Welcome!

Java IoT Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Automic Blog

Related Topics: Java IoT

Java IoT: Article

UniqueID Generator: A Pattern for Primary Key Generation

UniqueID Generator: A Pattern for Primary Key Generation

Several patterns exist for generating primary keys for your EJB application. This month I'll provide a pattern for generating PKs that's scalable, generic, and portable.

My format for defining the pattern will follow the catalogued layout presented in the Gang of Four book, Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software.

Pattern:
UniqueID Generator

Intent:
Generate unique IDs for persistent objects in an EJB application

Also Known As:
PID (Persistent ID) Factory
GUID (Globally UniqueID) Manager

Motivation
Enterprise JavaBeans is a server-side component model that targets the specific business domain of online transaction processing (OLTP) applications. OLTP applications generally have the need to store information persistently. The data records or objects for each transaction require unique identifiers to allow them to be stored and retrieved accurately. Thus there's a need to generate unique identifiers for the data involved in an EJB transaction processing system.

For the purposes of this pattern, I'm assuming a relational database is used as the data store rather than an object database, which would provide its own ID generator. A relational database table typically has a primary key column that's indexed to prevent duplicate IDs, which would lead to data integrity problems. Thus each row stored in the table is uniquely identifiable. For instance, in EJB the return value from the call to myHome.findByPrimaryKey is a single entity bean, not multiple entities!

There are numerous ways to generate unique IDs in a Java application. Let's review some approaches before discussing the UniqueID generator pattern presented in this article.

System.currentTimeMillis()
An easy way to generate unique IDs is to utilize the System.currentTimeMillis() method to get the current time in milliseconds and use it as your ID. Although it's an easy way to start creating applications, this approach has implications across high-volume applications. A high-volume OLTP application may perform several calls to System.currentTimeMillis() at the same time, resulting in the generation of duplicate IDs. Thus the generator must perform some sort of synchronization on ID requests. Typically, this is done with a wrapper object that uses the synchronized modifier to queue threads accessing it.

Next, you ask, "What about synchronization across multiple JVMs?" Certainly a clustered-server, multi-JVM architecture will be the norm for an enterprise application, but a clustered application poses two problems for this approach toward generating unique IDs:

  1. The system time on each machine may be different. Thus, in a multi-JVM architecture, calls to System.currentTimeMillis() can lead to duplicate values.
  2. The Java synchronize operator doesn't work across multiple JVMs, so even if the system times were equal, simultaneous calls to different machines could still result in duplicate IDs.

EntityBean Key Generator
This approach uses an entity bean to select the next value from a relational database table, which holds the latest value for unique ID generation. An entity bean can encapsulate the SQL, which it executes in a generic fashion by loading in a bean environment property containing a SQL string for each type of database. For instance, in Oracle the dual table should automatically return a sequence value. The SQL statement might look something like this:

"select mysequence.nextval from dual"

Oracle sequences are a proprietary feature and increment the value automatically for the caller by a specified increment count. Other databases that don't have this feature must increment a next ID field and select it in one call. Stored procedures are a common cure for the need to execute multiple database operations within a single request. To get the same ID generation capabilities from Microsoft SQL Server, a stored procedure could be called that both returns a value and increments it for the next caller. Since the stored procedure performs its work inside a transaction in one database request, it eliminates a "window" of opportunity when simultaneous calls for another ID get the same row and attempt to update the value.

Thus our entity bean key generator executes SQL, which it retrieved generically from its bean environment property and executed on the database. However, there are some drawbacks to this approach:

  • Each call to get another ID is a remote method invocation, which can create unwanted chatter depending on where the entity bean is deployed in your system.
  • Some might argue that entity beans are for business entities rather than utilitarian functionality like generating IDs for business entities.
  • Few application servers provide synchronized caching across a cluster. Thus the ability to cache a set of IDs, improving ID generation by preventing database operations, is negated when the application is clustered.

A more scalable approach to ID generation that provides both local caching and guaranteed unique IDs is a singleton object that hands out IDs from its local cache (see Figure 1). Each time the cache of the singleton object is depleted, it gets a set of IDs representing the next available IDs for the application. The singleton fetches IDs from a stateless session bean that accesses the database in a portable manner, allowing it to interact with any database.

Applicability
Use UniqueID Generator:

  1. To return a unique identifier for object and/or database row identity
  2. To cache sets of IDs across multiple JVMs for scalable ID generation
  3. To abstract database implementations from the core ID generation classes

Structure
Participants

  • Singleton: Acts as the wrapper of the UniqueIDEJB and caches sets of unique IDs to prevent chatty remote invocations and database operations
  • UniqueIDEJB: Component made up of UniqueID (remote interface) and UniqueIDHome (home interface); performs generic SQL to fetch a set of IDs from the database and return them to the singleton client

    Collaborations

  • Singleton: Calls UniqueIDEJB component to fetch a set of IDs; set is cached locally and a new set is fetched when the maximum is surpassed

Consequences
The UniqueID generator has several key benefits and some limitations:

  1. Limited remote method invocations and database operations: The UniqueID generator's singleton object caches a set of IDs that are depleted before another request is made to the UniqueIDEJB. This limits the number of remote method invocations on the EJB and the number of hits the database must handle to generate new IDs.
  2. Guaranteed UniqueIDs: The UniqueID generator pattern guarantees unique identifiers for your objects/data across an n-tiered solution. If a set of IDs is requested from multiple JVMs at the same time, the transaction isolation of the UniqueIDEJB and/or database layer will automatically queue multiple requests to ensure that only one singleton's request for an ID set is processed at a time.
  3. Portable across EJB servers: The pattern represents a component that's portable across EJB servers. It's a session bean, and session beans have been mandatory in the specification since its inception, whereas any EJB server still not up to the 1.1 version of the specification wouldn't be able to utilize an entity bean-based pattern.

  1. Portable across database servers: The implementation of the pattern really determines its portability, but the pattern itself allows for database-specific SQL to be loaded generically from the EJB's environment so that no code changes are required to deploy it against disparate databases.
  2. Singleton knows nothing about the "incrementBy" value: The singleton object knows nothing about how many IDs are returned in a set. This is controlled at the UniqueIDEJB level by an environment property. To change the incrementBy value, simply redeploy the EJB with a hot-deploy mechanism to avoid downtime and the increment will be changed to the new value without repercussions on the rest of the application.
  3. ID gaps: Gaps in IDs will occur with this solution. For example, if a set of 50 IDs is retrieved and the server crashes midway, 25 IDs would be lost. My recommendation is to increment only by one until ready for production, then set the UniqueIDEJB's incrementBy environment property to be sufficient for your application's load. This prevents wasting IDs in development and test.
  4. Support for other data types: The structure section's class diagram shows a long data type used for IDs, yet this could be any data type your application requires. However, the UniqueID generator pattern would have to be extended to account for different ID data types in a single application. For instance, if your application mixed doubles, strings, longs, and ints as keys, the singleton would have to be extended.

Implementation
Consider the following issues when implementing a generic, portable UniqueID generator pattern:

  • Determining incrementBy for your application: The amount of IDs contained in each ID set (and subsequently cached in the JVM) should be determined based on the number of users attempting "insert" transactions per JVM. Thus, if your incrementBy is 50 on a single J2EE server, set it to approximately 25 if you cluster two servers. Also, set incrementBy to a low number, even 1, for development and testing. As with any tunable parameter, metrics gathered from stress testing your application should ultimately drive your settings.
  • Ensure portability across EJB servers: When communicating from the UniqueIDEJB to the database, don't use proprietary logic to obtain a connection from a connection pool. Use data sources looked up through JNDI instead.
  • Ensuring portability across databases: There are a few ways to ensure that your code to fetch a set of IDs is portable. One way is to store the SQL that will be executed in the EJB's environment. The SQL is set in the deployment descriptor, which allows it to be modified during deployment rather than having to modify the codebase. Another option is to use data access objects (DAOs) to contain the database-specific SQL code. Last, your UniqueIDEJB component couldn't take advantage of database-specific sequence generators. Your component's implementation should create the table at runtime if it doesn't exist already. This approach isn't recommended, but it's an alternative nonetheless.

  • Generating different IDs for different tables (classes): To generate a different ID for different tables, each class in the pattern would have to change its interface to take a "sequence" parameter, which indicates which class you want to get the next ID for and is forwarded throughout the pattern to the JDBC call against the database.
  • Generating IDs shouldn't rely on a business transaction outcome: The UniqueIDEJB should create its own new transaction when getting an ID set. Incrementing the database to the "next ID value" shouldn't rely on whether or not the business transaction currently executing in your application succeeds or fails.
  • Business transactions rely on generated ID success: An error fetching an ID set from the UniqueIDEJB will cause a business transaction to fail. Don't mix different approaches to generating unique IDs when one fails. For instance, let's say your application uses the System.currentTimeMillis() approach to key generation if the first approach, calling UniqueIDEJB, fails. This provides an extra layer of fault tolerance to your application, but you could encounter duplicate IDs! If your database counter is near the number generated by the System.currentTimeMillis(), you'll have problems.

Sample Code
The code in Listing 1 shows how to implement the singleton to cache the ID set, fetch a new set, and handle failures when calling the UniqueIDEJB.

Summary
This month I provided an EJB pattern to a common problem in the OLTP world, generating unique IDs. While there are variations of the pattern, the UniqueID generator overcomes many scalability and flexibility issues where other patterns fall short, such as local ID caching, limiting remote method invocations, and portability. I hope this pattern is helpful for your EJB engagement. For other EJB patterns see www.theServerSide.com. And let me know if you're interested in JDJ featuring more patterns in the future.

More Stories By Jason Westra

Jason Westra is the CTO of Verge Technologies Group, Inc. (www.vergecorp.com). Verge is a Boulder, CO based firm specializing in eBusiness solutions with Enterprise JavaBeans.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
Multiple data types are pouring into IoT deployments. Data is coming in small packages as well as enormous files and data streams of many sizes. Widespread use of mobile devices adds to the total. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will look at the tools and environments that are being put to use in IoT deployments, as well as the team skills a modern enterprise IT shop needs to keep things running, get a handle on all this data, and deli...
Grape Up is a software company, specialized in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market across the USA and Europe, we work with a variety of customers from emerging startups to Fortune 1000 companies.
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
Financial Technology has become a topic of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 20th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York, June 6-8, 2017, will find fresh new content in a new track called FinTech.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CollabNet, a global leader in enterprise software development, release automation and DevOps solutions, will be a Bronze Sponsor of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, taking place from June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CollabNet offers a broad range of solutions with the mission of helping modern organizations deliver quality software at speed. The company’s latest innovation, the DevOps Lifecycle Manager (DLM), supports Value S...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 add...
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound e...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitachi, the leading provider the Internet of Things and Digital Transformation, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Hitachi Data Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., offers an integrated portfolio of services and solutions that enable digital transformation through enhanced data management, governance, mobility and analytics. We help globa...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Grape Up will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company specializing in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market across the U.S. and Europe, Grape Up works with a variety of customers from emergi...
@ThingsExpo has been named the Most Influential ‘Smart Cities - IIoT' Account and @BigDataExpo has been named fourteenth by Right Relevance (RR), which provides curated information and intelligence on approximately 50,000 topics. In addition, Right Relevance provides an Insights offering that combines the above Topics and Influencers information with real time conversations to provide actionable intelligence with visualizations to enable decision making. The Insights service is applicable to eve...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitachi Data Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi LTD., will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City. Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) will be featuring the Hitachi Content Platform (HCP) portfolio. This is the industry’s only offering that allows organizations to bring together object storage, file sync and share, cloud storage gateways, and sophisticated search an...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
@GonzalezCarmen has been ranked the Number One Influencer and @ThingsExpo has been named the Number One Brand in the “M2M 2016: Top 100 Influencers and Brands” by Analytic. Onalytica analyzed tweets over the last 6 months mentioning the keywords M2M OR “Machine to Machine.” They then identified the top 100 most influential brands and individuals leading the discussion on Twitter.
SYS-CON Events announced today that T-Mobile will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. As America's Un-carrier, T-Mobile US, Inc., is redefining the way consumers and businesses buy wireless services through leading product and service innovation. The Company's advanced nationwide 4G LTE network delivers outstanding wireless experiences to 67.4 million customers who are unwilling to compromise on ...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo, June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY and October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
Data is an unusual currency; it is not restricted by the same transactional limitations as money or people. In fact, the more that you leverage your data across multiple business use cases, the more valuable it becomes to the organization. And the same can be said about the organization’s analytics. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bill Schmarzo, CTO for the Big Data Practice at Dell EMC, introduced a methodology for capturing, enriching and sharing data (and analytics) across the organization...
Five years ago development was seen as a dead-end career, now it’s anything but – with an explosion in mobile and IoT initiatives increasing the demand for skilled engineers. But apart from having a ready supply of great coders, what constitutes true ‘DevOps Royalty’? It’ll be the ability to craft resilient architectures, supportability, security everywhere across the software lifecycle. In his keynote at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Jeffrey Scheaffer, GM and SVP, Continuous Delivery Busine...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...