High-availability mobile applications

Mobile databases and J2ME tools

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The Oracle9i mobile database synchronizes with backend Oracle database servers through the Oracle Mobile Server. If we created an application using the Oracle9i Lite Mobile Development Kit, the Mobile Server automatically generates synchronization logic for the application. Oracle9i Lite supports synchronization over any TCP/IP-based network, including HTTP, CDPD (cellular digital packet data), and 802.11b Wireless LAN. We can also add new transport by using the Mobile Server Open Transport APIs. In addition, the Oracle mobile server supports asynchronous synchronization. During rush hours, each device just submits the synchronization content in a queue and leaves. Asynchronous operation is key to scalable solutions.

On the MIDP platform, Oracle provides an RMS-based product called SODA (Simple Object Database Access). SODA is in fact an object-oriented database for MIDP devices. It allows storage, and search and retrieval of JavaBean-like data objects.

Select the right mobile database

Selecting the right mobile database product is a complex business decision. Since mobile databases are embedded in the client application, you need to pay royalties for each product you distribute. It is important to negotiate a good contract to reduce the overall cost. Also, due to the proprietary nature of the synchronization solutions, each product has a certain degree of vendor lock-in. As a result, developers should not only consider the product's technical merits but also the vendor's overall reputation and stability. For example, if your mobile clients require both MIDP and Personal Profile databases, you should choose both products from the same vendor for a better bundle rate and a more manageable synchronization solution.

PointBase and Sybase iAnywhere offer excellent mobile database solutions. However, if your enterprise infrastructure is already primarily IBM or Oracle, it might be a better deal to select DB2 Everyplace or Oracle 9iLite mobile databases.

Mobile databases and synchronization solutions are important components in high-availability mobile applications. They enable the new and promising occasionally connected mobile application paradigm. After reading this article, you should be able to design and implement simple mobile database applications using JDBC and PointBase APIs. Since mobile databases run on small devices, you need to carefully balance features against performance and footprint when choosing commercial products.

Michael Yuan is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where he is a research associate at the Center for Research in Electronic Commerce and an open source Java developer. He is the author of the upcoming book Java Mobile Enterprise Application Development from Prentice Hall, to be released in fall 2003.

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