By Ed Tittel and Dr. Bill Brogden

The Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) architecture is the basis of several major enterprise-level Web server products, with the main exception being Microsoft products. With the J2EE specification, Sun’s goal is to ensure that compliant Web applications run on any J2EE-compatible server. This is good news for programmers because it makes the skills that lead to the Sun Certified Enterprise Architect (SCEA) certification portable across platforms.

The SCEA certification is for software architects who can lay out the structure for J2EE-compliant applications with an emphasis on making the best use of J2EE features to create flexible, scalable, secure designs. The SCEA signifies that its holders can handle advanced design responsibilities and lead roles in creating applications. To succeed, SCEA candidates must demonstrate a deep understanding of appropriate uses of modern design architecture and current J2EE technologies for business applications.

The SCEA philosophy
Software architects are expected to be able to understand and communicate high-level design concepts to programmers under their direction and also to higher-ups who must approve their designs. Thus, the SCEA certification puts a lot of emphasis on design concepts and less on concrete APIs.

In particular, two areas of design abstraction—the Unified Modeling Language (UML) and design patterns—receive strong emphasis. UML is a system for drawing diagrams of object-oriented designs and then documenting and using diagrams throughout the design process. UML evolved out of a synthesis of several design methodologies to become an industry standard overseen by the Object Management Group (OMG).

The SCEA certification also places heavy emphasis on design patterns using terminology from an influential book, Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software, by Erich Gamma, et al. This book revolutionized thinking about programming in its use of patterns to describe reusable program designs and components. The success of this book spawned a number of similar books, but for the SCEA, you need only be familiar with the original source.

Steps to SCEA certification
Obtaining the SCEA certification requires that you complete these three steps:

  • Take a multiple-choice exam (CX-310-051; $150 in the United States).
  • Complete a design project assignment (CX-310-300A; $250 in the United States).
  • Submit an essay exam (CX-310-061; $150 in the United States).

The first exam is available at Prometric Testing centers. It consists of 48 questions with a time limit of 75 minutes; a passing score is 68 percent. These questions cover a well-defined set of topics described in detail on the Sun Certification site and summarized below:

  • Concepts—UML diagrams and object-oriented design principles
  • Common architectures—The consequences of various architectural decisions in multitier applications
  • Connecting to legacy systems—Selecting appropriate techniques
  • Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB)—Designing with EJB and selecting appropriate EJB technology
  • Enterprise JavaBeans containers—The functions of an EJB container
  • Protocols—-Selecting appropriate protocols for given scenarios
  • J2EE—Identifying J2EE technology appropriate to a given application
  • Design patterns—Selecting appropriate design patterns and using the patterns and nomenclature from the Erich Gamma book mentioned above
  • Messaging—Identifying appropriate messaging technology for given scenarios
  • Internationalization—Identifying J2EE features related to internationalization
  • Security—Identifying appropriate use of J2EE security features

In the second step, you must download a design exercise using the student ID from your exam. This is a design exercise, not a programming exercise, so you needn’t build a complete working application. There is no time limit for completing this assignment.

After submitting the design exercise, you can return to Prometric Testing for the final exam in the series. It consists of four essay questions that you must answer within 90 minutes. The essay questions query your design exercise decisions. Your design exercise and the essay questions are graded together; a passing score is 70 percent.

Software design professionals and senior-level Java programmers will find the SCEA a valuable addition to their credentials as the certification becomes more widely recognized and accepted in the workplace.

Resources for the SCEA exam

For more information on the SCEA exam, check out these links: