XPages to Java EE, Part 1: Overview

Jan 17, 2019, 6:54 PM

Tags: javaee
  1. XPages to Java EE, Part 1: Overview
  2. XPages to Java EE, Part 2: Terminology
  3. XPages to Java EE, Part 3: Hello, World
  4. XPages to Java EE, Part 4: Application Servers
  5. XPages to Java EE, Part 5: Web Pages
  6. XPages to Java EE, Part 6: Dependencies
  7. XPages to Java EE, Part 7: MVC
  8. XPages to Java EE, Part 8: IDE Server Integration
  9. XPages to Java EE, Part 9: IDE Features Grab Bag
  10. XPages to Java EE, Part 10: Data Storage
  11. XPages to Java EE, Part 11: Mixing MVC and an API
  12. XPages to Java EE, Part 12: Container Authentication
  13. XPages to Java EE, Part 13: Why Do This, Anyway?

I've definitely come around to the idea that the future for Java with Domino involves Java/Jakarta EE. HCL apparently feels the same way, though what that "J2EE" bit on their slide means remains unspecified. Regardless, I think that it's important for the XPages community to at least dip our toes into JEE proper, and I plan to share some of my experiences with doing so.

I think the best starting point here will be a bit of history and context. As XPages developers, we were dropped into a weird alternate version of this world, and kind of backed into a lot of its concepts, so it'll be useful to get a feel for where this stuff came from.

Before I get into it, I should point out the significant caveat that I am not a full expert in all of this. I wasn't paying attention to J2EE when it came into being, and there are still large swaths of it that I haven't had to bother with. In particular, I have only a loose grasp of the various turmoils of pricing and vendors over the years, but fortunately those parts aren't too important for getting started now.

Naming History

In 1999, Sun released the first version of JEE, dubbed "Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition 1.2". Historically, the versioning of Java has been pretty... well, stupid. Because Sun wanted to make the 1.2 release of Java sound like a big deal, they called it "Java 2" in branding but didn't actually bump the internal version number to match. Java EE matched this, starting out as "J2EE". This type of branding - "J2EE 1.4" - lasted until the fourth release, "Java EE 5" (yeah, I know). The platform is still habitually called "J2EE", but it means the same thing as "JEE".

In 2017, after a couple years of neglect, Oracle decided that they didn't want to be bothered shepherding the platform anymore, and they did the honorable thing and open-sourced it to Eclipse. Since Oracle still maintains the "Java" name, that led to a bit of a scramble to come up with a new name for the platform. The initial name was "EE4J", and that remains the official name of the Eclipse project overseeing the whole thing, as well as the name of the specific reference implementation. After polling the community, though, the name "Jakarta EE" was chosen for the new version of the Java EE standard.

In short, though there are technical differences at each point, the gist of it is that "J2EE", "Java EE", "JEE", "EE4J", and "Jakarta EE" all kind of refer to the same thing.

The Core Meaning

The Java EE platform covers a lot of things and isn't strictly tied to web applications alone, but it effectively means "Java web stuff". For writing the types of web applications we're likely to run across, there's a whole swath of Java EE technology that we'll ignore - stuff to do with the giant, bloated-yet-fragile apps that we learned to associate with WebSphere in the bad old days.

Pricing History

As an "enterprise" offering, Java EE used to involve writing giant checks. You'd pick your vendor, send them a dump truck of money, and they'd give you an application development environment and a team of consultants to install it.

Over the years, things got a lot better. The licensing on the specifications was/became such that open-source versions of core components gradually became available, and then eventually even the big-ticket application servers went open source in various forms and to various extents.

While there used to be a huge hurdle to getting started, we're living in a comparative golden age where you can get top-tier stuff for production use easily and for free.

XPages's Relationship

XPages is effectively a fork of a specific set of Java EE technologies. The most important of this is JavaServer Faces, but it has a couple others in there: Servlet, JavaMail, JAX-RS (in the ExtLib), a janky version of JSP, and probably a grab bag of smaller technologies.

So XPages is Java EE and Domino is a Java EE server in that sense, but its historical division and the presence of OSGi make it so that you can't necessarily just jump in with current JEE development and deploy it to Domino. Some bits are easier than others (like JAX-RS), but everything has an asterisk.

Moreover, the specifics of XPages force us to "un-learn" some things that we learned while getting deeper into Java on Domino. OSGi is the big one - though it still exists, particularly in Eclipse, it has limited adoption for web apps. Additionally, the "develop live in the NSF" methodology, direct pairing of app + storage, and total lack of persistence framework for Domino mean that a lot of our ingrained habits run counter to what we'll learn in the future.

The Plan

Currently, I have only a loose plan in mind for this series. I expect I'll have another post or two of "conceptual" stuff before going into showing some actual code. For the most part, I expect the code will start where the Java Thing Series left off - not with picking up that code specifically, but with the starting point of Maven and Eclipse.

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Cameron Gregor - Jan 17, 2019, 9:27 PM

Thanks for writing this up it will be great to hear more about this.

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Paul Withers - Jan 18, 2019, 3:40 AM

I dived a little into J2EE, though with limited understanding, when I was working on CrossWorlds and Liberty Profile a few years ago. Liberty supports OSGi, but typically apps were war files with Maven compiling everything into them. The biggest challenge I had was that the Domino-related code (including a servlet filter and feature on Liberty that wrapped Domino) was not Maven-enabled and I lacked the knowledge to do so.

In terms of framework, my favourite at the time was Vaadin. It's open source, but backed by a committed and passionate organisation, with good documentation and extensions.

In terms of Domino data, there were two challenges - documents and views. With views, most JDBC drivers used Hibernate but that didn't work well with Domino. Most other Vaadin view containers found the matching data, wrapped it as POJOs, then sorted / filtered accordingly. Obviously that's fine for small demos, but it gets more challenging with larger databases. I never had to address that. With documents the challenge was rich text or, more specifically, handling images and attachments in rich content. With your experience, this aspect is probably easier to handle, but I was waiting for the announced open sourcing (this was several years ago).

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Marcelo Castro - Jan 18, 2019, 6:13 AM

Jese, for us (LotusScript programmers) that have adopted XPages as the path recommended by IBM to modernize our applications, we have never  questioned the framework. Look forward for the next posts. It will be very important to understand the future of XPages, as there must be a lot of applications relying on the platform. Thank you!

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