
platform technologies for
the EAI?

1. What type of company do () Research
you represent? () Computer

2. Is enterprise
application integration
(EAI) critical to the
function of your company?

3. Are you using Multitier
Client/Server Systems?

4. Which platform are you
using for your business
(e-business) transactions?

5. What is the size of your [] Small
company among the Fortune
500 companies?

6. Which Application [] Total-e-Server
Servers are you using?

7. Your application server () not all
supports the J2EE platform:

8. What are the main
problems you face in
Enterprise Application
Integration (EAI)?

9. What are the main J2EE [] JMS [] JTA
Technologies you use for [] JDBC JNDI
Enterprise application
integration (EAI) solution?

10. Please specify and [] JSP [] RMI-IIOP
prioritize three J2EE [] JTS [] Java IDL/
technologies that are the CORBA
most useful for the [] Java-XML
EAI solution:

11. Back-End EIS [] CRM
applications in your
company consist of:

12. Technologies you use
for integrating Web
Application with
Back-End EIS Applications:

13. How do you rate the
Java Connector Architecture
(JCA) for enterprise
application integration
compared to Microsoft.NET
Tools?

14. In your opinion, some
limitations of the Java
Connector Architecture are:

15. In using the JCA, what
percentage of time do you
save in building
applications to provide
connections between the new
webapplications and the
existing enterprise
applications (EIS),

16. Do you think the JCA is
superior to Microsoft.NET
platform technologies for
the EAI?

Table 1
Percentage of Time Saving thru the use of the JCA

Cost/efficiency (%) # of Responses

50% or more 4
25% - 49% 10
10% - 24% 6
Less than 10% 1

Table 2
Company size and Number of responses at different levels of
cost/efficiency

Company Size 50% or more 25%-49% 10%-24% Less than 10%

Large 3 1 0 0
Medium 1 4 1 1
Small 0 5 5 0
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