Matt RaibleMatt Raible is a Web Architecture Consultant specializing in open source frameworks.

10+ YEARS


Over 10 years ago, I wrote my first blog post. Since then, I've authored books, had kids, traveled the world, found Trish and blogged about it all.

Highly Interactive Software with Java and Flex

This morning at TSSJS, I attended James Ward's talk about Highly Interactive Software with Java and Flex. Below are my notes from his talk.

Application have moved from mainframes (hard to deploy, limited clients) to client/server (hard to deploy, full client capabilities) to web applications (easy to deploy, limited clients) to rich internet applications (easy to deploy, full client capabilities).

Shortly after showing a diagram of how applications have changed, James showed a demo of a sample Flex app for an automobile insurance company. It was very visually appealing, kinda like using an iPhone app. It was a multi-form application that slides right-to-left as you progress through the wizard. It also allowed you to interact with a picture of your car (to indicate where the damage happened) and a map (to indicate how the accident happened). Both of these interactive dialogs still performed data entry, they just did it in more of a visual way.

Adobe's developer technology for building RIAs is Flex. There's two different languages in Flex: ActionScript and MXML. ActionScript was originally based on JavaScript, but now (in ActionScript 3) uses features from Java and C#. On top of ActionScript is MXML. It's a declarative language, but unlike JSP taglibs. All you can do with MXML is instantiate objects and set properties. It's merely a convenience language, but also allows tooling. The open source SDK compiler takes Flex files and compiles it into a *.swf file. This file can then be executed using the Flash Player (in browser) or Air (desktop).

The reason Adobe developed two different runtimes was because they didn't want to bloat the Flash Player. Once the applications are running client-side, the application talks to the web server. Protocols that can be used for communication: SOAP, HTTP/S, AMF/S and RTMP/S. The web server can be composed of REST or SOAP Web Services, as well as BlazeDS or LC Data Services to talk directly to Java classes.

To see all the possible Flex components, see Tour de Flex. It contains a number of components: core components, data access controls, AIR capabilities, cloud APIs, data visualization. The IBM ILOG Elixir real-time dashboard is particularly interesting, as is Doug McCune's Physics Form.

Next James showed us some code. He used Flex Builder to create a new Flex project with BlazeDS. The backend for this application was a JSP page that talks to a database and displays the results in XML. In the main .mxml file, he used <s:HTTPService> with a URL pointing to the URI of the JSP. Then he added an <mx:DataGrid> and the data binding feature of Flex. To do this, he added dataProvider="{srv.lastResult.items.item}" to the DataGrid tag, where "srv" is the id of the HTTPService. Then he added a Button with click="srv.send()" and set the layout to VerticalLayout. This was a simple demo to show how to hook in a backend with XML.

To show that Flex can interact with more than XML over HTTP, James wrote a SOAP service and changed <s:HTTPService> to <s:WebService> and changed the "url" attribute to "wsdl" (and adjusted the value as appropriate). Then rather than using {srv.lastResult.*}, he had to bind to a particular method and change it to {srv.getElements.lastResults}. The Button's click value also had to change to "srv.getElements(0, 2000)" (since the method takes 2 parameters).

After doing coding in Flex Builder, James switched to his Census to compare server-execution times. In the first example (Flash XML AS), most of the time was spent gzipping the 1MB XML file, but the transfer time is reduced because of this. The server execution time is around 800ms. Compare this to the Flex AMF3 example where the server execution time is 49ms. This is because the AMF (binary) protocol streamlines the data and doesn't include repeated metadata.

To integrate BlazeDS in your project, you add the dependencies and then map the MessageBrokerServlet in your web.xml. Then you use a services-config.xml to define the protocol and remoting-config.xml to define what Java classes to export as services. To use this in the Flex aplication, James changed <s:WebService> to <s:RemoteObject>. He changed the "wsdl" attribute to "endpoint" and added a "destination" attribute to specify the name of the aliased Java class to talk to. Next, James ran the demo and showed that he could change the number of rows from 2,000 to 20,000 and the load time was still much, much faster than the XML and SOAP versions.

There's also a Spring BlazeDS Integration project that allows you to simply annotate beans to expose them as AMF services.

BlazeDS also includes a messaging service that you can use to create publishers and subscribers. The default channels in BlazeDS uses HTTP Streaming and HTTP Long Polling (comet), but it can be configurable (e.g. to use JMS). There's also an Adobe commercial product that keeps a connection open using NIO on the server and has a binary protocol. This is useful for folks that need more real-time data in their applications (e.g. trading floors).

I thought this was a really good talk by James. It had some really cool visual demos and the demo was interesting in showing how easy it was to switch between different web services and protocols. This afternoon, I'll be duking it out with James at the Flex vs. GWT Smackdown. If you have deficiencies of Flex you'd like me to share during that talk, please let me know.

Posted in Java at Mar 18 2010, 12:29:26 PM MDT 4 Comments

AppFuse 2.1 Milestone 1 Released

The AppFuse Team is pleased to announce the first milestone release of AppFuse 2.1. This release includes upgrades to all dependencies to bring them up-to-date with their latest releases. Most notable are Hibernate, Spring and Tapestry 5.

What is AppFuse?
AppFuse is an open source project and application that uses open source tools built on the Java platform to help you develop Web applications quickly and efficiently. It was originally developed to eliminate the ramp-up time found when building new web applications for customers. At its core, AppFuse is a project skeleton, similar to the one that's created by your IDE when you click through a wizard to create a new web project.

Release Details
Archetypes now include all the source for the web modules so using jetty:run and your IDE will work much smoother now. The backend is still embedded in JARs, enabling you to choose which persistence framework (Hibernate, iBATIS or JPA) you'd like to use. If you want to modify the source for that, add the core classes to your project or run appfuse:full-source.

In addition, AppFuse Light has been converted to Maven and has archetypes available. AppFuse provides archetypes for JSF, Spring MVC, Struts 2 and Tapestry 5. The light archetypes are available for these frameworks, as well as for Spring MVC + FreeMarker, Stripes and Wicket.

Other notable improvements:

Please note that this release does not contain updates to the documentation. Code generation will work, but it's likely that some content in the tutorials won't match. For example, you can use annotations (vs. XML) for dependency injection and Tapestry is a whole new framework. I'll be working on documentation over the next several weeks in preparation for Milestone 2.

AppFuse is available as several Maven archetypes. For information on creating a new project, please see the QuickStart Guide.

To learn more about AppFuse, please read Ryan Withers' Igniting your applications with AppFuse.

The 2.x series of AppFuse has a minimum requirement of the following specification versions:

  • Java Servlet 2.4 and JSP 2.0 (2.1 for JSF)
  • Java 5+

If you have questions about AppFuse, please read the FAQ or join the user mailing list. If you find bugs, please create an issue in JIRA.

Thanks to everyone for their help contributing code, writing documentation, posting to the mailing lists, and logging issues.

Posted in Java at Nov 19 2009, 07:16:36 AM MST 8 Comments

A Letter to the AppFuse Community

The last AppFuse release was way back in May 2008. Many folks have asked when the next release would be ever since. Often, I've said "sometimes this quarter", but obviously, that's never happened. For that, I apologize.

There are many reasons I haven't worked on AppFuse for the past 18 months, but it mostly comes down to the fact that I didn't make time for it. The good news is I'm working on it again and will have a release out sometime this month. Unfortunately, it probably won't be a 2.1 final release, but there's so many things that've changed, I feel like a milestone release is a good idea. Here's a brief summary of changes so far:

  • Changed archetypes to include all source and tests for the "webapp" portion of the application. No more warpath plugin, merging wars and IDE issues. Using "mvn jetty:run" should work as expected.
  • Moved from Spring XML to Annotations.
  • AppFuse Light converted to Maven modules and now depends on AppFuse's backend.
  • Published easier to use archetype selection form in the QuickStart Guide.
  • Published archetype selection form for AppFuse Light. I do plan on combining these forms as soon as I figure out the best UI and instructions for users to choose AppFuse or AppFuse Light.
  • Upgraded all libraries to latest released versions (Spring 3 hasn't had a final release yet).
  • Upgraded to Tapestry 5 thanks to Serge Eby. I still need to complete tests and code generation for tests.
  • Added Compass support thanks to a patch from Shay Banon.
  • Upgraded from XFire to CXF for Web Services.
  • Moved Maven repository to Sonatype's OSS Repository Hosting for snapshots and releasing to Maven Central. There are no longer any AppFuse-specific artifacts, all are available in central.

I realize there's many full-stack frameworks that do the same thing as AppFuse with less code. Examples include Ruby on Rails, Grails, Seam, Spring Roo and the Play framework. However, there seems to be quite a few folks that continue to use AppFuse and it stills serves the community as a nice example of how to integrate frameworks. Furthermore, it helps me keep up with the latest framework releases, their quirks and issues that happen when you try to integrate them. In short, working on it helps me stay up to speed with Java open source frameworks.

For those folks that like the 1.x, Ant-based version of AppFuse, there will not be a 1.9.5 release. I know I promised it for years, but it's simply something I will not use, so I'd rather not invest my time in it. I'm sorry for lying to those that expected it.

So what's the future of AppFuse? Will it continue to integrate web frameworks with Spring and popular persistence frameworks? Possibly, but it seems more logical to align it with the types of Ajax + REST applications I'm creating these days. I'm currently thinking AppFuse 3.0 would be nice as a RESTful backend with GWT and Flex UIs. I might create the backend with CXF, but it's possible I'd use one of the frameworks mentioned above and simply leverage it to create the default features AppFuse users have come to expect.

More than anything, I'm writing this letter to let you know that the AppFuse project is not dead and you can expect a release in the near future.

Thanks for your support,

Matt

Posted in Java at Nov 04 2009, 12:17:17 AM MST 44 Comments

Integrating GWT with Spring Security

Yesterday, I wrote about How to do cross-domain GWT RPC with a ProxyServlet. Today I'll be discussing how to modify the ProxyServlet to authenticate with Spring Security. For the application I'm working on, the ProxyServlet is only used in development (when running GWT's hosted mode) and isn't necessary when deploying the client and server on the same server. Using the ProxyServlet allows cross-domain requests so you can run GWT in hosted mode and talk to your backend running on another server. This setup can be especially handy in that you can easily point your hosted client at different backends (for example, if you have testing and staging environments).

In this example, the backend application is a JSF/Spring application that has Spring Security wired in to protect services with both Basic and Form-based authentication. Basic authentication will kick in if a "Authorization" header is sent, otherwise Form-based authentication is used. Here's the Spring Security context file that makes this happen:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>

<beans:beans xmlns="http://www.springframework.org/schema/security"
             xmlns:beans="http://www.springframework.org/schema/beans"
             xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"
             xsi:schemaLocation="...">

    <http auto-config="true" realm="My Web Application">
        <intercept-url pattern="/faces/welcome.jspx" access="ROLE_USER"/>
        <intercept-url pattern="/*.rpc" access="ROLE_USER"/>
        <http-basic/>
        <form-login login-page="/faces/login.jspx" authentication-failure-url="/faces/accessDenied.jspx"
                    login-processing-url="/j_spring_security_check" default-target-url="/redirect.jsp"
                    always-use-default-target="true"/>
    </http>

    <authentication-provider>
        <user-service >
            <user name="admin" password="admin" authorities="ROLE_USER"/>
        </user-service>
    </authentication-provider>
</beans:beans>

The easiest way to configure your GWT application to talk to a Spring Security protected resource is to protect your HTML page that GWT is embedded in. This is the documented way to integrate GWT with Spring Security (ref: GWT's LoginSecurityFAQ, search for "Acegi"). This works well for production, but not for hosted-mode development.

Basic Authentication
To authenticate with Basic Authentication, you can use GWT's RequestBuilder and set an "Authentication" header that contains the user's (base64-encoded) credentials.

private class LoginRequest {
    public LoginRequest(RequestCallback callback) {
        String url = "/services/faces/welcome.jspx";

        RequestBuilder rb = new RequestBuilder(RequestBuilder.POST, url);
        rb.setHeader("Authorization", createBasicAuthToken());
        rb.setCallback(callback);
        try {
            rb.send();
        } catch (RequestException e) {
            Window.alert(e.getMessage());
        }
    }
}

protected String createBasicAuthToken() {
    byte[] bytes = stringToBytes(username.getValue() + ":" + password.getValue());
    String token = Base64.encode(bytes);
    return "Basic " + token;
}

protected byte[] stringToBytes(String msg) {
    int len = msg.length();
    byte[] bytes = new byte[len];
    for (int i = 0; i < len; i++)
        bytes[i] = (byte) (msg.charAt(i) & 0xff);
    return bytes;
}

To use this LoginRequest class, create it with a callback and look for a 401 response code to determine if authentication failed.

new LoginRequest(new RequestCallback() {
    public void onResponseReceived(Request request, Response response) {
        if (response.getStatusCode() != Response.SC_UNAUTHORIZED &&
                response.getStatusCode() != Response.SC_OK) {
            onError(request, new RequestException(response.getStatusText() + ":\n" + response.getText()));
            return;
        }

        if (response.getStatusCode() == Response.SC_UNAUTHORIZED) {
            Window.alert("You have entered an incorrect username or password. Please try again.");
        } else {
            // authentication worked, show a fancy dashboard screen
        }
    }

    public void onError(Request request, Throwable throwable) {
        Window.alert(throwable.getMessage());
    }
});

If your GWT application is included in the "services" war, everything should work at this point. However, if you try to login with invalid credentials, your browser's login dialog will appear. To suppress this in the aforementioned ProxyServlet, you'll need to make a change in its executeProxyRequest() method so the "WWW-Authenticate" header is not copied.

// Pass the response code back to the client
httpServletResponse.setStatus(intProxyResponseCode);

// Pass response headers back to the client
Header[] headerArrayResponse = httpMethodProxyRequest.getResponseHeaders();
for (Header header : headerArrayResponse) {
    if (header.getName().equals("Transfer-Encoding") && header.getValue().equals("chunked") ||
            header.getName().equals("Content-Encoding") && header.getValue().equals("gzip") ||
            header.getName().equals("WWW-Authenticate")) { // don't copy WWW-Authenticate header
    } else {
        httpServletResponse.setHeader(header.getName(), header.getValue());
    }
}

I'm not sure how to suppress the browser prompt when not using the ProxyServlet. If you have a solution, please let me know.

Basic Authentication works well for GWT applications because you don't need additional logic to retain the authenticated state after the initial login. While Basic Authentication over SSL might offer a decent solution, the downside is you can't logout. Form-based Authentication allows you to logout.

Form-based Authentication

Before I show you how to implement form-based authentication, you should be aware that Google does not recommend this. Below is a warning from their LoginSecurityFAQ.

Do NOT attempt to use the Cookie header to transfer the sessionID from GWT to the server; it is fraught with security issues that will become clear in the rest of this article. You MUST transfer the sessionID in the payload of the request. For an example of why this can fail, see CrossSiteRequestForgery.

In my experiment, I didn't want to change the server-side Spring Security configuration, so I ignored this warning. If you know how to configure Spring Security so it looks for the sessionID in the payload of the request (rather than in a cookie), I'd love to hear about it. The upside of the example below is it should work with container-managed authentication as well.

The LoginRequest class for form-based authentication is similar to the previous one, except it has a different URL and sends the user's credentials in the request body.

private class LoginRequest {
    public LoginRequest(RequestCallback callback) {
        String url = "/services/j_spring_security_check";

        RequestBuilder rb = new RequestBuilder(RequestBuilder.POST, url);
        rb.setHeader("Content-Type", "application/x-www-form-urlencoded");
        rb.setRequestData("j_username=" + URL.encode(username.getValue()) +
                    "&j_password=" + URL.encode(password.getValue()));

        rb.setCallback(callback);
        try {
            rb.send();
        } catch (RequestException e) {
            Window.alert(e.getMessage());
        }
    }
}

If you deploy your GWT application in the same WAR your services are hosted in, this is all you'll need to do. If you're using the ProxyServlet, there's a couple of changes you'll need to make in order to set/send cookies when running in hosted mode.

First of all, you'll need to make sure you've configured the servlet to follow redirects (by subclassing or simply modifying its default). After that, add the following logic on line 358 (or just look for "if (followRedirects)") to expose the sessionID to the client. The most important part is setting the cookie's path to "/" so the client (running at localhost:8888) can see it.

if (followRedirects) {
    // happens on first login attempt
    if (stringLocation.contains("jsessionid")) { 
        Cookie cookie = new Cookie("JSESSIONID",
                stringLocation.substring(stringLocation.indexOf("jsessionid=") + 11));
        cookie.setPath("/");
        httpServletResponse.addCookie(cookie);
    // the following happens if you refresh your GWT app after already logging in once
    } else if (httpMethodProxyRequest.getResponseHeader("Set-Cookie") != null) {
        Header header = httpMethodProxyRequest.getResponseHeader("Set-Cookie");
        String[] cookieDetails = header.getValue().split(";");
        String[] nameValue = cookieDetails[0].split("=");

        Cookie cookie = new Cookie(nameValue[0], nameValue[1]);
        cookie.setPath("/");
        httpServletResponse.addCookie(cookie);
    }
    httpServletResponse.sendRedirect(stringLocation.replace(getProxyHostAndPort() +
            this.getProxyPath(), stringMyHostName));
    return;
}

Click here to see a screenshot of the diff of the ProxyServlet after this code has been added.

Figuring out that headers needed to be parsed after authenticating successfully and before redirecting was the hardest part for me. If you grab the JSESSIONID from the "Set-Cookie" header anywhere else, the JSESSIONID is one that hasn't been authenticated. While the login will work, subsequent calls to services will fail.

To make subsequent calls with the cookie in the header, you'll need to make an additional modification to ProxyServlet to send cookies as headers. First of all, add a setProxyRequestCookies() method:

/**
 * Retrieves all of the cookies from the servlet request and sets them on
 * the proxy request
 *
 * @param httpServletRequest The request object representing the client's
 *                            request to the servlet engine
 * @param httpMethodProxyRequest The request that we are about to send to
 *                                the proxy host
 */
@SuppressWarnings("unchecked")
private void setProxyRequestCookies(HttpServletRequest httpServletRequest, 
                                    HttpMethod httpMethodProxyRequest) {
    // Get an array of all of all the cookies sent by the client
    Cookie[] cookies = httpServletRequest.getCookies();
    if (cookies == null) {
        return;
    }
    
    for (Cookie cookie : cookies) {
        cookie.setDomain(stringProxyHost);
        cookie.setPath(httpServletRequest.getServletPath());
        httpMethodProxyRequest.setRequestHeader("Cookie", cookie.getName() +  
                "=" + cookie.getValue() + "; Path=" + cookie.getPath());
    }
}

Next, in the doGet() and doPost() methods, add the following line just after the call to setProxyRequestHeaders().

setProxyRequestCookies(httpServletRequest, getMethodProxyRequest);
 

After making these modifications to ProxyServlet, you can create LoginRequest and attempt to authenticate. To detect a failed attempt, I'm looking for text in Spring Security's "authentication-failure-url" page.

new LoginRequest(new RequestCallback() {

    public void onResponseReceived(Request request, Response response) {
        if (response.getStatusCode() != Response.SC_OK) {
            onError(request, new RequestException(response.getStatusText() + ":\n" + response.getText()));
            return;
        }
        
        if (response.getText().contains("Access Denied")) {
            Window.alert("You have entered an incorrect username or password. Please try again.");
        } else {
            // authentication worked, show a fancy dashboard screen
        }
    }

    public void onError(Request request, Throwable throwable) {
        Window.alert(throwable.getMessage());
    }
});

After making these changes, you should be able to authenticate with Spring Security's form-based configuration. While this example doesn't show how to logout, it should be easy enough to do by 1) deleting the JSESSIONID cookie or 2) calling the Logout URL you have configured in your services WAR.

Hopefully this howto gives you enough information to configure your GWT application to talk to Spring Security without modifying your existing backend application. It's entirely possible that Spring Security offers a more GWT-friendly authentication mechanism. If you know of a better way to integrate GWT with Spring Security, I'd love to hear about it.

Update on October 7, 2009: I did some additional work on this and got Remember Me working when using form-based authentication. I found I didn't need as much fancy logic in my ProxyServlet and was able to reduce the "followRequests" logic to the following:

if (followRedirects) {
    if (httpMethodProxyRequest.getResponseHeader("Set-Cookie") != null) {
        Header[] headers = httpMethodProxyRequest.getResponseHeaders("Set-Cookie");
        if (headers.length == 1) {
            extractCookieFromHeader(httpServletResponse, headers[0]);
        } else {
            // ignore the first header since there always seems two jsessionid headers
            // and the 2nd is the valid one
            for (int i = 1; i < headers.length; i++) {
                extractCookieFromHeader(httpServletResponse, headers[i]);
            }
        }
    }
    httpServletResponse.sendRedirect(
            stringLocation.replace(getProxyHostAndPort() + getProxyPath(), stringMyHostName));
    return;
}

I was also able to remove the setProxyRequestCookies() method completely as it no longer seems necessary.

Next, I'd like to figure out how to make Spring Security more Ajax-friendly where it can read an authentication token in the request body or header (instead of from a cookie). Also, it'd be sweet if I could convince it to return error codes instead of the login page (for example, when a certain header is present).

Posted in Java at Aug 06 2009, 08:50:15 AM MDT 10 Comments

Moving from Spring's XML to Annotations in AppFuse

Last night, I did a spike on AppFuse to change XML to Spring annotations (@Repository, @Service and @Autowired) in its service and data modules. While I was able to accomplish everything in a few hours (including converting tests), I did run into a couple issues.

AbstractTransactionalJUnit4..Tests vs. AbstractTransactionalDataSource..Tests
I've switched from my favorite Spring class to the annotation-happy AbstractTransactionalJUnit4SpringContextTests. However, this has presented an issue: when using ATDSSCT, I was able to call endTransaction() and startNewTransaction(). With ATJ4SCT, this doesn't seem possible. Below is a screenshot of the diff on a test method in the JPA implementation of UserDaoTest:

AbstractTransactionalJUnit4SpringContextTests vs. AbstractTransactionalDataSourceSpringContextTests

On the right, you'll notice that I had to comment out @ExpectedException to get the test to pass. This concerns me since this exception should be thrown. Is there a way to call endTransaction() and startNewTransaction() when subclassing AbstractTransactionalJUnit4SpringContextTests?

Instantiating GenericDao Implementations Programmatically
The second feature I tried to add is the ability to instantiate a GenericDao programatically rather than requiring a XML bean definition. In current versions of AppFuse, you can use the following bean definition to create a GenericDao for a model object.

<bean id="personDao" class="org.appfuse.dao.hibernate.GenericDaoHibernate">
    <constructor-arg value="org.appfuse.tutorial.model.Person"/> 
    <property name="sessionFactory" ref="sessionFactory"/>
</bean> 

When moving to a no-XML required architecture, it'd be nice to allow users to create GenericDao's programmatically. Below is the easiest way I've found to do this in a test:

GenericDao<User, Long> genericDao;
@Autowired
SessionFactory sessionFactory;

@Before
public void setUp() {
    genericDao = new GenericDaoHibernate<User, Long>(User.class);
    genericDao.setSessionFactory(sessionFactory);
}

However, there's a couple problems with this. First of all, mixing constructor injection and setter injection probably isn't a good idea. Changing the constructor to take a SessionFactory solves this problem, but now all subclasses need to have a more verbose constructor:

@Autowired
public UserDaoHibernate(SessionFactory sessionFactory) {
    super(User.class, sessionFactory);
}

Whereas before they had:

public UserDaoHibernate() {
    super(User.class);
}

In an ideal world, I could call new GenericDaoHibernate<User, Long>(User.class) and the SessionFactory would be wired in auto-magically. Is this possible with Spring 2.5?

The 2nd problem this presents is your client code will now be dependent on an implementation rather than the interface. I don't know how to solve that one, but I'd love to figure out a way to create GenericDaos with no XML and no implementation details in the client. Any ideas are most welcome.

If you'd like to see all the changes I made in converting from XML to Annotations, please see this patch.

Posted in Java at Nov 04 2008, 11:39:54 AM MST 14 Comments

Colorado Software Summit 2008 Wrapup

Snowman in Keystone Last week, I attended the Colorado Software Summit in Keystone and had a great time. Not only was the weather beautiful and the food delicious, the sessions I attended were awesome. If you ever get a chance to go to this conference, I highly recommend it. It's like being on vacation and learning with a bunch of old friends.

Yan Pujante also attended this conference and documents his experience, photography and presentations in Colorado Software Summit 2008.

Below is a list of my entries for all the sessions I attended.

For next year, I think the conference should shorten its sessions (from 90 to 60 minutes), invite more speakers and cut the price in half (to $999 per person). How do you think the Software Summit could be improved?

Posted in Java at Oct 28 2008, 11:03:23 PM MDT 2 Comments

Taking Apache Camel for a Ride with Bruce Snyder

Camel is a Java API that allows you to do message routing very easily. It implements many of the patterns found in Enterprise Integration Patterns. It doesn't require a container and can be run in any Java-based environment. Camel has a whole bunch of components - Bruce is showing a 6 x 10 grid with a component name in each grid. In other words, there's 60 components that Camel can use. Examples include: ActiveMQ, SQL, Velocity, File and iBATIS.

Chris Richardson asks "What's left inside of ServiceMix". Why use ServiceMix if you have Camel? ServiceMix is a container that can run standalone or inside an app server. You can run distributed ServiceMix as a federated ESB. Camel is much smaller and lightweight and is really just a Java API. ServiceMix 4 changed from a JBI-based architecture to OSGi (based on Apache Felix). They also expect to create your routes for ServiceMix 4 with Camel instead of XML. To process messages, you can use many different languages: BeanShell, JavaScript, Groovy, Python, PHP, Ruby, JSP EL, OGNL, SQL, XPath and XQuery.

Camel has a CamelContext that's similar to Spring's ApplicationContext. You can initialize it in Java and add your routes to it:

CamelContext context = new DefaultCamelContext();
context.addRoutes(new MyRouterBuilder());
context.start();

Or you can initialize it using XML:

<camelContext xmlns="http://activemq.apache.org/camel/schema/spring">
    <package>com.acme.routes</package>
</camelContext>

Camel's RouteBuilder contains a fluid API that allows you to define to/from and other criteria. At this point, Bruce is showing a number of examples using the Java API. He's showing a Content Based Router, a Message Filter, a Splitter, an Aggregator, a Message Translator, a Resequencer, a Throttler and a Delayer.

Bruce spent the last 10 minutes doing a demo using Eclipse, m2eclipse, the camel-maven-plugin and ActiveMQ. It's funny to see a command-line guy like Bruce say he can't live w/o m2eclipse. I guess Maven's XML isn't so great after all. ;-)

Camel is built on top of Spring and has good integration. Apparently, the Camel developers tried to get it added to Spring, but the SpringSource guys didn't want it. Coincidentally, Spring Integration was released about a year later.

Camel also allows you to use "beans" and bind them to Camel Endpoints with annotations. For example:

public class Foo {

    @MessageDriven (uri="activemq:cheese")
    public void onCheese(String name) {
        ...
    }
}

Other annotations include @XPath, @Header and @EndpointInject.

Camel can also be used for BAM (Business Activity Monitoring). Rather than using RouteBuilder, you can use ActivityBuilder to listen for activities and create event notifications.

Bruce had quite a few folks show up for this presentation. I had trouble finding a seat because I was late. I think he did a good job of showing what Camel is and how you might use it.

Posted in Java at Oct 23 2008, 02:25:30 PM MDT 2 Comments

What's Coming in Spring 3.0

This morning, I delivered my What's Coming in Spring 3.0 talk for the 2nd time at Colorado Software Summit. Since there is no Spring 3.0 source code to speak of, I was unable to do the "Choose Your Own Adventure" demo at the end. :(

The good news is I was able to easily upgrade the Spring Kickstart application from Spring 2.0 to Spring 2.5.5 (using annotations). When 3.0 is released, I hope to update this project to use 3.0 as well as show what I needed to change. If I get ambitious, I might even change the UI to use Flex or Ext JS to show a RESTful client. Below is my presentation - hope you enjoy.

Posted in Java at Oct 22 2008, 11:51:12 AM MDT 12 Comments

Building LinkedIn's Next Generation Architecture with OSGi by Yan Pujante

This week, I'm attending the Colorado Software Summit in Keystone, Colorado. Below are my notes from an OSGi at LinkedIn presentation I attended by Yan Pujante.

LinkedIn was created in March of 2003. Today there's close to 30M members. In the first 6 months, there was 60,000 members that signed up. Now, 1 million sign up every 2-3 weeks. LinkedIn is profitable with 5 revenue lines and there's 400 employees in Mountain View.

Technologies: 2 datacenters (~600 machines). SOA with Java, Tomcat, Spring Framework, Oracle, MySQL, Servlets, JSP, Cloud/Graph, OSGi. Development is done on Mac OS X, production is on Solaris.

The biggest challenges for LinkedIn are:

  • Growing Engineering Team on a monolithic code base (it's modular, but only one source tree)
  • Growing Product Team wanting more and more features faster
  • Growing Operations Team deploying more and more servers

Front-end has many BL services in one webapp (in Tomcat). The backend is many wars in 5 containers (in Jetty) with 1 service per WAR. Production and Development environments are very different. Total services in backend is close to 100, front-end has 30-40.

Container Challenges
1 WAR with N services does not scale for developers (conflicts, monolithic). N wars with 1 service does not scale for containers (no shared JARs). You can add containers, but there's only 12GB of RAM available.

Upgrading back-end service to new version requires downtime (hardware load-balancer does not account for version). Upgrading front-end service to new version requires redeploy. Adding new backend services is also painful because there's lots of configuration (load-balancer, IPs, etc.).

Is there a solution to all these issues? Yan believes that OSGi is a good solution. OSGi stands for Open Services Gateway initiative. Today that term doesn't really mean anything. Today it's a spec with several implementations: Equinox (Eclipse), Knoplerfish and Felix (Apache).

OSGi has some really, really good features. These include smart class loading (multiple versions of JARs is OK), it's highly dynamic (deploy/undeploy built-in), it has a service registry and is highly extensible/configurable. An OSGi bundle is simply a JAR file with an OSGi manifest.

In LinkedIn's current architecture, services are exported with Spring/RPC and services in same WAR can see each other. The problem with this architecture comes to light when you want to move services to a 2nd web container. You cannot share JARs and can't talk directly to the other web app. With OSGi, the bundles (JARs) are shared, services are shared and bundles can be dynamically replaced. OSGi solves the container challenge.

One thing missing from OSGi is allowing services to live on multiple containers. To solve this, LinkedIn has developed a way to have Distributed OSGi. Multicast is used to see what's going on in other containers. Remote servers use the OSGi lifecycle and create dynamic proxies to export services using Spring RPC over HTTP. Then this service is registered in the service registry on the local server.

With Distributed OSGi, there's no more N-1 / 1-N problem. Libraries and services can be shared in one container (memory footprint is much smaller). Services can be shared across containers. The location of the services is transparent to the clients. There's no more configuration to change when adding/removing/moving services. This architecture allows the software to be the load balancer instead of using a hardware load balancer.

Unfortunately, everything is not perfect. OSGi has quite a few problems. OSGi is great, but the tooling is not quite there yet. Not every library is a bundle and many JARs doesn't have OSGi manifests. OSGi was designed for embedded devices and using it for the server-side is very recent (but very active).

OSGi is pretty low-level, but there is some work being done to hide the complexity. Spring DM helps, as do vendor containers. SpringSource has Spring dm Server, Sun has GlassFish, and Paremus has Infiniflow. OSGi is container centric, but next version will add distributed OSGi, but will have no support for load-balancing.

Another big OSGi issue is version management. If you specify version=1.0.0, it means [1.0.0, ∞]. You should at least use version=[1.0.0,2.0.0]. When using OSGi, you have to be careful and follow something similar to Apache's APR Project Versioning Guidelines so that you can easily identify release compatibility.

At LinkedIn, the OSGi implementation is progressing, but there's still a lot of work to do. First of all, a bundle repository needs to be created. Ivy and bnd is used to generate bundles. Containers are being evaluated and Infiniflow is most likely the one that will be used. LinkedIn Spring (an enhanced version of Spring) and SCA will be used to deploy composites. Work on load-balancing and distribution is in progress as is work on tooling and build integration (Sigil from Paremus).

In conclusion, LinkedIn will definitely use OSGi but they'll do their best to hide the complexity from the build system and from developers. For more information on OSGi at LinkedIn, stay tuned to the LinkedIn Engineering Blog. Yan has promised to blog about some of the challenges LinkedIn has faced and how he's fixed them.

Update: Yan has posted his presentation on the LinkedIn Engineering Blog.

Posted in Java at Oct 20 2008, 11:20:09 AM MDT 8 Comments

The Colorado Software Summit and Spring 3.0's SVN

In a little over two weeks, my favorite conference begins in Keystone, Colorado. The reason I like it so much is because it's an annual gathering (this will be my 4th year) with friends and it's somewhat like a vacation, except you get to learn a lot. This year I'll be speaking about Appcelerator and Spring 3.0.

A few weeks ago, I wondered How open source is Spring and expressed my frustration in not being able to find the source code. At almost the same time, SpringSource's controversial maintenance policy was announced. Developers booed, Free Spring was founded and SpringSource changed their tune. In addition, someone sent me the FishEye URL for Spring 3.0's SVN. From that, I was able to figure out how to get Spring 3.0's source code.

svn co https://src.springframework.org/svn/spring-framework/trunk spring-3.0

The only bad news is FishEye shows the last change as "17 September 2008 ... (21 days ago)". If Spring 3.0 M1 is supposed to be released any day now, you'd think there would be more SVN commits. Anyone from SpringSource care to comment?

Posted in Java at Oct 09 2008, 08:23:21 AM MDT 6 Comments