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7.4. The Life Cycle of a Stateful Session Bean

The biggest difference between the stateful session bean and the other bean types is that stateful session beans don't use instance pooling. Stateful session beans are dedicated to one client for their entire life, so there is no swapping or pooling of instances.[12] Instead of pooling instances, stateful session beans are simply evicted from memory to conserve resources. The EJB object remains connected to the client, but the bean instance is dereferenced and garbage collected during inactive periods. This means that a stateful bean must be passivated before it is evicted to preserve the conversational state of the instance, and it must be activated to restore the state when the EJB object becomes active again.

[12] Some vendors use pooling with stateful session beans, but that is a proprietary implementation and shouldn't impact the specified life cycle of the stateful session bean.

The bean's perception of its life cycle depends on whether or not it implements a special interface called javax.ejb.SessionSynchronization. This interface defines an additional set of callback methods that notify the bean of its participation in transactions. A bean that implements SessionSynchronization can cache database data across several method calls before making an update. We have not discussed transactions in any detail yet, so we will not consider this view of the stateful session bean's life cycle until Chapter 8, "Transactions". This section describes the life cycle of stateful session beans that do not implement the SessionSynchronization interface.

The life cycle of a stateful session bean has three states: Does Not Exist, Method-Ready, and Passivated. This sounds a lot like a stateless session bean, but the Method-Ready state is significantly different from the Method-Ready Pool of stateless beans. Figures Figure 7-2 and Figure 7-3 show the state diagrams for stateful session beans in EJB 1.1 and EJB 1.1.

figure

Figure 7-2. EJB 1.1 stateful session bean life cycle

figure

Figure 7-3. EJB 1.0 stateful session bean life cycle

7.4.1. Does Not Exist

Like the entity bean and stateless session bean, when a bean instance is in the Does Not Exist state, it is not an instance in the memory of the system. In other words, it has not been instantiated yet.

7.4.2. The Method-Ready State

7.4.2.1. Transitioning to the Method-Ready state

When a client invokes the create() method on an EJB home of a stateful session bean, its life cycle begins. When the create() method is received by the container, the container invokes newInstance() on the bean class, creating a new instance of the bean. At this point, the bean instance is assigned to its EJB object. Next, the container invokes setSessionContext() on the instance, handing it its reference to the SessionContext, which it must maintain for life. Finally, the container invokes the ejbCreate() method on the instance that matches the create() method invoked by the client. Once ejbCreate() has completed, the container returns the EJB object's remote reference to the client. The instance is now in the Method-Ready State and is ready to service business methods invoked by the client on the bean's remote reference.

7.4.2.2. Life in the Method-Ready state

While in the Method-Ready State, the bean instance is free to receive method invocations from the client, which may involve controlling the workflow of other beans or accessing the database directly. During this time, the bean can maintain conversational state and open resources in its instance variables.

7.4.2.3. Transitioning out of the Method-Ready state

Bean instances leave the Method-Ready state to enter either the Passivated state or the Does Not Exist state. During its lifetime, a bean instance will be passivated and activated zero or more times. It's likely that it will be passivated at least once, passing into the Passivated state. The bean enters the Does Not Exist state if it is removed. A client application can remove a bean by invoking one of the remove() methods on the client API, or the container can choose to remove the bean.

7.4.2.4. EJB 1.1 timeouts

The container can remove the bean instance from the Method-Ready State if the bean times out. Timeouts are declared at deployment time in a manner specific to the EJB vendor. When a timeout occurs, the ejbRemove() method is not invoked. A stateful bean cannot time out while a transaction is in progress.

7.4.2.5. EJB 1.0 timeouts

The container removes the bean if it times out (the timeout period is set in the deployment descriptor). When a bean is removed, its ejbRemove() method is invoked, giving the bean instance an opportunity to close any open resources and invoke remove() on any session beans it has referenced.

7.4.3. Passivated State

During the lifetime of a stateful session bean, there may be periods of inactivity, when the bean instance is not servicing methods from the client. To conserve resources, the container can passivate the bean instance while it is inactive by preserving its conversational state and evicting the bean instance from memory.

When a stateful bean is passivated, the instance fields are read and then written to the secondary storage associated with the EJB object. When the stateful session bean has been successfully passivated, the instance is evicted from memory; it is destroyed.

When a bean is about to be passivated, its ejbPassivate() method is invoked, alerting the bean instance that it is about to enter the Passivated state. At this time, the bean instance should close any open resources and set all nontransient, nonserializable fields to null. This will prevent problems from occurring when the bean is serialized.Transient fields will simply be ignored.

EJB 1.1 passivation issues

A bean's conversational state may consist of only primitive values, objects that are serializable, and the following special types:

  • javax.ejb.SessionContext

  • javax.ejb.EJBHome (home interface types)

  • javax.ejb.EJBObject (remote interface types)

  • javax.jta.UserTransaction (bean transaction interface)

  • javax.naming.Context (only when it references the JNDI ENC)

The types in this list (and their subtypes) are handled specially by the passivation mechanism. They don't need to be serializable; they will be maintained through passivation and restored automatically to the bean instance when it is activated.

A bean instance's conversational state will be written to secondary storage to preserve it when the instance is passivated and destroyed. Containers can use standard Java serialization to preserve the bean instance, or some other mechanism that achieves the same result. Some vendors, for example, will simply read the values of the fields and store them in a cache. The container is required to preserve remote references to other beans with the conversational state. When the bean is activated, the container must restore any bean references automatically. The container must also restore any references to the special types listed earlier.

Fields declared transient will not be preserved when the bean is passivated. Except for the special types listed earlier, all fields that are nontransient and nonserializable must be set to null before the instance is passivated or else the container will destroy the bean instance, making it unavailable for continued use by the client. References to special types must automatically be preserved with the serialized bean instance by the container so that they can be reconstructed when the bean is activated.

A bean instance can time out while it is passivated. If a timeout occurs, the container will discard the instance, returning it to the Does Not Exist state. The ejbRemove() method will not be called on an instance that times out.

EJB 1.0 passivation issues

With the exception of the SessionContext and remote references to other beans, conversational state must be primitive values or objects that are serializable. This is because the bean instance's conversational state will be written to secondary storage to preserve it when the instance is destroyed. Containers can use standard Java serialization to preserve the bean instance, or some other mechanism that achieves the same result. Some vendors, for example, will simply read the values of the fields and store them in a cache. The container is required to preserve remote references to other beans with the conversational state. When the bean is activated, the container must restore any bean references automatically. The container must also restore the SessionContext reference automatically.[13]

[13] References to SessionContext or EntityContext in a bean class should not be transient. At the time of this writing, however, at least one major vendor required that references to SessionContext in session beans be transient. This is a proprietary requirement and is noncompliant with the specification.

Nonserializable object references and variables labeled as transient will not be preserved when the bean is passivated. Fields that are nontransient and nonserializable must be set to null before the instance is passivated or the container can destroy the bean, making it unavailable for continued use by the client. References to beans and the SessionContext must be automatically preserved with the serialized bean instance by the container so that they can be reconstructed when the bean is activated.

When the client makes a request on an EJB object whose bean is passivated, the container activates the instance. This involves deserializing the bean instance and reconstructing the SessionContext reference and bean references held by the instance before it was passivated. When a bean's conversational state has been successfully activated, the ejbActivate() method is invoked. The bean instance should open any resources needed and initialize the value of any transient fields within the ejbActivate() method. Once ejbActivate() is complete, the bean is back in the Method-Ready state and available to service client requests delegated by the EJB object.

The activation of a bean instance follows the rules of Java serialization. The exception to this is transient fields. In Java serialization, transient fields are set to their default values when an object is deserialized; primitive numbers become zero, Booleans false, and object references null. In EJB, transient fields do not have to be set to their initial values; therefore, they could contain arbitrary values when the bean is activated. The value held by transient fields following activation is unpredictable across vendor implementations, so don't depend on them to be initialized. Instead, use ejbActivate() to reset their values.

7.4.3.1. EJB 1.1 system exceptions

Whenever a system exception is thrown by a bean method, the container invalidates the EJB object and destroys the bean instance. The bean instance moves directly to the Does Not Exist state and the ejbRemove() method is not invoked.

A system exception is any nonapplication exception including RemoteException, EJBException, and any unchecked exceptions. Checked exceptions thrown from subsystems are usually wrapped in an EJBException and rethrown as system exceptions. A checked exception thrown by a subsystem does not need to be handled this way if the bean can safely recover from the exception. In most cases, however, the subsystem exception should be rethrown as a EJBException.



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