How to fix the CAO Website (aka scalable systems using Drools and JMS messaging)

Just looking for the whitepaper on Scalable , Multiple Deployments of JBoss Drools? Click here

If you’re 17 or 18, and about to finish 2nd level school, chances are that you want to apply to a 3rd Level College or University. Here in Ireland you get 100 points for each ‘A’ grade in your final school exams (Leaving certificate), 85 points for a ‘B’ grade and so on. You can then use these points to ‘bid’ for your preferred course, with Medical and Legal courses ‘costing’ the most. Think of it as EBay for education, managed by the CAO (Central Applications Office).

Cao Logo

Of course, this being a Business Rules post, things are not quite as simple as that. Many courses such as Art and Drama require that you submit a portfolio of work. A lot of courses with strong people skills (e.g. Psychology) require an interview. And from this year, high demand medical courses have additional exams scores (testing for common sense and a personality!). These rules tend to be modified slightly from year to year. All these rules make the process more complex to administer, given that tens of thousands of people apply annually.

17 year olds being 17 year olds, all these applications hit the website in a 2-3 days ‘spike’ before the February 1st deadline. A 2nd spike hits the system in mid August when the actual exam results are published and college places are distributed.

Given that we’re dealing with people’s futures here how would you build the system (a) to process the rules clearly and correctly and (b) to guarantee that every application will processed , no matter how big the spike in workload is?. The current system has legacy issues, and has a history of falling over at critical moments (see stories here and here).

Problem A – how to run the course rules clearly and accurately – is a known issue, and can easily be solved using JBoss Drools.

Problem B – how to ensure the website / system is always available can also be solved quite easily : Use JMS to ‘Queue’ requests. At busy times in some call centres, instead waiting ‘musak’ you may get the message ‘ please leave your details and we’ll call you back when you get the head of the queue. BT Ireland do this for their broadband support, and they call you back in the same order that you were waiting. This guarantees that even under large spikes all requests will be handled (eventually), but with no guarantee of when. This is better than the alternative of ‘I’ll hang around online until I get the complete reply’; if the web site falls over; no guarantee when or even if you’ll get a response.

So, how do you put all of these together, perhaps with multiple versions of JBoss Drools (for extra scalability). By complete co-incidence (!) a whitepaper on how to build scalable websites using Drools and JMS messaging is here.

Enterprise Java Presentation at DCU

On Wednesday, I’m presenting on the topic of Enterprise Java at DCU (Dublin City University) , in conjunction with Trigraph.

Trigraph Logo

I’ll blog later about bits and pieces of the slides (for commercial reasons I can’t publish the full set here), but the overview is below.

Description: Success or failure in your business depends on dealing with information faster and better than your competitors. This briefing shows you how Enterprise Java tools can do this and how to apply them to your organisation. Crucially, the briefing shows you when not to use Enterprise Java and details the alternative approaches.The briefing will give delegates an overview of the Java Web development environment, how to architect and distribute multi-tier applications and how to link these components with existing sources of information using Enterprise Application Integration (EAI). Most business have substantial investments in existing and legacy IT systems and the briefing will show how to integrate these with techniques such as JMS Messaging/ MQ Series, SOAP / XML or using the Java Connector Architecture (JCA).

As well as examining the main Java Application Server vendors (including Sun , IBM , Oracle , BEA and JBoss) the briefing will detail the technology stack that they offer. This stack includes Web presentation frameworks and SOA – Service Orientated Architecture at the Front end. In the middle (Business) layer this covers the capture of Business knowledge using Business Rule Engines and workflow (BPEL). At the back (Service) layer, this includes database integration using JDBC, and the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB).

What Problem are we trying to solve?Where Java Fits in Enterprise Computing.
Enterprise Application Integration (EAI).
A Componentised & Connected Enterprise.
Enterprise Java Architecture Overview.
Enterprise Java Platform Roles.
Benefits to the Enterprise.
Alternatives (.Net , PHP , Oracle , Lightweight Java Frameworks , scripting)
Scripting Languages and Enterprise Java (Ruby, Python, Groovy)
Vendors (IBM, Oracle, Sun , Bea , JBoss and SAP)
Vendor Specific Solutions (e.g. Oracle Fusion / ADF , IBM MQ )
Market Trends – Resource availability (can we get the people to do this?)

Foundation Technologies & Techniques.

Enterprise Web 2.0 and Service Orientated Aritecture (SOA).
Integrating with other Systems ( Legacy Systems, Oracle etc)
Enterprise Java Beans 3
Middleware (MOM, Rule Engines, Workflow)
Java on the (Enterprise) Desktop
Web Services / Enterprise Service Bus
Best practices (Code standards, Build standards, Version Control / Iterative Development / Junit)
UI Layer: HTML, Servlets, JSP, XML/XSLT.
XML’s Role in the Enterprise.
Application Tier: EJB, JNDI, JDBC, JDO.
Integration Technologies.
Java Connector Architecture- JCA
Security – Application and Server Level
Java Access & Authorization Service (JAAS).
Object-Orientation & UML.
Design Patterns.
Frameworks (Struts , JSF, ADF, DWR, Spring, Hibernate)
.Net interoperability

Enterprise Java Application Architectures.

Overview of Enterprise Application Servers.
Commercial Application Servers.
Distributed Application Models with Enterprise Java.
Enterprise Java Application Server Basics.
How to Choose a Enterprise Java Application Server.
Enterprise Java Application Architecture.
Building a Enterprise Java Application.
Deploying the Application.

Enterprise Java & Your Business.

Planning for Migration.
First Steps.
The Implementation Plan.
Organisational Challenges.
What’s next for Enterprise Java?