Use of generics in EJB 3.1

With EJB 3.1 it is possible to make use of generics in your bean implementations. There are some aspects that needs to be considered though to make sure you use them as intended. It requires basic understanding of how Java generics work.

Imagine the following scenario. You might want to have a business interface such as:

public interface Async<TYPE> {
    public void method(TYPE t);

… and an implementation:

public class AsyncBean implements Async<String> {
    public void method(final String s) {}

You would then like to dependency inject your EJB into another bean such as:

@EJB Async<String> asyncBean;

A problem here is that due to type erasure, you cannot be certain that the injected EJB is of the expected type which will produce a ClassCastException in runtime. Another problem is that the method annotated with @Asynchronous in the bean implementation will not be invoked asynchronously as might be expected. This is due to the method not actually being part of the business interface. The method in the business interface is in fact public void method(final Object s) due to type erasure, which in turn calls the typed method. Therefore the call to the typed method won’t be intercepted and made asynchronous. If the type definition in the AsyncBean class is removed (infers Object type), the call will be asynchronous. One solution to ensure type safety would be to treat the Async interface as a plain interface without the @Local annotation, mark the AsyncBean with @LocalBean (to make sure the bean method is part of the exposed business methods for that bean), and inject an AsyncBean where used. Another solution would be to insert a local interface between the plain interface and the bean implementation:

public interface AsyncLocal extends Async<String> {
    public void method(final String s);

… and then make the AsyncBean implement the AsyncLocal interface instead, and use the AsyncLocal interface at the injection points.

This behaviour might not be all that obvious, even though it makes perfect sense due to how generics are treated in Java. It is also unfortunate that the EJB specification does not clarify the expected behaviour for this use case. The following can be read in the specification, which feels a bit vague:
“3.4.3 Session Bean’s Business Interface
The session bean’s interface is an ordinary Java interface. It contains the business methods of the session bean.”

I’ve created a minimal sample project where the behaviours can be tried out by just running a simple test case written with Arquillian. The test case will be run inside an embedded TomEE container. Thanks to the blazing speed of TomEE, the test runs just as fast as a unit test. The code can be found here, and contains a failing test representing the scenario described above. Apply the proposed soultion to make the test pass.

As demonstrated, there are some caveats which needs to be considered when using generics together with EJBs. Hopefully this article can shed some light on what is happening under the hood.

Tommy Tynjä

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