Chapter 3. Building Aspects

The last chapter had a basic boring introduction to aspects with the lame, commonly used example of metrics. AOP can be applied in a much broader sense than the overused examples of tracing and security and this chapter looks into other more compelling examples of using basic AOP.

3.1. Identifying Aspects

Aspect-Oriented programming is not a replacement for object-oriented programming, but rather a compliment to it. AOPers generally say that OOP solves 90% of problems and AOP solves the 10% of problems that OOP isn't good at. This section of the docbook will expand over time, but let's discuss some ways in which you can identify whether or not AOP is a good solution for a particular problem.

Cross-cutting Concerns

The metrics example in the previous chapter is an example of a cross-cutting concern in its purest form. Sometimes you see structure in your code that can't be expressed as an object because it completly wraps around the method you are invoking. If the behavior in question is something that you want to be able to extend and maintain within its own structure then it may be a candidate for aspectizing.

Layering Based on Deployment

Another place where AOP may be very useful is to layer your applications. Sometimes you want to model a particular service or object that has many configuration options yet you don't want to bloat your service with unmaintainable code. AOP provides a nice way to layer such complex services. JBoss AOP provides a XML configurable mechanism to configure such aspects per deployment. A good example of this is a caching service that might have different locking policies. It is easier to encapsulate such locking policies as aspects so that the base caching code doesn't get polluted with locking concerns. This makes the code easier to maintain.


Many times you want to write plain Java code that focuses solely on business or application logic and do not want to introduce any concerns like middleware. AOP allows you to apply things like middleware transparently to your code without polluting your code. Some examples include the transaction demarcation and role-based security features in the JBoss AOP Aspect Library.

3.2. Exception Handling

Metrics and tracing are simple examples of building aspects. Another great simple example is to use AOP for exception handling. For example, SQLException is an exception that contains error information like invalid sql statement or deadlock that is similar per database vendor, but is expressed as different error codes and string messages. You can use AOP to intercept statement execution, catch SQLException errors, and turn them into typed exceptions that application code can handle independent of database vendor. So let's code an example of this.

public class InvalidSQlException extends SQLException
   InvalidSQLException(SQLException ex)
       super(ex.getMessage(), ex.getSQLState(), ex.getErrorCode());

What we'll do is write an aspect that wraps calls to all java.sql.Statement execute methods and turn them into typed exceptions like the example above. We'll leave some code up to your imagination since such an aspect would be quite long to deal with every error code of every database vendor, but hopefully you can get the idea here.

public class SQLExceptionAspect
   public Object handleSqlException(Invocation invocation) throws Throwable
         return invocation.invokeNext();
      catch (SQLException ex)
         if (isVendorInvalidSqlErrorCode(ex.getErrorCode())) throw new InvalidSQLException(ex);
         if (isVendorDeadlockErrorCode(ex.getErrorCode()) throw new SQLDeadlockException(ex);
         ... and so on ...
   ... impl of isVendor methods ...

Now that the aspect is defined we use a call pointcut expression to intercept all the execute methods of java.sql.Statement.

<aspect class="SQLExceptionAspect" scope="PER_VM"/>
<bind pointcut="call(* $instanceof{java.sql.Statement}->execute*(..))">
   <advice name="handleSqlException" aspect="SQLExceptionAspect"/>