XML component interfaces in Java

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XML component interfaces
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A component interface refers to the representation of data within your application. For example, what does your customer component look like How can its data be accessed and manipulated An XML component interface uses XML to represent this information. Throughout this section, we will examine the advantages and disadvantages of using XML within your application components. XML receives most of its attention for its potential to integrate applications, enterprises, and industries via self-describing data. These data can be validated and manipulated in generic ways using generic tools, and detailed grammars can be created to standardize and enforce the XML dialects spoken between systems. However, the benefits of XML technology reach far beyond systems integration. In chapter 5, you will see that XML tools can be used to serve customized user views of application data through technologies like XSLT and XSP. In this chapter, we expand our view of XML as an application development tool to include internal application structure and data representation. In many instances, XML can be used as the native data format for your entire application. For example, using XML to represent customer, order, and product data allows you to create a standard format that can be reused across applications. Your customer relationship management system can then use the same XML components as your e-commerce application. Additionally, these data can be
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XML component interfaces
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persisted in their native XML format or converted to a relational format for storage in an RDBMS. To understand how XML can be used as an internal data format, we must distinguish between the XML data structures in your application s memory space and the concept of an XML document. The term document conjures images of a static file located on a file system. In fact, your application has little interest in such documents. Your application holds its data resident in memory, passing it from one component to the next and operating on it. At some point, this data may or may not be persisted to a storage medium, which could be a file (document) or a database. See figure 3.1.
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XML is typically thought of as a structured flat file.
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XML can be used in your application to represent data in memory and as a storage format.
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J2EE Container
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Data Storage
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Viewing XML as more than a flat file
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Proprietary formats vs. XML value objects A value object is an in-memory representation of data that is suitable for passing between tiers of your application. These objects are often implemented as proprietary software components. For example, your application might employ a value object called CustomerData to represent customer information.
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Application development
It is just as easy, and in many cases more convenient, to use an XML DOM value object to hold that customer information. Using an XML DOM object instead of a proprietary object has several advantages.
You can access and manipulate a DOM using standard XML tools and APIs. Your application data is ready to be transformed into virtually any output format via XSLT. You can expose your component interfaces to external applications that have no knowledge of your proprietary data objects. Using XML at this level provides a great deal of flexibility and ensures loose coupling between your components and the clients that invoke them.
Using value objects
The use of value objects is described generically in the Value Object design pattern in appendix A. In this pattern, a serializable utility object is used to pass data by value between remote components using RMI. In this section, we will compare a simple implementation of that pattern using a proprietary value object with an implementation using an XML value object.
An example scenario To analyze the concepts covered in this chapter, we provide an example. The application we use is an ordering system. It contains customer information such as address and phone number, order information, and product data. The value objects that represent these data are straightforward components that can demonstrate the use of XML in the application logic layer. A proprietary value object implementation The first component that we create is the class to represent a customer in our application. Using the traditional J2EE approach, you might construct a CustomerValue object as shown in listing 3.1.
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