How does passivation work in stateful session beans?

Richard Monson-Haefel

Unlike entity beans and stateless session beans, stateful session bean are usually evicted from memory when they are passivated. This is not true of all vendors but this view serves as good model for understanding the concepts of passivation in session beans.

When a stateful bean experiences a lull in use -- between client invocations and transactions -- the container may choose to passivate the stateful bean instance. To conserve resources the bean instance is evicted from memory (dereferenced and garbage collected). When the EJB object receives a new client request, a new stateful instance is instantiated and associate with the EJB object to handle the request.

Stateful beans maintain a conversational state, which must be preserved before the bean instance is evicted from memory. To accomplish this, the container will write the conversational state of the bean instance to a secondary storage (usually disk). Only the non-transient serializable instance fields are preserved. When the bean is activated the new instance is populated with the preserved state. References to live resources like the EJBContext, DataSource, JNDI ENC, and other beans must also be maintained somehow -- usually in memory -- by the container.

The javax.ejb.SessionBean interface provides two callback methods that notify the bean instance it is about to passivated or was just activated. The ejbPassivate( ) method notifies the bean instance that it is about have its conversational state written to disk and be evicted from memory. Within this method the bean developer can perform operations just prior to passivation like closing open resources. The ejbActivate( ) method is executed just after a new bean instance has been instantiated and populated with conversational state from disk. The bean developer can use the ejbActivate( ) method to perform operations just prior to servicing client request, like opening resources.