Monday, November 24, 2008

OSGi: a Dynamic Component System for Java

I know OSGi since I finally adopted Eclipse as my IDE for Java four years ago. Recently, two things re-ignite my strong interests in OSGi.

One is GridSphere. GridSphere is a portal framework implementing JSR-168, running on Tomcat. I am evaluating some portlets running in GridSphere. I found out deploying both GridSphere and portlets in GridSphere need to restart the JVM. It is clear to me this is not a desirable feature that an enterprise software should have. The selling point of the portal framework is that the portlets (i.e., the components) can be developed asynchronously and distributed, while can work in harmony in a portal. Let's say we have a portal that contains 25 portlets. Each portlet each year releases two major updates and two security patches. If we need to restart the portal every time when we update a portlet, then we need to restart the portal 100 times every year. This is not a good news to the administrator. Clearly we should have better support for components in architecting server-side software. At least, we should allow individual component be deployed and undeployed dynamically without affecting the remaining part of the system. By the way, 10 years ago in an interview with Huawei, I was asked the question how to patch a software when it is still running.

The other is SpringSource dm server, which uses OSGi. It seems to me OSGi is the answer to the architectural challenges in any complex, server-side, enterprise, or component-based software.

A further look at the OSGi website reveals that OSGi is behind many web application servers and J2EE servers: IBM Websphere, SpringSource Application Server, Oracle (formerly BEA) Weblogic, Sun's GlassFish, and Redhat's JBoss. And not surprisingly, the top two showcases for adopting OGSi are Eclipse and Spring.

Adopting OSGi is claimed to have many benefits, including dynamic update of bundle, security, support for dependencies and versioning, simple API and small footprint. To achieve those, OSGi has the module and service concepts deep in design.

In OSGi, the sharing between modules, like importing jars from other modules and exporting own jars for other modules to use, must be declared explicitly. By default, nothing is shared.

There is a service registry in OSGi. A service can be implemented using any POJO. While the OSGi Alliance publishes the Compendium specifications, which define a large number of standard services, from a Log Service to a Measurement and State specification.

In terms of the implementation, the two most popular ones are Apache Felix and Eclipse Equinox. My next step would be doing some hands on exercise with either of them.

1 comment:

Mike Francis said...


If you are interested in grid/clustering and OSGi you should take a look at the open source Newton project ( which is the foundations of the commercial Infiniflow product (

Newton/Infiniflow offer a resilient, scalable, model-driven, distributed OSGi runtime, which we call a Service Fabric and is sometimes referred to as a next gen distributed app server. You can then run different types of processing pattern across the Service Fabric such as Grid, ESB, CEP. There is a "scatter/gather" grid pattern available as an example with Newton.

Mike (Paremus)