(this page is part of the wiki materials for ApacheAvalon; avalon main page in the wiki is AvalonProjectPages)

JavaBeans Vs. Avalon Components

JavaBeans were Java's first foray into component based design. They trade the traditional separate interface for a set of design idioms. Idioms help to define some rules and regulations for creating classes that are easy to tool, but they lack the ease of use of traditional components.

Avalon Components use the standard component design idiom of using a separate interface from the implementation. In a pure OOD arena, this is called the "Bridge" pattern. In Component Based Design (CBD), it is merely how you define a component.

Avalon Components

Avalon Components follow two disign principles: Inversion of Control (IOC) and Separation of Concerns (SOC). The approach allows a component writer to only use the information that they want to use. It also makes the components listeners for events that come from the container. Those events tell the component that it is going through a particular stage in its lifecycle.

Avalon Components are very easy to work with because it has a defined lifecycle. You know when the component is in use, and when it is being created or destroyed. Because we know when important events happen in a component's life, we can minimize the amount of thread contention that a component has to manage. It also encourages components that can be run using several threads.


JavaBeans were originally introduced as graphical components. They really shine in this role, and work very well. The design idioms that make up JavaBeans have been applied to server side technologies like javax.sql.DataSource objects developed by database vendors. JavaBeans on the server side present a number of design problems:

  • Concurrency problems due to changing configurations at runtime
  • Impossible to tell the JavaBean when configuration is finished
  • Requires special event processing to serialize access or changes to the JavaBean
  • Use of introspection during configuration is slow (see JavaBeansVsConfiguration).

Advantages of Components over JavaBeans

Avalon components are designed for silent operation behind the scenes. In fact, they work best for the "Controller" portion of the Model-View-Controller design pattern. JavaBeans are designed for vocal interaction with the user. They tend to favor either the "Model" portion of MVC, or the "View" portion.

  • It is easier to develop server side components using Avalon than the older JavaBean standard.
  • Avalon components are truly components. JavaBeans do not separate useage contracts from the implementation code.
  • Avalon components are more resilient to change due to the fact that component contracts are well understood, and are separate from the implementation code.
  • Concurrency management for Avalon components is easier than for JavaBeans because there is a specific time when the component can be configured--contrasted with JavaBeans which has no control.

Advantages of JavaBeans over Components

Due to all the workarounds that JavaBeans have for their shortcommings, they have better tooling. JavaBean tooling comes shipped with the JDK used to run the beans. The tooling is in the java.beans package, as well as the reflection package. The Swing API is full of JavaBeans you can us in your own software. Some of the more mature aspects of JavaBeans has to do with the event structure associated with it.

  • It is easier to develop client side building blocks (they are not true components) that interrelate to each other.
  • The "Publish-Subscribe" design pattern used for event notification is advanced--and allows new software to participate in the interaction without having to change the original code.
  • Property change notification is part of the more generic event notification, but it allows all parties monitoring the contents of a JavaBean to react when it is altered.


JavaBeans are useful for modeling information in a very strongly typed manner. They are also useful for rendering that same information to the user of the application and allowing the user to interact with the rest of the program. They fall short when you attempt to use them to manage the business logic of an application--especially one that is designed to work with several clients simultaneously (client/server).

The event notification system built into the JavaBeans infrastructure allows you to design a very rich user experience. Avalon recently got outfitted with a more powerful command processor and event routing system. The question remains whether we want to integrate that into Avalon proper. That would allow us to have a SEDA like infrastructure for applications that demand highly scalable and massively concurrent communications.

We need to compare the more powerful features of JavaBeans to the more powerful features in Avalon to make a fair judgement.

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