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From Apache Wiki <>
Subject [Jakarta-commons Wiki] Update of "Logging/UndeployMemoryLeak" by SimonKitching
Date Wed, 27 Jul 2005 11:12:07 GMT
Dear Wiki user,

You have subscribed to a wiki page or wiki category on "Jakarta-commons Wiki" for change notification.

The following page has been changed by SimonKitching:

New page:
#format wiki
#language en

== Disclaimer ==
|| Note: the contents of this page is my personal opinion only. Other commons-logging developers
may have different views on this. -- Simon Kitching ||

== Overview ==
Despite Java's garbage collection facilities, it is possible to get memory leaks due to unexpected
chains of references.

One issue that has been struck fairly frequently is where people repeatedly undeploy/redeploy
components within a container 
(eg webapps within a servlet engine or j2ee server) and eventually get an out-of-memory situation.
Commons Logging can be 
the cause of this when misused, and as a result a number of people have claimed that commons-logging
is at fault.

One commonly-referenced example is this:

While I sympathise with anyone who has spent all day looking for a memory leak, I disagree
with the conclusions that any of this
is the fault of commons-logging.

Read on for more information.

== Keep component libs in components ==

Servlet and J2EE containers have a clear purpose: to provide a set of services to ''independent''
and ''isolated'' components.
That set of services is defined by the servlet and j2ee specifications. These specifications
also define a mechanism for
components to provide any libraries they depend on -- WEB-INF/lib.

It is therefore a complete mystery to me why people seem so keen to push libraries up out
of the components where they belong
and into the container's library directories. It's like pushing user code into the operating
system kernel. Just don't do it.

A component naturally has references to objects in the container; the fact that the container
provides classes (which are objects)
that are visible to the component is the most obvious example. This causes no problems for
garbage-collecting of the component. 
Problems come when the links become ''bidirectional'', and classes within the container also
have references to classes and objects within
the components. The servlet and j2ee frameworks are carefully designed to avoid this where
possible; where that is unavoidable
the container *knows* about those situations and ensures the necessary references are cleared
when a component is undeployed [1]

But if users of the container start tossing libraries that aren't designed to avoid such references
into classloaders that
are "above" the classloader of the component and the container does not know about these libraries
then bidirectional
references are very likely to occur and failure to undeploy correctly will result.

In short, if a component's dependent libraries are ''all'' in the component-specific lib directory
then undeploy 
''will not cause any problems''. No special actions need to be taken by a well-behaved component;
when the component's 
classloader is discarded by the container as a result of an "undeploy" command commons-logging
will not be holding any 
references that prevent garbage collection of that classloader.

[1] Except for the brain-dead design of JDBC where jdbc drivers loaded via a custom classloader
get stored in a map within java.sql.!DriverManager thereby causing cyclic references to that

== Container libs are responsible for managing themselves ==

If code at the container level uses commons-logging, then that code is expected to be component-aware.
The Apache Jakarta Tomcat
servlet container is a fine example. It uses commons-logging internally, and therefore needs
to deploy those libs at the
container level. However it then correctly takes on the responsibility of managing commons-logging,
by ensuring !LogFactory.release
is called when the component is undeployed.

There are certain libraries that can be considered as "container extensions". One example
is the hibernate library. In such
cases, when such a library is deployed into the container it is effectively making the container
depend on commons-logging.
And in that case it should somehow ensure that !LogFactory.release is called when the component
is undeployed. Extending a
container just can't be considered as easy as dropping a jar into the container's classpath
(though it would be nice if
it *were* that easy).

== Using ServletContextListener to call Release as a workaround ==

If you are determined to abuse the container and commons-logging by putting it into a container-level
library directory
without arranging for the container to call its release method on component undeploy then
there is an ugly workaround.

There would actually be a nice workaround if Sun had only seen fit to provide a mechanism
to attach data to an
arbitrary classloader. Suppose that class java.lang.!ClassLoader had the following methods:
  public void putObject(Object key, Object o);
  public Object getObject(Object key);
In that case, it would be possible for code running at the container level to attach component-specific
data to
the component's classloader. This would provide a way to avoid those problematic bidirectional
references between
objects at the container level and those at the component level; it's no problem to have circular
reference chains
between objects owned by the component classloader; java's garbage collector can handle that
fine. But, alas, there
is no such functionality. There is simply no way for code at the container level to store
data within the container.
Well, actually there is - by storing it on static fields of classes loaded by the component's
classloader; but you've
made that impossible by deploying commons-logging at the container level instead of the component

The commons-logging library does provide one last fallback solution; the component being undeployed
must tell the
commons-logging code at the container level that it is being undeployed so that cleanup can
occur. This can be
done by adding a section in the webapp's web.xml file to register a !ServletContextListener
class which calls 
on webapp undeploy. Yes, this is a little ugly. But it's not the fault of commons-logging.
By the way, I would not 
include this class directly in my webapp. I would bundle it as a separate jar (yes, a jar
of one class) and deploy
it in the WEB-INF/lib directory along with the commons-logging jar file. In future releases
of commons-logging
this class may in fact be bundled with commons-logging.

== But log4j doesn't have this problem ==

When you deploy log4j in the component's WEB-INF/lib everything works fine. But the same is
true for commons-logging.

When you deploy log4j in the container's lib path for a container that is not "log4j-aware"
and you don't set up
a "Context Repository Selector" for log4j you lose a major feature - logging configuration
becomes totally global
across all components in the container. Only one logging configuration file is read (from
the container's classpath)
and every component in the container sees the same logging configuration. This is just not
comparable to 
commons-logging at all. In most cases this is not acceptable behaviour; however commons-logging
might provide a
feature to behave in this manner if anybody actually thinks this is useful.

When you deploy log4j in the container's lib path and use the "Context Repository Selector"
behaviour to
get per-component logging configuration AND log4j is also in the component's path you get
class cast exceptions
(commons-logging currently suffers from the same issue). This is really a separate problem.

When you deploy log4j in the container's lib path and use the "Context Repository Selector"
behaviour to
get per-component logging configuration and log4j is not in the component's path then you
will get memory 
leaks in exactly the same way as occurs for commons-logging, and for exactly the same reasons.

== Can't weak references solve this problem? ==

Sometimes yes. But sometimes no. If the "commons-optional.jar" included with recent releases
commons-logging is installed alongside commons-logging's jar then LogFactory will use weak
references to refer to the component classloaders which automatically avoids this memory leak
problem ''provided commons-logging is not in the component's classpath''.

Unfortunately due to the lack of facilities to store data on the component's classloader,
commons-logging !LogFactory class deployed in the container classpath needs to keep a map
logging configurations keyed by the classloader. But equally unfortunately the values in
the map need to be held using strong references as, due to the way logging works, nothing
else is
holding a reference to the root of the logger tree. If all of the logging adapters are loaded
the container classpath too then the weak-reference solution works and no memory leak occurs
unload despite the abuse of the container model. However if any of the logger objects were
from the component's classloader then there is a chain of strong references that leads back
the component's classloader which prevents its garbage collection.

Preventing the loading of logger objects from the component has some ugly implications (for
example the configuration file might not be valid if it references a logger only present in
the component) so this is not currently available as an option. However the same effect can
be had just be ensuring the component doesn't bundle any such classes. And furthermore the

ServletContextListener approach also solves this case without hacking commons-logging's
behaviour any further.

== What about parent-first classloaders? ==

These are such an abomination I won't even describe the problems these cause.
Don't do it. Always use child-first classloaders with components.

== What about the class-casting problem ==

The problem where commons-logging would fail to initialise due to being unable to cast
a Log class loaded from a component into a Log class loaded from the container is a 
separate issue and is not addressed here. And again avoiding abuse of the container
model by keeping component libs inside the component will mean this problem never

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