What Is a Message-Driven Bean?

A message-driven bean is an enterprise bean that allows Java EE applications to process messages asynchronously. It normally acts as a JMS message listener, which is similar to an event listener except that it receives JMS messages instead of events. The messages can be sent by any Java EE component--an application client, another enterprise bean, or a web component--or by a JMS application or system that does not use Java EE technology. Message-driven beans can process JMS messages or other kinds of messages.

For a simple code sample, see Chapter 23. For more information about using message-driven beans, see Using the JMS API in a Java EE Application (page 1052) and Chapter 33.

What Makes Message-Driven Beans Different from Session and Entity Beans?

The most visible difference between message-driven beans and session and entity beans is that clients do not access message-driven beans through interfaces. Interfaces are described in the section Defining Client Access with Interfaces. Unlike a session or entity bean, a message-driven bean has only a bean class.

In several respects, a message-driven bean resembles a stateless session bean.

The instance variables of the message-driven bean instance can contain some state across the handling of client messages--for example, a JMS API connection, an open database connection, or an object reference to an enterprise bean object.

Client components do not locate message-driven beans and invoke methods directly on them. Instead, a client accesses a message-driven bean through JMS by sending messages to the message destination for which the message-driven bean class is the MessageListener. You assign a message-driven bean's destination during deployment by using Application Server resources.

Message-driven beans have the following characteristics:

When a message arrives, the container calls the message-driven bean's onMessage method to process the message. The onMessage method normally casts the message to one of the five JMS message types and handles it in accordance with the application's business logic. The onMessage method can call helper methods, or it can invoke a session bean to process the information in the message or to store it in a database.

A message can be delivered to a message-driven bean within a transaction context, so all operations within the onMessage method are part of a single transaction. If message processing is rolled back, the message will be redelivered. For more information, see Chapter 23.

When to Use Message-Driven Beans

Session beans allow you to send JMS messages and to receive them synchronously, but not asynchronously. To avoid tying up server resources, you may prefer not to use blocking synchronous receives in a server-side component. To receive messages asynchronously, use a message-driven bean.