Anders Andersen, Gordon Blair, Vera Goebel, Randi Karlsen, Tage Stabell-Kulø, Weihai Yu, Arctic Beans: Configurable and Re-configurable Enterprise Component Architectures, IEEE Distributed Systems Online, Vol. 2, No. 7, 2001, ISSN 1541-4922.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that existing middleware technologies are unable to accommodate the great diversity of application demands in modern distributed systems, e.g. with the emergence of challenging areas such as mobile and ubiquitous computing. The main reason for this, we believe, is the black box philosophy adopted by existing platforms. In particular, existing middleware platforms offer a fixed service to their users, and it is not possible to view or alter the implementation of this service, i.e. they are closed systems. Inevitably, the platform architecture represents a compromise featuring, e.g. general-purpose protocols and associated management strategies. It is then not possible to configure platforms to meet the needs of more specific domains. Similarly, it is not possible to re-configure platforms at run-time as, for example, the underlying environmental conditions fluctuate. Equally, it is difficult to evolve such architectures in the longer-term to meet new application requirements. This problem is particularly evident in emerging enterprise (or server-side) component architectures (such as Enterprise JavaBeans or the CORBA Component Model). Such architectures provide implicit support for distribution through the concept of a container. The main problem with this approach is that distribution management tends to be hidden from the developer, apart from through a series of configuration parameters. There is increasing evidence that this is not sufficient for modern distributed applications. The Arctic Beans project is tackling this problem, with the overall aim of developing a more open and flexible enterprise component architecture with intrinsic support for configuration, re-configuration and evolution.