This topic applies only to the IBM Business Process Manager Advanced configuration.

Business objects

A business object (BO) is a container for application data, such as a customer or an invoice. Data is exchanged between components by business objects. The underlying structure of a business object is an XML schema definition (XSD).

Service Component Architecture (SCA) provides the framework for defining an application module, the services it provides, the services it consumes, and the composition of components that provide the business logic of the application module. Business objects play an important role in the application, defining the business data that is used to describe the service and component contracts and the business data that the components manipulate.

The following diagram depicts an SCA application module and illustrates many of the places in which the developer works with business objects.
Figure 1. Business objects represent the data that flows between services in an application
Illustration showing native data entering a service module and being transformed to a business object before being processed by the service component.
Note: This topic describes how business objects are used by SCA application modules. If you are using Java™ interfaces, the SCA application modules can also process Java objects.

A business object contains fields that have a name, a type (scalar type or another business object), a default value (for scalar types) and cardinality. Business objects can extend (define a superset of fields) other business objects through parent/child relationships; however, a business object can only inherit from a single parent. These objects can also be used in conjunction with each other to perform a task.

Business object fields

Essentially, business object fields are the mechanisms through which you define what information a business object can hold, and how that information should be accessible. Business object fields are used to define the content of a business object. Each field has a name, type, cardinality, and other optional properties. After you create a business object, you can use the business object editor to create or change its fields. A business object is simply a container for the data specified in its fields. An empty business object without fields is not useful as it does not have the means to actually hold any data.

If you were to create a business object and add a field called "customerName" with type "string", you can now actually do something with the business object. With the addition of each new field, the usefulness of the business object increases. For example, if you were to add, "customerID" of type "int", customerAddress of type "string", you now have a business object with useful information in it to use however you would like. You can pass it to a web service for example, to run a credit check on a customer. You may even choose to have your business object contain "salesContact" that has a type "Employee" - another business object. A business object can contain other business objects as data too, meaning that if needed, business objects can be very complex containers of data.

Note: When you create a business object, you can decide whether or not a field is going to be an array. You may later notice that the field is typed to java.lang.List for that same business object. The type has not actually changed since the business object was created, and in simple terms fields with the array box selected are "lists". When you select the field to be an array, you are indicating that you may have more than one of what you are defining. For example, consider a field in CustomerBO called "previousOrders" of type "OrderBO". You would select the array box to indicate that a customer may have any number of previous orders, so this should be prepared to hold a list of items, not just a single item. By contrast, something like "name" would not be defined as an array since a Customer should not need more than one. Setting an array is simply a way in which to distinguish between business object fields that store one value, and fields that store X values.

Business object programming model

The business object programming model consists of a set of Java interfaces that represent:
  • The business object definition and instance data
  • A set of services that support the operations on the business objects

Business object type definitions are represented by the commonj.sdo.Type and commonj.sdo.Property interfaces. The business object programming model provides a set of rules for mapping the XML schema complex type information to the Type interface and each of the elements in the complex type definition to the Property interface.

Business object instances are represented by the commonj.sdo.DataObject interface. The business object programming model is untyped, which means that the same commonj.sdo.DataObject interface can be used to represent different business object definitions, such as Customer and Order. The definition of which properties can be set and retrieved from each business object is determined by type information defined in the XML schema associated with each business object.

The business object programming model behavior is based on the Service Data Object 2.1 specification. For additional information, see the SDO 2.1 for Java specification, tutorials and javadocs on the web:

Business object services support various lifecycle operations (such as creation, equality, parsing, and serialization) on business objects.

For specifics on the business object programming model, see the Generated API and SPI documentation on business objects.

Bindings, data bindings, and data handlers

As shown in Figure 1, business data that is used to invoke services provided by SCA application modules is transformed into business objects so that the SCA components can manipulate the business data. Similarly, the business objects manipulated by SCA components are converted into the data format required by the external services.

In some cases, such as the web service binding, the binding used to export and import services automatically transforms the data into the appropriate format. In other cases, such as the JMS binding, developers can provide a data binding or data handler that converts non-native formats into business objects represented by the DataObject interface.

For more information on developing data bindings and data handlers, refer to Data handlers and Data bindings.