The Java EE 5 Tutorial

Managing Distributed Transactions

JMS client applications use JMS API local transactions (described in Using JMS API Local Transactions), which allow the grouping of sends and receives within a specific JMS session. Java EE applications commonly use distributed transactions to ensure the integrity of accesses to external resources. For example, distributed transactions allow multiple applications to perform atomic updates on the same database, and they allow a single application to perform atomic updates on multiple databases.

In a Java EE application that uses the JMS API, you can use transactions to combine message sends or receives with database updates and other resource manager operations. You can access resources from multiple application components within a single transaction. For example, a servlet can start a transaction, access multiple databases, invoke an enterprise bean that sends a JMS message, invoke another enterprise bean that modifies an EIS system using the Connector architecture, and finally commit the transaction. Your application cannot, however, both send a JMS message and receive a reply to it within the same transaction; the restriction described in Using JMS API Local Transactions still applies.

Distributed transactions within the EJB container can be either of two kinds:

You can use either container-managed transactions or bean-managed transactions with message-driven beans. To ensure that all messages are received and handled within the context of a transaction, use container-managed transactions and use the Required transaction attribute (the default) for the onMessage method. This means that if there is no transaction in progress, a new transaction will be started before the method is called and will be committed when the method returns.

When you use container-managed transactions, you can call the following MessageDrivenContext methods:

If you use bean-managed transactions, the delivery of a message to the onMessage method takes place outside the distributed transaction context. The transaction begins when you call the UserTransaction.begin method within the onMessage method, and it ends when you call UserTransaction.commit or UserTransaction.rollback. Any call to the Connection.createSession method must take place within the transaction. If you call UserTransaction.rollback, the message is not redelivered, whereas calling setRollbackOnly for container-managed transactions does cause a message to be redelivered.

Neither the JMS API specification nor the Enterprise JavaBeans specification (available from specifies how to handle calls to JMS API methods outside transaction boundaries. The Enterprise JavaBeans specification does state that the EJB container is responsible for acknowledging a message that is successfully processed by the onMessage method of a message-driven bean that uses bean-managed transactions. Using bean-managed transactions allows you to process the message by using more than one transaction or to have some parts of the message processing take place outside a transaction context. In most cases, however, container-managed transactions provide greater reliability and are therefore preferable.

When you create a session in an enterprise bean, the container ignores the arguments you specify, because it manages all transactional properties for enterprise beans. It is still a good idea to specify arguments of true and 0 to the createSession method to make this situation clear:

session = connection.createSession(true, 0);

When you use container-managed transactions, you normally use the Required transaction attribute (the default) for your enterprise bean’s business methods.

You do not specify a message acknowledgment mode when you create a message-driven bean that uses container-managed transactions. The container acknowledges the message automatically when it commits the transaction.

If a message-driven bean uses bean-managed transactions, the message receipt cannot be part of the bean-managed transaction, so the container acknowledges the message outside the transaction.

If the onMessage method throws a RuntimeException, the container does not acknowledge processing the message. In that case, the JMS provider will redeliver the unacknowledged message in the future.