Opening the doors

OSGi Alliance opens up on specifications

Chris Mayer

For more than a decade, the doors were closed on OSGi specification development to the public. Now, the OSGi Alliance are welcoming feedback from onlookers.

The OSGi Alliance has given the green light to a new more transparent development process, allowing non-members to comment immediately on specifications.

By allowing immediate discussion on drafts, the OSGi hope to generate greater adoption in the modular framework, as well as improving the standardisation process. The Alliance’s repository of active RFCs and RFP is now viewable through a GitHub mirror, while non-members are encouraged to submit feedback through the OSGi Bugzilla.

The public can comment immediately on requests for comments (RFCs) and proposals (RFPs) on OSGI specifications. While developers will be allowed to air their views (or possibly grievances), the bulk of the technical work, such as approving specifications still falls on OSGi Alliance members.

The OSGi framework has become the most recognisable module system for Java, gaining prominence in large-scale distributed and embedded environments thanks to the creation of the OSGi Alliance in 1999. OSGi components are now ubiquitous in the software industry, featuring in projects such as the Eclipse IDE, the Spring Framework and numerous application servers.

While those at Oracle struggle to implement a modular architecture for Java (which was last year deferred until 2015 at the earliest), OSGi provides an alternative for those looking for dynamism.

The move puts the OSGi Alliance on a par with other open source organisations such as the Apache Foundation and Eclipse Foundation. Mike Milinkovich, Eclipse’s executive director has already given his blessing, telling eWEEK, “the days of closed-door standards development are over.”

Back in 2011,  the inner workings of the Java Community Process were disclosed to the public thanks to JSR 348, making it easier to track changes to license and create greater openness in elections.

“We anticipate a ripple effect in OSGi adoption as more third-party standards organizations reference OSGi specifications in their implementations and the alliance may include more IP-based comments in its final specifications,” said Dan Bandera, OSGi Alliance president in a statement.

Another decision which may foster greater adoption, at least at the enterprise level, is the return of Peter Kriens, the former OSGi Alliance director. Kriens left the organisation in 2012 to get “back in the trenches” but has rejoined to help drive adoption. Speaking to InfoQ in July, Kriens said:

The most important thing for OSGi is to drive adoption by grass roots efforts. This is clearly one of the goals of my work for the OSGi Alliance. By making it easier to get started with OSGi for the most common cases we hope to increase knowledge of OSGi and show the benefits of the service model. A lot of developers love the architecture of OSGi, it is the getting started part that throws them off I think.

Given that Kriens spent 11 years at the helm of OSGi, it’s fair to say that he knows the biggest challenge for the OSGi framework. Although present in many projects critical to developers, usage of OSGi has yet to really trickle down to the wider Java community. Complexity continues to hinder its progress, but greater visibility should invite more developers to help craft the module framework’s direction.

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