Crossing the Chasm

OSGi - Winning Over The Majority

Following Kirk Knoernschild's assertion that OSGi's lack of platform and tooling support, and its 'outdated' image are preventing it from being embraced by the enterprise, Ian Skerrett has posted a blog proposing ways to encourage OSGi adoption.

Currently, Skerrett perceives OSGi as being primarily used by those on the cutting-edge of development. If it wants to go mainstream and be adopted by your average developer, it needs to meet a whole new set of criteria. If it cannot satisfy this criteria, it won't 'cross the chasm' and go mainstream.

At the moment, there are several notable OSGi-based projects. The EclipseRT project offers a collection of OSGi-based runtimes and frameworks built by various Eclipse open source projects, including the Riena platform for building multi-tier enterprise client/server applications, and the Swordfish SOA runtime framework. Apache Aries aims to provide a home for open source implementations of OSGi EEG specifications. Neither of these projects are in danger of pushing OSGi into the mainstream, although IBM's open beta of their WebSphere Application Server V7 Feature Pack for OSGi Applications and Java Persistence API (JPA) 2.0 product could earn OSGi a few new followers.

So, what steps can OSGi take to win over the mainstream?

Skerrett agrees with Knoernschild that OSGi is damaged by its image. Organisations are generally more interested in agile and cloud computing, than modularity. An image revamp is perhaps necessary here.

In Skerrett's opinion, the learning curve for OSGi is too steep. This problem could be eased by better supporting documentation: demos, tutorials, and books would make it easier for developers to get to grips with OSGi. He also suggests taking a more solutions-based approach to OSGi, which means delivering it alongside consulting, training, tools and long-term support; not as an isolated technology.

Skerrett proposes that the OSGi community could help promote the framework through writing blogs, speaking at conferences and writing case studies sharing their own positive experiences of OSGi. Tara of Instil Software points out that this community-created buzz, would have the additional benefit of acting as informal guidance for those looking to get into OSGi.

Is OGSi ever going to make waves in the mainstream? One thing is for sure: OSGi does not have the buzz of new technologies, such as cloud computing. So, has modularity and OSGi missed the boat? Skerrett takes a cautious view on this: “OSGi is here to stay but it is still unknown how prevalent it will be in the next 5 years.”

Jessica Thornsby

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