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Because of this latency between the Web server and the EJB application server--and given that much of it involves access to read-only information--it pays to build a cache and so (most of the time) avoid an expensive trip to the EJB server. This, in turn, ensures that browser-to-Web server latency is kept to a minimum and not compounded by the traffic out to the EJB and onward to the database.

Figure 1: Latency Issues in J2EE Architecture

In the same way, the latency between EJBs and the database can be reduced by ensuring that the EJB doesn't have to make unnecessary trips to the database to retrieve unchanged data and by ensuring that changed information is forwarded to the EJB resident database cache.

All this has a bearing on the overall scalability of the system and affects the user experience. These factors have an impact on revenue (poor performance turns customers away) and on cost, as the amount of hardware required needs to be modeled effectively.

Techniques to Increase Performance

Of course, there are many ways to improve perceived performance. Common approaches are to:

  • Reduce/remove unnecessary workload
  • Spread workload across multiple resources
  • Hide workload from the user
  • Redesign the application to reduce the effective workload

The last of these is really a matter for specific application design, but we can see how to implement the first three approaches using JMS and caching.

Queuing with JMS MDBs

One of the easiest ways of hiding workload is to place it onto a queue and have it processed in the background. This pattern has been used since the dawn of the computer age (or at least since the invention of the Job Control Language for prioritizing mainframe jobs) and has now made its way into J2EE 1.3 in the guise of Message-Driven Beans (MDBs), which are part of the JMS API.

Simply send a persistent message, and you can be sure that the background processing will--eventually--happen (using MDBs). You only wait for the message to be recorded, and the EJB server deals with scheduling the MDB to receive the message and execute the required work. The client doesn't have to wait for the MDB to complete, so the front end is unblocked.

Figure 2: Asynchronous Requests with JMS


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