Monday, September 19, 2011

Why OSGi?

Recently I answered a question on about the difference between component-based and modular architectures. However, what it really does is show one of larger benefits of OSGi, fixing the classpath.

Here is the question and my answer:

Q: OSGi is a modular architecture, JavaBeans is a component architecture. What's the diff?

A: The primary difference between OSGi and Java Beans is in how the classloader works. In a standard .jar file or EJB, the rt.jar file or EJB equivalent maintains the classpath. Additionally, if you are using a container to deploy your application into, you may have multiple classpath maintanance mechanisms which cause problems. As a result, when you make a .war file, for example, you usually create a lib directory with all of your .war's .jar dependencies inside of the .war. If you only have one war or .jar in your application, this isn't so bad. But imagine a large enteprise deployment with 100 EJB's all containing apache-commons! You end up with 100 instances of apache-commons all running inside the same container sucking up resources.

In OSGi, you deploy each .jar file (we'll call them bundles cuz this is OSGi now) into the OSGi container. Each .jar file exposes (exports) the packages it wants other packages to use, and also identifies the version of the bundle. Additionally, each bundle also expressly states (imports) the packages it needs from other bundles to work. The OSGi container will then manage all of these exports and match them up to the appropriate imports. Now you have apache-commons available to each of the EJB's you want to make available. You've done away with your /lib directory and now your application takes up less resources.

In your question you asked the difference between a component architecture and a modular architectures. Modularity refers to this process of making each bundle its own deployment unit and allowing it to talk to other bundles instead of balling them all up into one massive .jar file.

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