OSGi Takes Off at EclipseCon

The Open Services Gateway Initiative framework is used in a multitude of applications and is the backbone of the Eclipse model, but the technology faces competition from within.

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—These are big times for the technology known as the Open Services Gateway Initiative framework, as the Eclipse Foundation has adopted it and several other large enterprise vendors and users have followed suit.

The story of OSGi is a saga reminiscent of so many in the computer industry. Indeed, the OSGi technology is marked by periods of innovation, cool usage and mainstream adoption, but also by conflict, politics, competing corporate agendas and controversy. Theres even a weapons of mass destruction angle.

OSGi was established in 1999 to specify an industry standards Java application platform that would allow multiple applications to securely run in a single JVM (Java Virtual Machine). And the programs could share resources such as data, functionality and threads.

Moreover, the OSGi Service Platform provides technology that allows applications to be constructed from small, reusable and collaborative components.

Application areas for OSGi range from use as a service platform on embedded devices to plug-in mechanisms for larger programs. The initial goal of OSGi was the embedded market, but it has evolved from there.

"We think the industry momentum around OSGi is really starting to take off, and in 2007 it will be a key part of the technology stack," said Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, which is holding its annual EclipseCon conference here March 5-8. "Its the best application component model that has a chance of competing with .Net."

The Eclipse plug-in model is based on OSGi. And OSGi will be heavily represented at EclipseCon this year, as the OSGi Developer Conference 2007 is taking place concurrent with EclipseCon.

"OSGi is mature, its been around since 1999 in the embedded world, and is widely adopted," said Richard Nicholson, CEO of Paremus, a London-based maker of software for SOAs (service-oriented architectures). "In the last 18 months there has been significant interest, support and commitment to OSGi in the enterprise software world with BEA [SOA360], IBM [WebSphere, Lotus], Oracle [Fusion], Red Hat [JBoss] and Spring [Interface21] all using or committing to using it."

For Paremus, OSGi is one of the key standard initiatives the companys products use, the other being SCA (Service Component Architecture), Nicholson said. "OSGi provides us with a lightweight, dynamic, component life cycle allowing us to provide true pluggable vendor-independent component or service reuse, and to deliver on the next-generation application server SOA promise," Nicholson said.

The Paremus OSGi-based solution, Infiniflow, features individual services that are defined as OSGi bundles.

Paremus, BEA Systems, IBM, Oracle and Siemens are all talking about OSGi at the show. Moreover, Paremus will present a talk on Newton, its open-source project based on OSGi.

In January, Paremus teamed with Gatespace Telematics of Gothenberg, Sweden, the provider of Knoplerfish, an open-source OSGi service platform, to launch the OSGi4Enterprise initiative. This initiative offers support for Eclipse Equinox, Apache Felix and Knoplerfish—three open-source-based OSGi implementations.

"OSGi directly addresses the core issue of complexity in the enterprise by allowing composite applications to be dynamically assembled in a coherent fashion, whilst also enabling effective code reuse," Nicholson said.

/zimages/4/28571.gifA group pledges free patent access to speed OSGi adoption. Click here to read more.

Eclipses Milinkovich is not the only one who sees 2007 as a big year for OSGi, particularly in the enterprise. Rod Johnson, founder of the Spring Framework and CEO of Interface21, in Kent, U.K., said, "Spring OSGi is going to be very big in 2007."

In an interview with eWEEK, Johnson said, "OSGi provides a sophisticated solution for modularization, hot deployment and replace, and versioning. This has always been lacking in J2EE [Java 2 Enterprise Edition]. There is much demand for this functionality in a server-side environment, and in the last few months theres been a groundswell of interest in OSGi in the enterprise."

In addition, Johnson said, "We believe that Spring and OSGi [are] a match made in heaven. Spring is the most capable component model available; OSGi is the most capable solution for managing coarse-grained modules, but has traditionally been hard to use. Put the two together and you get the simplicity, POJO [plain old Java objects] approach, enterprise focus and huge mindshare of Spring combined with the dynamic power of OSGi."

Interface21 founded the Spring OSGi project to achieve this integration, and the company is aiming for a release around the time of the JavaOne conference in May, according to Johnson. "We are working closely with the OSGi community and partners including BEA, Oracle and IBM," he said. "Interface21 has joined the OSGi Alliance, and we are working to define the Spring/OSGi bindings as part of OSGi Release 5."

"While OSGi is growing in importance, it is not yet an unavoidable specification, but it is slowly getting there," said Sacha Labourey, chief technology officer at the JBoss division of Red Hat. "While Eclipse is making a substantive use of OSGi as its kernel, the IDE space is very much to the server side; consequently, judging the success of OSGi on the server by looking at the success of Eclipse is not adequate."

JBoss has been working on its next-generation MC (micro-container) for quite some time now, and it will be first used in JBoss Application Server 5.0, Labourey said.

That release is a POJO-based that provides a feature set that goes beyond the OSGi features, he said. "On top of that MC, we then map various personalities, such as JMX [Java Management Extensions] and ... OSGi—which is currently in development. The reason for that architecture is that requirements stay, but standards come and go; hence, we need to make sure the foundation on which we base our platforms remain specification-agnostic to better morph into other personalities, whenever needed. At this point, we support of OSGi mostly because we want to have an easy and portable way for our users and ISVs to provide extensions to JBoss."

Moreover, Labourey said, "we would be more than happy to standardize the features our micro-container has that OSGi doesnt, including at the OSGi Alliance," of which JBoss is a member.

Next Page: BEAs OSGi work.