Must you always use a rich domain?
Ask a Java developer in my neck of the woods to create a web application (of the usual "shovel some data from Oracle to HTML" variety) and s/he will probably come up with an instant architecture. Some sort of MVC => Spring => domain layer => Hibernate => database. Blueprint done, let's go write some code now.
What can possibly be wrong with this? The Spring => domain layer => Hibernate part. There are many simple web applications where a full-blown domain persisted by a full-blown object-relational mapper and wired together by a full-blown dependency injection framework with aspect-oriented programming features provides no value, but has a big price in terms of complexity, scalability and long-term maintenance. And every complex web application that I have seen so far had some areas where rich domain backed by ORM was not the best way to go, either.
A classical example is a web application that is all about searching and viewing some stuff, stored in a relational database. Usually, there is some data manipulation involved, but it's all CRUD. Whenever this application has a domain, it is inevitably an anemic one - in other words, there are getters and setters, maybe some data validation logic, and not much interesting behavior. Unfortunately, there seems to be a blind spot where every greenfield application must have a domain layer complete with DI and ORM. Surely, all this byte-code manipulation voodoo and angled-brackety declarative configuration goodness must have some cost to it? And it does!
First, there is always a performance penalty to pay. The moment you decide to go with a full-scale ORM, you probably increase production hardware costs by at least 50%. I don't have any hard numbers to back this with, so this is just a subjective opinion of someone in the trenches who is considered "a performance dude" in ThoughtWorks. In the world where developer time is expensive and hardware is not, this is a great tradeoff, as long as you save developer time.
But this is the catch. When there is no rich domain, no need for distributed transaction management, or advanced caching strategies or other things of this nature, you may not be saving anything - quite the contrary. You just end up writing more code to wire all those decoupled layers together, running longer builds (a much bigger productivity killer than most people realize), having to deal with more interesting problems, reading much larger and less informative exception stack traces, and generally working harder than necessary.
And then there is the maintenance cost. Conceptual complexity, all this cool voodoo, is hard on production support. It creates more situations that regular support people can't cope with on their own and have to escalate to platform experts.
One major selling point for Hibernate is that it eliminates a lot of boilerplate JDBC code to map data from rows to objects. One day, Sun will hopefully bake something like LINQ into Java and the boilerplate data mapping issue will be gone for good. Until then, there are libraries out there that do just this (IBATIS comes to mind) at a tiny fraction of Spring+Hibernate complexity cost.
Now, there are people who take this to the other extreme, and just mix SQL with markup. Although it's a great design for a "Hello, World"-type system, I'm not radical enough to advocate this for anything bigger.
So, next time you start writing an application that is 90% data display and 10% CRUD manipulation -- if something like Rails or Django is not an option -- please at least think about MVC => service => hand-coded SQL option.