New Zealander writes J2EE book

Author looks forward to resuming his social life

Christchurch solution architect Alan Monnox can now add "author" to his CV.

The HP employee has just had his first book, Rapid J2EE Development, published and says while he enjoyed writing it, he's not keen to repeat the experience anytime soon.

"It was a lot of work — it was harder than I thought it would be when I got the contract to write it," he says.

However, the hard grind is now over and the book is available online and in US bookshops. It is due for bookshop release in New Zealand in a few weeks.

So what motivates a busy solution architect to give up his evenings for a year to write about what he does at work all day?

"I was keen to get what I was saying to a wider audience, either through magazines or a book and I was also looking for a new challenge," Monnox says.

"I'd got to the point in my career where I felt I had something to say and I wanted to contribute something to software engineering."

He wrote a proposal which HP forwarded to publisher Prentice Hall (which is publishing a series of HP books). Prentice Hall accepted the pitch and in December 2003, Monnox started writing.

The manuscript was finished a year later and Rapid J2EE Development was officially published last month.

The product development lifecycle and the tools and techniques of software development are central themes of the book and Monnox says "it reflects my experience".

"The approach I took was to view it as a best practice book for the development of enterprise applications."

Anyone working in the Java and J2EE space will have an opinion on the J2EE versus .Net debate and Monnox says the religious war that seems to divide the two camps "is being defused as .Net gets more established and people realise what the two [platforms] are and what they're capable of."

While there will always be a conflict at grassroots level between technical staff, "because they can by very opinionated", decision-makers "are stepping back and taking a more balanced view as .Net has progressed and is making its name as a development platform," he says.

After jesting that "J2EE is better in every way, of course", Monnox gives the view that the relative merits of the two platforms are "getting too close to call and project managers need to look at what architecture they need".

Java's open, cross-platform nature means that J2EE has an advantage in maturity and acceptance, but in some areas .Net is gaining ground, he says.

"One of the interesting areas is new integration products, such as BizTalk, which is going from strength to strength."

J2EE has an assured future, he says, "because of its open platform and the groundswell of support it has from the developer community".

The increasing use of open source software in enterprise applications is another theme of the book and Monnox says that with support from IBM, HP and other vendors, "open source is here to stay".

The book also discusses agile development, model-driven architecture, code generation, aspect-oriented programming and test-driven development, among other aspects of J2EE development.

Monnox says he's had some positive feedback, including comment from non-J2EE developers, on the book.

However, he reiterates that another volume isn't on the immediate horizon.

"It was hard having to give up a social life — I think I need a bit of a break."

Monnox, an Englishman by birth, has been in New Zealand for 11 years and was a project leader with Compaq before the company was bought by HP.

He has also worked for Trimble Navigation, PEC (subsequently acquired by Advantage Group) and had a stint contracting with the TAB.