Fowler avoids giving a precise definition of an enterprise application, preferring to list a set of characteristics that most share. In general, they are very large systems, with many user interface screens used to concurrently access and update an enormous amount of data. In nearly all cases, the data must be persistent, in fact it most often is very persistent, meaning that it has to live through iterations of the software, alterations of the operating system, changes in the hardware, and staff and programmer turnover.
Furthermore, enterprise applications usually must communicate with other applications, which are often just as large and complex. Examples include payroll and patient records, credit card processing, insurance claim processing, banking, and foreign exchange trading. In short, most of the programs that run the modern global economy, which are many of the most complex software projects currently in use. Finally, the programs must be constructed so that they can be “easily and quickly” changed by people who did not create them to adapt to conditions that can change very quickly and often without any input from the programmer. With so much at stake, there must be a set of best practices, which is what is captured in this book.
The patterns of software construction explained by Fowler are generally in the small, in the sense that they describe specific operations rather than demonstrate a large architectural form. Each of the specific patterns is presented by first listing a one-sentence description of the purpose of the pattern and a UML diagram illustrating the structure. This is followed by sections describing how the pattern works, when to use it and one or more examples demonstrating specific implementations of the pattern using source code skeletons. Both C# and Java are used in the demonstrations, which does not create an understandability problem. The languages and contexts are so similar that anyone who can understand either one will have no problem reading and understanding the code.
Some examples of the fifty one patterns listed on the inside front cover are:
While the examples are often of necessity
extremely simple, they do illustrate some of the most effective and
tested solutions to common
software development problems. Therefore, this is a book that no builder
of software that can be considered an enterprise application should
be without. It is hard to believe that there is an enterprise application
being constructed anywhere that does not involve the solving of many
of the problems listed in this book.
There is nothing harder than making effective and efficient software that will run the IT equivalent of forever. That is what enterprise applications are supposed to do and if you are one of the minions tasked with doing your part to build one, then put yourself on the right path and read this book. You and everyone else who interacts with the software will be rewarded with a better experience.
Cite this book review as follows: Charles Ashbacher: Book review of “Patterns of Enterprise Application Development”, in Journal of Object Technology, vol. 2, no. 5, September-October 2003, pp. 163-164. http://www.jot.fm/books/review10