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Completing the J2EE Enterprise Nervous System

Completing the J2EE Enterprise Nervous System

Improving application integration has become an increasingly important component of today's IT strategy. In a recent Morgan Stanley survey of 225 CIOs, 80% indicated that they would begin new application projects in 2002, with application integration as a primary initiative. Why does integration merit top billing? As companies experience escalating economic pressure, application integration enables them to mine additional productivity from existing applications, legacy systems, and new Web services while ensuring that they all work together like a well-oiled machine.

Gartner connects the momentum generated by this application integration movement to the rapid evolution of the established enterprise network. Enterprise networks have grown from simple communication vehicles into highly developed, multifunction Enterprise Nervous Systems (ENS). The ENS, with its role as master mediator of data and applications, is becoming integral to the efficient functioning of a company's key business processes. Although the challenge of constructing an effective ENS is by no means trivial, companies who succeed in this stand to reap substantial bottom-line benefits, such as agile business processes and rapid, broader dissemination of knowledge throughout different arms of the organization. Today, J2EE technologies represent an ideal technical avenue for constructing and implementing an ENS.

Given the ENS's central role in conducting business processes, companies also must consider the management challenges involved in ensuring that the ENS is available on a 24x7x365 basis after it is deployed. Anything less is unacceptable for a system so critical to a business. As early adopters are discovering, managing the sophisticated technology involved in an ENS is exponentially more challenging than managing the traditional infrastructures for which enterprise management systems were built. Adding to the challenge, the J2EE specification today lacks the functionality to manage distributed environments such as a highly complex ENS. However, effective management can be achieved using a combination of Java Management Extensions (JMX) and the new J2EE Management Specification, previously known as JSR-77.

Among application developers, JMX is gaining in popularity as a standard way to expose business information that enables application-level management. Completing the equation, the J2EE Management Specification addresses the distributed components of a J2EE environment. It provides a concrete object and relationship model of all well-known J2EE components. Every implementation of this specification has to offer a Management EJB (MEJB), which acts as an interface to all managed objects. The MEJB also provides access to state information, event handling, and performance data. JMX and the J2EE Management Specification provide the framework to manage an ENS built on J2EE.

With the hooks established, an ENS management solution must successfully monitor and analyze the thousands of datapoints available to it via JMX and the new J2EE Management Model. Most of the solutions available today are not engineered to handle this high volume of datapoints from multiple systems and technologies distributed throughout the environment. Traditional enterprise management tools are silo based, requiring IT staff to manually sort through, correlate, and analyze the plethora of data generated across the different servers and subcomponents of the ENS. Given the technical complexity and the business-critical nature of the ENS, this management model simply falls short.

The ENS demands a new way of managing complex, distributed environments - one that is specifically tuned for J2EE architectures. An ENS management solution must be able to automate in real time the correlation of thousands of datapoints based on the complex interdependencies between systems, completely eliminating manual processes on the part of the IT staff. The solution also must be able to perform in-depth analysis on this correlated data to flawlessly isolate faults and suggest resolutions. Even better, the management software should ideally invoke fixes before problems affect the business process.

In essence, what is needed is a "brain" to make the ENS complete: an intelligent and active management approach that would significantly reduce the difficulty of managing these infrastructures and ensure that business processes continue unabated. This would allow companies to not only achieve maximum benefits from their ENS, but also enable them to better leverage their human IT resources. These requirements indeed describe a "next-generation" applications management solution, and it does exist today. This type of solution also lays the groundwork for business process management (BPM), which has yet to be brought to fruition.

If your company is considering implementing an ENS using J2EE technologies, or any other large n-tiered applications system, be sure to consider including a "next-generation" management system in your plans. Without it, your nervous system is incomplete.

More Stories By Sihyung Park

Sihyung Park is a senior solutions architect with Covasoft, Inc. (www.covasoft.com) based in Austin, TX. He has extensive experience as an e-commerce architect in designing and implementing enterprise solutions. Park is the author of “Enterprise Java Beans using WebLogic 6.1” and has written and taught for the Middleware Company (TheServerSide.com).

More Stories By Oliver Schmelzle

Oliver Schmelzle is a sales engineer at Covasoft, Inc. He has been involved with the development and research of distributed, large-scale applications at international companies such as Sun Microsystems, Bertelsmann, Daimler-Chrysler, and Vignette.

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