IBM and Eclipse efforts focus on OSGi modularity

Big Blue looks to boost app server while Eclipse ponders framework based on the Java module system

OSGi, which is intended to provide modularity for Java, is the focus of efforts afoot at IBM and the Eclipse Foundation, with IBM leveraging OSGi in its application server and Eclipse using it in a new framework for accessing enterprise technology.

With an upcoming feature pack for WebSphere Application Server (WAS) v7, IBM seeks to make it easier to use OSGi.

[ Last month, InfoWorld reported on Oracle upgrading Eclipse-based plug-in technology for building Java and Web services applications. ]

"[OSGi] provides great modularity and versioning benefits within the application server," said Erik Kristiansen, IBM product manager for WebSphere Application Server Feature Packs, in an interview on Thursday.

The company last month offered a combined beta release of application server technologies based on OSGi and Java Persistence API. The feature pack currently bears the cumbersome name, IBM WebSphere Application Server V7 Feature Pack for OSGi Applications and Java Persistence API (JPA) 2.0 Open Beta. IBM feels there are "a lot of synergies" between OSGi and JPA and thus combined the two efforts, Kristiansen said.

The feature pack, Kristiansen said, was "bringing the OSGi benefits of modularity and componentization to enterprise customers looking to build their applications on top of WAS."

IBM had offered the OSGi feature pack in an alpha form prior to the beta release; no date has been set for the general release. IBM's feature pack is based on the Apache Aries project to offer OSGi services to enterprise application developers.

"We're exposing OSGi in a simple way," said Kristiansen. IBM previously has expressed intentions to leverage OSGi to componentize WebSphere.

OSGi is intended to offer easier management of code bases while allowing for more dynamic software that can run plugins and extensions at runtime, Michael Cote, analyst at RedMonk, said. "Java code tends towards the monolithic for some reason and there's a ontinual technical and cultural effort to fight that large complexity," Cote said. "Design-wise, OSGi and other component efforts in Java aspire to be a better way to organize the code in a project with the hopes of making the daily lives of developers simpler."

Cote said he has heard a "mixed bag" of views about the usability of OSGi but sentiment overall has been more positive than negative.

OSGi once stood for Open Services Gateway initiative, but now is just referred to by its acronym. JPA 2.0, meanwhile, provides persistence benefits, saving developers from having to write SQL to access databases, Kristiansen said.

The feature pack can be downloaded at IBM's Web site.

At Eclipse, the foundation's Project Gemini is an incubation project linked to the Eclipse runtime, which itself is based on OSGi.

"The goal of Gemini is to provide access to standard enterprise technology within a modular framework," according to a Web page describing a session on Gemini planned for the EclipseCon 2010 technical conference being held in Santa Clara, Calif., later this month.

Gemini "will take OSGi and make it possible to make enterprise server-side modules plug together nicely," said Mik Kersten, a former member of the Eclipse board of directors who is still involved with the organization as leader of the Mylyn project, for integrating task and application lifecycle management tools with the Eclipse IDE.

Gemini will provide "ready-to-use implementations" of many OSGi Alliance specifications for usage of enterprise technologies within OSGi, according to the EclipseCon 2010 Web page.

Another recent project at the foundation, Eclipse Virgo, provides an application server based on OSGi. Virgo was derived from the SpringSource dm Server product, which SpringSource has discontinued. SpringSource had cited difficulties in getting enterprise adoption of OSGi.

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