Beginner’s Introduction to Java EE

Java is incredibly popular, and for good reason. The programming language is easy to learn and is often a university’s first choice for the code it teaches its students. On the other side of it, Java is supported by multiple tech enterprises, most notably by Oracle, Google, and IBM. As a result of these two pillars of support, Java is currently the number one most popular programming language, according to the Tiobe Index which analyzes a language’s popularity by number of online searches for it.

Java rests at the top of the pile because of a self-perpetuating cycle. It’s easy to learn, so many people know it, which in turn, encourages more people to learn it. Of all the programming languages, Java comes the closest to being a lingua franca for the industry. This means two things: one, Java will continue to evolve and receive support from the community, meaning a business won’t be writing its codebase in a language that will die in 5 years, and two, businesses will have no difficulties finding talented developers to help build their Java code.

Even more importantly, Java comes with a large catalog of libraries and frameworks to assist developers completing the project, and the code is compatible with other languages like Scala and integrates with tools like Clojure and Groovy. So while picking a great WordPress theme is well and good for a small business in need of a website, a large company creating a full stack service is far better served by a language like Java.

Speaking of Java’s capabilities, the language is in fact divided between three (free) editions. In the world of Java, developers can work with Java SE (Standard Edition), Java EE (Enterprise Edition), and Java ME (Micro Edition). The delineation between Java ME and the other two is fairly straightforward—ME is for mobile devices—but what’s the difference between SE and EE? How does the Enterprise Edition vary from the Standard Edition?

The first and most important thing to know about Java EE is that it’s layered on top of SE. It’s not a totally different application. Everything you can do in Java SE is possible in Java EE. The Enterprise Edition simply lets developers do more, and is intended for—you guessed it—developers building large-scale systems for enterprises.

So what exactly does that mean, and how does Java EE enable developers to build large systems? In essence, Java EE developers have access to numerous EE-exclusive APIs that make the creation of distributed, multi-tiered systems with good security across multiple servers much easier. These APIs include various modular components, such as JMS (Java Messaging Service), which lets Java programs communicate with each other, Servlets, which handles HTTP requests, and EJBs (Enterprise JavaBeans), a collection of APIs that let businesses conduct transactions through a Java codebase. Java SE does not support transactions, so this is an important distinguishing factor for many businesses.

There are many more APIs than just those mentioned in Java EE, but those are a few of the big ones. It’s important to note that despite these additional tools, Java EE is not as big as it sounds. In fact, the software is considered light weight, and build and deploy time and artifact size within Java EE are all relatively small. In fact, Java EE dependency is limited to compile time and isn’t included in the artifact actually deployed. This leads to small files around a few hundred kilobytes each, meaning that you can achieve build time in a matter of seconds. If it’s slower, it’s likely due to a third party integration.

Another important feature of Java EE is that it’s backwards compatible with Java SE, its running platform. This is incredibly useful as the latest edition of Java EE is usually released two years after an update to Java SE, meaning that developers can utilize the latest updates and changes in Java SE without losing the ability to work with Java EE as well. With Java EE 8 set to be released in the spring of 2017, the community stands to have an upgrade soon.

Java EE is intended for transactional software that is mistake-tolerant despite its complexity. A light weight set of APIs overlaid Java SE, EE is an incredibly useful set of software features overlaid Java SE, but it is not as different or as complicated as many think it to be. If you’re a Java expert already, picking up Java EE won’t be too challenging, especially with so many resources on Java EE published online. If you’re looking to work for a large company in Java, having working knowledge of Java EE is incredibly useful to get hired.

Josh Althauser is a tech entrepreneur and open source advocate specializing in providing mentorship for startups for their marketing technology. You may connect with him on Twitter. More articles by Joshua Althauser
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