Andrew Overholt recently pointed me to a blog entry on Java module systems. I can’t comment in detail on the JSRs or how they should interact because they’re all behind click-through licenses. My instinct tells me the ideal answers are: “Sun, drop JSR 277 and adopt OSGi; IBM, develop OSGi within the Java tree, on the same schedule as Java”, though this may be politically impossible.
Beyond politics, the post got me thinking about how a Java module system should integrate with Fedora. Here is a sketch of how I think it should work.
OSGi Modules in Fedora
OSGi modules distributed with Fedora will need to be wrapped by RPMs, so that they can be built, released and managed using existing tools and processes.
OSGi and RPM metadata provide similar information, so the adoption of OSGi will simplify the creation of Java RPMs. The packager should only be required to list the proper build dependencies in a spec file; Requires and Provides should be auto-calculated by rpmbuild. This is how C module (DSO) RPMs are currently produced.
The reverse operation should also be supported, for transforming non-modularized upstream projects into OSGi modules at rpmbuild time, using packager-provided metadata (the Name, Version, Requires and Provides fields). Then we could easily convert our currently-shipping Java packages to OSGi modules. At the same time, we should encourage upstream projects to properly modularize their jars, including any build dependency jars they bundle.
rpmbuild should automatically namespace packager-built modules with a Fedora release prefix, to distinguish them from the equivalent upstream module.
Module Loader Customizations
The Fedora OSGi loader should prioritize these Fedora-namespaced modules over non-Fedora modules with the same version.
Likewise, the OSGi updater should compare upstream modules to those available in Fedora, and where versions match, pull the Fedora module. There will need to be an OSGi-yum bridge so that the OSGi updater can request module metadata from yum, and instruct it which package to install. The required yum interfaces already exist to support update programs like pirut and pup. For dependencies not resolved in the yum repositories, the OSGi updater should fall back to its list of jar repositories.
The biggest improvement to the current Java packaging situation may well come from upstream projects. Once a module system becomes part of the Java standard, I hope to see upstream projects adopt it in a disciplined way. If upstream projects started bundling modules instead of just jars, packaging these projects would become simpler. The problem has been that it’s unclear which version of a particular jar is bundled with a project’s source — a module answers that question, and helps the packager set up BuildRequires. If this versioning convention becomes common, the BuildRequires generation step could even be automated by a “make new-sources-java” target in Makefile.common.
Projects also bundle dependencies in binary jars, for deployment on systems lacking native package management. With upstream module versioning, Fedora namespacing, and the Fedora module loader customizations, system-installed modules, where available, would be used in favour of the equivalent bundled modules. This should be the desired behaviour, since system administrators should trust Fedora Java packages more than the upstream binaires.
Along these lines, system administrators may be interested in performing operations on the set of all system-installed OSGi packages. There is talk of adding tagging support to rpm and yum; once it is in place, we should apply a common tag to all packages that contain OSGi modules.
OSGi versus JSR 277
I used OSGi as the example module system because I’m familiar with it, but the above sketch would probably apply equally well to JSR 277. However, to complete the usefulness of a module system, the system Java environment must recognize it. If Fedora wanted to use OSGi system-wide (not just within Eclipse) then the system Java’s behaviour would have to deviate (irresponsibly) from the Java standard, to recognize and resolve OSGi modules. So while our packages can all be made “OSGi-ready” now, only Eclipse would see the benefits.
Since not deviating from the Java standard is more important than the benefits of modules, whichever module system is integrated into Java itself will become the Fedora-wide Java module system. Once a decision is made, we can start implementing the integration improvements I’ve sketched out.