In the spring of 1999 I flew to Chicago to consult on a project being done by ThoughtWorks, a small but rapidly growing application development company. The project was one of those ambitious enterprise application projects: a back-end leasing system. Essentially it deals with everything that happens to a lease after you've signed on the dotted line: sending out bills, handling someone upgrading one of the assets on the lease, chasing people who don't pay their bills on time, and figuring out what happens when someone returns the assets early. That doesn't sound too bad until you realize that leasing agreements are infinitely varied and horrendously complicated. The business "logic" rarely fits any logical pattern, because, after all, it's written by business people to capture business, where odd small variations can make all the difference in winning a deal. Each of those little victories adds yet more complexity to the system.
That's the kind of thing that gets me excited: how to take all that complexity and come up with a system of objects that can make the problem more tractable. Indeed, I believe that the primary benefit of objects is in making complex logic tractable. Developing a good Domain Model (116) for a complex business problem is difficult but wonderfully satisfying.
Yet that's not the end of the problem. Our domain model had to be persisted to a database, and, like many projects, we were using a relational database. We also had to connect this model to a user interface, provide support to allow remote applications to use our software, and integrate our software with third-party packages. All of this on a new technology called J2EE, which nobody in the world had any real experience in using.
Even though this technology was new, we did have the benefit of experience. I'd been doing this kind of thing for ages with C++, Smalltalk, and CORBA. Many of the ThoughtWorkers had a lot of experience with Forte. We already had the key architectural ideas in our heads, and we just had to figure out how to apply them to J2EE. Looking back on it three years later, the design is not perfect but it has stood the test of time pretty damn well.
That's the kind of situation this book was written for. Over the years I've seen many enterprise application projects. These projects often contain similar design ideas that have proven effective in dealing with the inevitable complexity that enterprise applications possess. This book is a starting point to capture these design ideas as patterns.
The book is organized in two parts, with the first part a set of narrative chapters on a number of important topics in the design of enterprise applications. These chapters introduce various problems in the architecture of enterprise applications and their solutions. However, they don't go into much detail on these solutions. The details of the solutions are in the second part, organized as patterns. These patterns are a reference, and I don't expect you to read them cover to cover. My intention is that you read the narrative chapters in Part 1 from start to finish to get a broad picture of what the book covers; then you dip into the patterns chapters of Part 2 as your interest and needs drive you. Thus, the book is a short narrative book and a longer reference book combined into one.