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Ed Roman

Ed Roman is one of the world's leading authorities on EJB and J2EE. He is the author of Mastering Enterprise JavaBeans and the Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition, an advanced book on EJB and J2EE development.  He is also CEO of The Middleware Company, a firm specializing in EJB training and consulting.

In this exclusive interview, we talk with Ed about EJBs, and web development with the Java 2 Enterprise Edition platform. 

Q: What do you see as being the biggest change affecting the Java community in the last year?

A: The biggest change is Microsoft's decision to drop Java in favor of C# (pronounced "see-sharp"). C# has a chance of becoming the de-facto programming language for Win32-only applications, just as Java has become the de-facto programming language for cross-platform applications. Another noteworthy advancement in technology is Microsoft's .NET initiative. There are some powerful ideas in their new architecture, and if Microsoft can execute on their promises, .NET will definitely give Java a run for its money. It's going to be an interesting battle ahead.

Q: How do you find Java stacks up to other programming languages, such as C++, for designing large-scale enterprise applications?

A: Java is my top pick. Why? Because:

  • Java has built-in security, networking, and threading, all essential for enterprise-class applications.

  • The virtual machine model, along with garbage collection, means applications are more reliable and less error-prone.

  • The fact that Java is divided into 3 platforms (J2ME, J2SE, and J2EE) means different markets benefit from different flavors of Java. 

  • Enterprise-class applications are often written by ISVs which don't control their deployment environment and require cross-platform development.

  • There is incredible momentum behind Java. Most developers are hungering to get on Java projects. This means that organizations adopting Java are likely to have an easier time finding good developers in the future. 

Q: For the novice, what exactly are Enterprise JavaBeans? How do they fit in with other Java technologies, like JavaServer Pages and Servlets?

A: EJB is the cornerstone of server-side Java. You wouldn't use EJB for embedded devices or desktop applications, you'd use it for the hard-core business logic and data logic required for large-scale multi-user applications. EJB is tied together with JSP, servlets, and other server-side Java technologies via the Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) specification. You can think of EJB as a subset of J2EE. The rest of J2EE provides the glue and missing puzzle pieces to built complete web sites.

Q: While it's still early days yet, have you seen any successful EJB/J2EE projects?

A: Absolutely. My company has helped clients develop and deploy EJB systems used for a variety of tasks. These include:

  • Rating financial bonds

  • Performing online procurement

  • Coordinating with airplane navigation equipment

  • Mapping the human genome

  • Performing workflows to process orders

  • Managing telephony switches

  • Performing banking transactions

Q: That's an impressive list of tasks. What methodology do you recommend companies take to develop successful EJB systems?

A: We've devised a 4-step procedure to getting EJB projects started on the right foot. These steps include: 

  1. Training your staff on the technologies. By educating your developers in a controlled environment, they can learn in days what would normally take weeks or months.

  2. Design work. This includes analyzing business requirements and mapping those into a reusable EJB architecture. The Unified Modeling Language (UML) should be used for all diagrams.

  3. First-pass development. I strongly encourage firms to consider an iterative development process, where they divide their design into 'slices' of EJBs, JSPs, and servlets, and build a complete slice first. This re-usable slice is demonstratable to management and/or investors, and can be used to perform scalability testing before the entire application is developed.

  4. Selection of an EJB server. To choose the right application server, first come up with a short list of 2-3 vendors you're choosing from. Then bring those vendors in-house, and deploy your first-pass into each of those vendors' application servers. This empowers you to evaluate how they handle your specific needs.

You can find out more about this process at   

Q: What would be the best development tool for an EJB developer to use? Which server do you think stands out from the crowd?

A: My preferred tool is Visual SlickEdit because its simple and fast. However, that is not an EJB-specific tool. There are some newer tools that are emerging that dwarf SlickEdit when it come to EJB functionality, and they include IBM's VisualAge for Java, Inprise's JBuilder, and WebGain Studio.

Q: The complexity of the Java 2 Enterprise Edition platform, and technologies like Enterprise JavaBeans, makes for a steep learning curve. In what way does your book assist developers in understanding and learning EJBs?

A: My book explains EJB by first explaining the technologies that EJB depends on: RMI, JNDI, RMI-IIOP, and XML. So you only need to know Java to understand EJB. You can download a complete electronic copy of the book (in PDF form) from, or order a print edition from all good bookstores.

Q: Looking to the future now, where do you see Java heading? Is there a particular technology that you're enthusiastic about?

A: I think the most important technology that the Java community should keep an eye on is the Simple Open Access Protocol (SOAP) along with XML. In the future, many web sites will be constructed in a piecemeal fashion from other web sites that they subscribe to, and SOAP enables this to happen.

Q: Ed Roman, thanks for talking with us. You can order Ed's book, Mastering Enterprise JavaBeans and the Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition, from all good bookstores, or online from

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Last updated: Monday, June 05, 2006