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FrontierSuite is a single tool that can help you design, develop, and deploy your e-business Java applications from start to finish. You can start your project with UML-based object modeling using Frontier Modeler and move on to generate EJB entities and deploy using Frontier Deployer. ePersistJ serves as CMP (container-managed persistence) and BMP (bean-managed persistence).

FrontierSuite
Providing a persistence framework for Java is extremely challenging. FrontierSuite meets this challenge head-on with its set of integrated tools. It offers a simple interface to provide the persistence framework, along with a powerful business-modeling tool and an efficient runtime environment for building enterprise Java applications. It’s independent of any database – relational or object-oriented – but any implementation for a specific database can be plugged into it.

The product is targeted at enterprise Java developers, including technical architects, business analysts, and Java developers. FrontierSuite is composed of:

• Frontier Modeler: a powerful tool for creating enterprise object models using UML standards
• Frontier Builder: a code generator that helps generate enterprise classes, such as EJBs
Frontier Fusion: a tool that maps objects, including relational databases and/or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) to your EIS (Enterprise Information System)
• Frontier Deployer: a versatile tool that allows you to generate portable deployment descriptors, such as WebLogic- or JBoss-specific configuration descriptors, along with an application server
EPersistJ: An EJB 2.0-compliant unified bean persistence manager, it’s configurable to serve as a container-managed persistence manager for EJB servers and a bean-managed persistence manager for EJB applications. Built on JCA architecture and capable of persisting in a relational database, EPersistJ provides distributed caching to enhance the application’s performance and synchronize objects through the object notification mechanism.
Frontier ReModeler: Provides a mechanism to read an existing schema from a relational database and an environment to map and generate entity beans and their relations.
Frontier DeployDirect: Provides CMP for “deployable JAR” files created using third-party tools (EJB 1.1 and 2.0).

Installing FrontierSuite

You can download a 30-day evaluation version of FrontierSuite from ObjectFrontier’s Web site. Since the product is based on Java, you can install it on Windows, Unix, Linux, or Solaris platforms.

Although it isn’t difficult to install, ObjectFrontier assumes you’ve installed Java 2 SDK, Enterprise Edition. It also requires you to have JDBC libraries on your machine. The installation documentation doesn’t provide any guidance regarding which version of SDK is required. I used Java 2 SDK, Standard Edition, version 1.3.1_01; Java 2 SDK, Enterprise Edition, version 1.3; and Oracle JDBC libraries.

The installation wizard guides you through the installation process, during which it asks you for the license key. This is stored within the KeyValue.txt file under the LicenseKey directory. Note: This license is valid for 30 days. The remaining installation is pretty straightforward and takes less than five minutes.

I began my project by developing the object model using Frontier Modeler (Frontier-Suite.bat), as shown in Figure 1. Frontier Modeler offers a very intuitive user interface. The left pane provides a tree view of the Java classes used and their relationships to each other; the right provides a description of the object highlighted in the left pane. You can use the right pane to add to or to modify the object’s attributes. To delete any object, highlight it in the left pane and right-click. A pop-up menu will appear, allowing you to select the delete option.

Figure 1
Figure  1:

The Frontier Modeler toolbar allows you to move between model entities and edit their properties. The Enterprise toolbar provides you with the Standalone Platform and J2EE Builder properties and displays Frontier Builder. The Fusion toolbar allows you to set the relational properties and display Frontier Fusion for different relational databases, such as Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, Sybase, DB2, Informix, Cloudscape, Microsoft Access, and PointBase.

If you’ve already developed a model using Rational Rose (www.rational.com) or Together ControlCenter (www.togethersoft.com), you can import it into Frontier Modeler.

Next, I selected the Oracle Fusion submenu option from the Frontier Fusion menu (you can also use the toolbar) to generate a default mapping of objects and their relationships, and create database schema and table entities for the Oracle database. You can also generate them for Microsoft SQL Server, DB2, Cloudscape, and PointBase databases.

Similarly, using the Frontier Builder option (you can also use the toolbar), I could identify the EJB, dependent objects, and dependent value objects for my object model. Frontier Builder generates abstract schema code in addition to defining the home and remote client interfaces for the EJBs. Further, I could add business-rule methods to the entity beans and dependent objects. You can use Forte or JBuilder to develop your business rules and import them into Frontier Builder.

One of the nice things about FrontierSuite is that it includes Frontier Deployer (DeployDirect.bat). Within Frontier Deployer, select the application server platform (you can select WebLogic 6.1 or JBoss 2.4.x) and generate the deployment JAR files. You’re now ready to deploy the deployment JAR file within the application server.

Summary
ObjectFrontier impressed me with their niche product. The ability to quickly design and develop e-business applications is simply great. Since the tool generates EJB entities right from the model, development time is significantly reduced. All in all, I feel that FrontierSuite is a great tool for enterprise Java application development.

Editor’s Note: Since this review was written a new version of FrontierSuite has been released, version 2.3.02.


ObjectFrontier, Inc.
2050 Marconi Drive
Suite 300
Alpharetta, GA 30005
Phone: 770 777-8180
Web: www.objectfrontier.com
E-mail: [email protected]

Test Environment
Processor: 966MHz Intel Pentium III processor
Hard Drive: 20GB Disk
Memory: 256MB RAM
Platform: Windows 2000 Server
and Oracle Enterprise Server 8.1.7i (optional)

Specifications
Platforms: Based on the Java
platform and compliant with
model-driven architecture
Pricing: A 30-day evaluation copy is available for free. For product-specific pricing, contact the company.

Product Snapshot
Target Audience: Technical architects, business analysts, Java programmers
Level: Intermediate to advanced

Pros:
•    Feature-rich product
•    Provides complete development environment from the object model to deploying the classes
•    Useful examples
•    Applications built using FrontierSuite are portable across application servers

Cons:
•    None

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