Need for 3-tier Architecture


Last week, I was working to define an architecture for an existing application. When I walked into the room with the prposal the Senior Delivery Manager asked me “Why do we need an architecture? Why can not not use what we already have?” His concern was logical, this shift was going to push his behind schedule. While I spent next 20 minutes explaining him the importance and need of a 3-tier architecture, it dawned upon me that i have done this several times. Only if i have this documented on paper it would save me lot of time.

What is a Layer?

A layer is referred to a logical separation of code. In J2EE world this is referred to generally an independent Java project that holds the logic. A layer is responsible for speaking to other layers in the application providing or extracting information. An example is the Presentation Layer that is responsible for showing data to the user but it has the responsibility of extracting the information from various other layers.

Two-Tier Architecture

A two-tier architecture is represented when all the code for extracting data from the database and presentation logic i.e. show data to the user resides in the web layer itself. Some definitive advantage of this approach is that it is handy and provides rapid development. However, this approach has some obvious dis-advantages:

  • Putting all the code in the web layer makes if difficult to maintain. 80% of the time of the application life cycle is spent during maintenance and support. Having unmanageable code only makes matters worse
  • Code reuse is not possible. Many a times with changing needs, organization decide to change the application front-end of the presentation. At times, they decide to add some other add-ons. With code sitting on the web layer makes this impossible. Hence, the application can not be scaled
  • Relying on data source (JDBC) controls makes things more complex.

How do we solve this problem is by introducing a 3-tier architecture which abstracts the code based on logical groupings i.e. Data Access, Business Logic and Presentation Logic. This could be a slow process to start with, but has many advantages in the long run.

Hope this helps.  Soon, I will post about the 3-tier architecture and talk about its benefits.

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