“Enterprise Integration Patterns”

Today messaging is a common tool, but for some reason it also does not seem to be getting much attention. It seems that blogs and schools are busy with OO (how to do it (badly) & let me show you how to it Right), languages, libraries, and other such low-level stuff. On the other hand, messaging has a very strong position on the market and potential employers are more likely to ask you about it than talk about all the 50 libraries in your CV.

Before plunging headfirst into coding I was looking for some solid semi-theoretical introduction that would explain what exactly messaging is, what problems it tries to solve and what exactly you can do with it. I found Enterprise Integration Patterns: Designing, Building, and Deploying Messaging Solutions by Gregory Hohpe and Bobby Woolf and decided to give it a try.

The book starts with a gentle introduction to enterprise integration and its challenges and compares four solutions: shared database, file exchange, RPC and messaging. It explains why messaging is sometimes superior to the alternatives (but is fair about the cost).

The next part presents a high-level overview of the messaging concepts: channels, messages, pipes & filters, routers, translators and endpoints. It also shows a non-trivial (but very clear and interesting) example application which demonstrates where each of the pieces fits.

Finally, it goes through each of the concepts in detail, presenting a handful of patterns for each. This third part appears to be a very rich and complete catalog of common patterns, ranging from basic channel design (point-to-point vs. publish-subscribe, datatype channels, guaranteed delivery etc.), through message construction (command vs. document vs. event, request-reply etc.), routing (splitting and aggregation, content-based routing, dynamic routing etc.), and so on.

Each pattern is presented in a similar way. Authors sketch a problem, discuss possible solutions with their pros and cons, and finally present the pattern as the proposed common way to address it. After the discussion many patterns also have code examples in JMS, MSMQ in .net or TIBCO. Between the chapters there also are a few coding “interludes” with a larger application using several patterns together.

I loved this book. It was well thought over. It’s clear from the first to the last page that the authors knew what they want to convey and masterfully designed a book that probably reads very well on all levels, from absolute beginner to someone who has already worked with messaging. It’s not intimidating to beginners, nor is it a shallow entry-level piece that will make everyone else yawn.

It’s not only a “dry” catalog of patterns. Everything is provided in broader context and it really shows how those pieces work together. It’s a very comprehensive introduction to messaging that you can actually use to learn the subject (nothing like trying to learn OO from reading the Gang of Four). On the other hand, the catalog of patterns is very rich and I am quite sure it satisfies most or even all of the needs of real-world applications.

I haven’t read too many books on messaging, but this one seems so good that if you are even slightly interested in the topic, it is a must read.

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