CORBA Technology and the JavaTM Platform

The Java 2 Platform, Standard Edition, v1.3, provides a CORBA Object Request Broker (ORB) and two CORBA programming models that utilize the Java CORBA ORB and Internet InterORB Protocol (IIOP). This topic discusses these options for creating and distributing CORBA technology.

CORBA technology is an integral part of the Java 2 platform. It consists of an Object Request Broker (ORB) written in Java (with a small bit of native code), APIs for the RMI programming model, and APIs for the IDL programming model.

How does J2SE leverage CORBA

Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) technology is the open standard for heterogeneous computing. CORBA complements the JavaTM platform by providing a distributed objects framework, services to support that framework, and interoperability with other languages. The Java platform complements CORBA by providing "Write Once, Run AnywhereTM" portability, a highly productive implementation environment, and a very robust platform. By combining the Java platform with CORBA and other key enterprise technologies, the Java 2 Platform is the ultimate platform for distributed technology solutions.

CORBA standards provide the proven, interoperable infrastructure to the Java platform. IIOP (Internet Inter-ORB Protocol) manages the communication between the object components that power the system. The Java platform provides a portable object infrastructure that works on every major operating system. CORBA provides the network transparency, Java provides the implementation transparency.

The Object Request Broker?

A CORBA Object Request Broker (ORB) is part of the Java 2 Platform, Standard Edition, v1.3. The ORB is a runtime component that can be used for distributed computing using IIOP communication. This eliminates the requirement for licensing and distributing third-party Java ORBs.

NOTE: Although it is true in theory that ORBs written in different languages should be able to talk to each other, we haven't tested the interoperability of the Java ORB with other vendor's ORBs.

The Object Management Group (OMG) is an industry consortium that invented CORBA and publishes specifications for CORBA. Vendors implement the specifications to produce products known as Object Request Brokers (ORB). The good news for developers is that the JavaTM Standard Edition, v1.2 and higher includes an ORB that is available in every deployment of the Java 2 Platform, Standard and Enterprise Editions. Now you can write Java CORBA code without having to license any other software! To read more about the ORB class, follow the link.

The Java CORBA ORB supports both the RMI and IDL programming models, both of which use the underlying IIOP wire-level protocol for communication.

Introducing the CORBA Programming Models

History of the CORBA Programming Models

In 1997, Remote Method Invocation, or RMI, was introduced in JDK 1.1. Initially, RMI was positioned as a natural outgrowth of Remote Procedure Calls (RPC), strictly for enabling calls to be made between Java objects in different virtual machines, and even on different physical machines.

In 1998, came JDK 1.2, which introduced JavaTM IDL, a Java API for interoperability and integration with CORBA. Java IDL included both a Java-based ORB, which supported IIOP, and the IDL-to-Java compiler, idltojava, for generating client-side stubs and server-side code skeletons. This release also included a CORBA ORB.

The OMG finalized modifications of its IIOP specification so that it would support most of the JDK 1.1 functionality of RMI. JDK 1.2 introduced RMI over IIOP, which enabled remote objects written in the Java programming language to communicate with objects written in any language via IIOP.

Comparing the CORBA Programming Models

The "magic" that gives us the cross-language, cross-vendor interoperability is the Internet InterORB Protocol, or IIOP. IIOP can be a transport protocol for distributed applications written in either IDL or Java RMI. IIOP allows distributed objects to conform to OMG's CORBA specification.

When using the IDL programming model, the interface is everything! It defines the points of entry that can be called from a remote process, such as the types of arguments the called procedure will accept, or the value/output parameter of information returned. Using IDL, the programmer can make the entry points and datatypes that pass between communicating processes act like a standard language.

CORBA is a language-neutral system in which the argument values or return values are limited to what can be represented in the involved implementaton languages. In CORBA, object orienation is limited only to objects that can be passed by reference (the object code itself cannot be passed from machine-to-machine) or are predefined in the overall framework. Passed and returned types must be those declared in the interface.

With RMI, the IDL and the implementation language are the same thing, so you don't have to worry about mapping from one to the other. Language-level objects (the code itself) can be passed from one process to the next. Values can be returned by their actual type, not the declared type. Or, you can compile the interfaces to generate IIOP stubs and skeletons to talk to objects written on other machines in other CORBA-compliant languages.

The RMI Programming Model

What is the RMI Programming Model

The RMI Programming model enables the programming of CORBA servers and applications via the rmi API. You can choose to work completely within the Java programming language, using the Java Remote Method Protocol (JRMP) or work with other CORBA-compliant programming languages using the Internet InterORB Protocol (IIOP). This topic discusses using IIOP as the transport. For more information on using the JRMP transport, link to the RMI page at http://java.sun.com/j2se/1.3/docs/guide/rmi/ .

The RMI API utilizes the Java CORBA ORB and IIOP, so you can write all of your code in Java, and use the rmic compiler to generate the code necessary for connecting your applications via the Internet InterORB Protocol (IIOP) to others written in any CORBA-compliant language.

The RMI programming model is part of the JavaTM 2 Platform, Standard Edition, v1.3. This enables the ability to write CORBA applications for the Java platform without learning CORBA Interface Definition Language (IDL). To work with CORBA applications in other languages, IDL can be generated from Java programming language interfaces using the rmic compiler with the -idl option. To generate IIOP stubs and tie classes, use the rmic compiler with the -iiop option. J2SE includes the full functionality of a CORBA Object Request Broker (ORB). For older versions of the JDK, the RMI over IIOP compiler is available as a separate download. For more information on using rmic, link to rmic - The Java RMI Stub Compiler.

When should I use the RMI programming model?

The RMI programming model combines the best features of Java Remote Method Invocation (RMI) with the best features of CORBA. The RMI programming model speeds distributed application development by allowing developers to work completely in the Java programming language. When using the RMI programming model to produce Java technology-based distributed applications, there is no separate Interface Definition Language (IDL) or mapping to learn. The RMI programming model provides flexibility by allowing developers to pass any serializable Java object (Objects By Value) between application components. Like CORBA, the RMI programming model is based on open standards defined with the participation of hundreds of vendors and users in the Object Management Group. Like CORBA, the RMI programming model uses Internet Inter-ORB Protocol (IIOP) as its communication protocol. IIOP eases legacy application and platform integration by allowing application components written in C++, Smalltalk, and other CORBA supported languages to communicate with components running on the Java platform.

With the RMI programming model, developers can write remote interfaces in the Java programming language and implement them simply using Java technology and the Java RMI APIs. These interfaces can be implemented in any other language that is supported by an OMG mapping and a vendor supplied ORB for that language. Similarly, clients can be written in other languages using IDL derived from the remote Java technology-based interfaces. Using the RMI programming model, objects can be passed both by reference and by value over IIOP.

Where can I found out more about the RMI programming model

For more information on the RMI programming model, see RMI-IIOP Documentation.

For an introductory tutorial using the RMI programming model, see Tutorial: Getting Started with the RMI Programming Model.

The IDL Programming Model

What is the IDL Programming Model

The IDL programming model, known as JavaTM IDL, consists of both the Java CORBA ORB and the idlj compiler that maps the OMG IDL to Java bindings that use the Java CORBA ORB.

JavaTM IDL is part of the Java 2 Platform, Standard Edition, v1.3. To develop applications with Java IDL, use JavaTM IDL Compiler, idlj, which is included with the J2SE v1.3 download.

When should I use the IDL programming model?

The OMG IDL (Interface Definition Language) is a purely declarative language designed for specifying programming-language-independent operational interfaces for distributed applications. OMG specifies a mapping from IDL to several different programming languages, including C, C++, Lisp, Python, Smalltalk, COBOL, Ada, and Java. When mapped, each statement in OMG IDL is translated to a corresponding statement in the programming language of choice. Java IDL is an implementation of the CORBA specification. For example, you could use the Java IDL Compiler, idlj, to map an IDL interface to Java and implement the client class in Java. If you map the same IDL to C++, using another vendor's IDL-to-C++ compiler and C++ ORB, and implement the server in that language, the Java client and C++ server interoperate through the ORB as though they were written in the same language.

NOTE: Although it is true in theory that ORBs written in different languages should be able to talk to each other, we haven't tested the interoperability of the Java ORB with other vendor's ORBs.

Where can I find out more about the IDL programming model

For more information on the IDL programming model, see Java IDL Documentation.

For an introductory tutorial to the IDL programming model, see Tutorial: Getting Started with Java IDL.

Comparison of IDL and RMI programming models

There are several scenarios that will define how you will want to create distributed CORBA applications. Here are some of them:





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