Tag Archives: OSGi

Fragments vs. Buddy Classloading

Classloading is a serious issue when creating OSGi based applications. As each bundle is bound to it’s own classpath, sometimes the reflection mechanism will not work as expected. So, there are basicly two ways of solving the problem of extending a bundle’s classpath (when using Equinox…), either create a feature or use Buddy Classloading. But which solutions fits best for what problem?

Fragments

A fragment is an OSGi mechanism to allow a dynamic extension of a bundle at runtime. The fragment itself is not a true component as other bundles may not define a dependency on the fragment. It is used for different purposes such as testing, internationalisation or logging configuration. You can add system dependent code or configuration files to a generic implementation. The good thing is, that the extended code has no dependency on the fragment i.e. does not necessarily require the fragment for running (for example testing fragments).

How to
A fragment is structured as a common bundle. It may be created using a wizard (in Eclipse) or by adding a line to the manifest.mf of a common bundle defining the so called fragment host:
Fragment-Host: bundleSymbolic-Name
This advises the runtime to merge the fragment’s content with it’s host at runtime.

What’s good
Fragments are pure OSGi and provide the flexibility of extending a component dynamicly at runtime without breaking the component architecture. Some third party classpath requirements can be solved this way, for example providing a logging configuration.

What’s bad
Some third party classpath requirements cannot be matched using fragments.

Buddy Classloading

Buddy Cassloading is somewhat a hack (in my opinion), as it adds a bundle’s classpath to another’s – you could call it ‘reverse-dependency’. In OSGi terms, this is explicitly not wanted as a bundle should be treated as a component. But since many Java libraries got used to a single classloader environment, they still expect an exclusive access to any class of the application using reflection. So, in some situations, you can’t really avoid using Buddy Classloading in an Equinox environment.

How to
The manifest.mf of the bundle to be extended receives an additional line to define a Buddy Policy:
Eclipse-BuddyPolicy: registered
This defines the bundle to be aware of registered bundles which entend the classpath.

The manifest.mf of the bundle to extend receives two additional lines:
Eclipse-RegisterBuddy: bundleSymbolic-Name
Require-Bundle: bundleSymbolic-Name

This defines the bundle to extend the classpath of the listed bundles. Additionally, the registered Buddy Policy requires the extending bundle to have a dependency on the extended bundle.

What’s good
Buddy Classloading easily enables using common reliable libraries without any problems. Additionally, the extending bundle can still be treated as a ‘normal’ bundle, other bundles may have a dependency on the bundle and use the exported packages as provided.

What’s bad
Buddy Classloading is not ‘the OSGi way’ as it corrupts the idea of having a component based application with clearly separated bundles defining an interface and dependencies. Buddy Classloading is an answer to a technical problem and should not be used for application design.

Bundles & Libraries

I heard a talk about VIB – Very Important Bundles – today at the W-JAX here in Munich. The speaker pointed out some key features and services (and available solutions) necessary for developing applications in an enterprise context. He also discussed the way bundles should be designed in general. There were two mentioned aspects that made me wonder.

  • Bundles represent a deployment artefact only.
  • Bundles may contain libraries they need, if it is applicable.

For me, a bundle is explicitly not only a deployment artefact. Bundles represent a software component and are therefor an architectual element of the software. They are essential to be able to use public and private API, as Java Packages simply do not serve this need. No need to say that I prefer ‘Required Bundles’ instead of ‘Imported Packages’ :). And turning to libraries, they should be encapsulated in a separate bundle and definetly not included in any bundle containing business code. A big advantage is the reusability of these individual so called ‘library bundles’, for instance logging frameworks or apache commons components. From my point of view, intergrating libraries in a bundle and even exporting them makes their management difficulter than necessary, at least within an enterprise context.