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From Leo Simons <>
Subject Container overview (was: Re: JMX as a kernel)
Date Sat, 09 Aug 2003 00:48:50 GMT
Jason Dillon wrote:

> PS. Can someone write up something about the current state of the 
> major component containers out there with a feature blurb... no soap 
> boxes, just the facts jack.

What, no soap boxes? How on earth can anyone comply with that? ;) No wait,
you weren't asking me anyway, were you. Ah, e-mail already typed. Bummer.

= My Opinion =

You should *not* be evaluating component containers. You should save 
this discussion
for a later date and just code your way to 1.0. The basic design idea 
below should show that most of the architectural concepts behind all 
these containers are
very similar. I've been experimenting (no, I will not plug it, you will 
just get confused) with
some reflection that will allow any component written for any of the 
below to run in any
of the other containers, and that is feasible, straightforward and 

So write your components to plug in whatever you have, do a nice IoC, 
setup, and you will be able to defer refactoring around an external 
container until much later.

But that's my opinion, and I have now said it three times, and your a 
responsible adult
(yep, its a guess, you could also be 11 years old :D). Switching soapbox 
mode off.

= Disclaimer =

Comparing component containers is comparing apples with pears. Avalon is 
by far the
biggest 'generic' project at the moment, for example, but recent 
developments utilize AOP
and interceptor architecture to support a much 'lighter' 
container-component api and
contract. Indeed, picocontainer was started by an avalon elder from the 
firm belief that
things should be simpler and smaller. So to actually evaluate all this 
stuff, you really should
spend a day or so delving into the websites and the code of all these 
projects, and backing
tech like nanning ( and aspectj ( 
I would start
by looking at pico/nano and xwork, then take a look at the tutorials for 
The other projects have a smaller community atm, and I tend to value 
community size
and vibe.

Furthermore, I have strong opinions about stuff, and allegations to 
various projects, hence
this is not an objective overview, even though I tried to make it 
somewhat objective.

= Features/ design idea shorthands =

IoC = Inversion of Control, the idea that an application is controlled 
from the top down
SoC = Seperation of Coccerns, the idea that a class (aspect) should do 
one job and do it well
SAI = Seperation of API from Implementation, the idea that you define 
and code to work
AOP = Aspect Oriented Programming, mostly lightweight nowadays where you 
add a chain
    of interceptors around a method call that can handle orthogonal concerns
DecP = Declarative Programming, where you use a declarative-style 
language (usually xml) to
    determine things like component wiring (ie your average tomcat 
config file, generalized)
EBP = Event Based Programming, basically making the inter-object method 
call asynchronous
    and encapsulating such a call into some kind of event object that 
can be queued, modfied,

= No particular order, incomplete list = - IoC, SoC, SAI, AOP, DecP, 
EBP. Nearing
1.0 release. Used in webwork2 (a competitor to struts). EBP very basic 
only. Lean and mean,
but not mature and some client-server web-layer specific assumptions. 
Don't like the XXXAware
interfaces. Very vibrant and active community and many famous peeps with 
J2EE experience
around at opensymphony. and -
IoC, SoC, SAI, AOP, DecP. 1.0 beta releases. Lean and mean and very 
extensible and
embeddable, developed by smart XP peeps, some stuff already in use in 
some apps, but
otherwise pretty much alpha. I love picocontainer and the way they're 
doing the project.
The dev community is intentionally kept small atm, but many peeps are 
watching this one. - IoC, SoC, SAI, DecP. Container supporting
avalon-framework components. Used to be 
yet-another-novel-avalon-container, but I
think they're growing to be container-component-contract-agnostic. 
Corporate backed
development. Smart guys, not so much focussed on releases as on getting 
all the
functionality they need (which is a lot) in place. Very much a pragmatic 
project. - Not yet public container development
(dubbed 'loom' IIRC) by a smart ex-avaloner 'n others. Haven't seen any 
code yet
but my guess is it'll be good. The website says "move along" so you 
prolly should. - haven't looked at in too much depth. 
Seems similar to
nanocontainer and xwork. Think it has one active developer and a beta 
release. Some
smart points made, but too much xml for my taste. Hoping to see some of 
this rolled into
Xwork and/or pico. - IoC, SoC, SAI, DecP, EBP (EBP for fortress 
only). By far
the oldest 'generic container' project. Big committer base, mature 
codebase, mature
ASF project (which can be a good thing and a bad thing ;) rather extensive
'avalon-framework' (comparatively heavy compared to more recent 
that defines the contracts between a component and a container. Has 3
container projects to consider: avalon-phoenix, a mature microkernel design,
avalon-fortress, similar in weight and featureset to something like 
nanocontainer with a
1.0 release (successor to avalon-ecm, the container used in (among other 
apache-cocoon), and avalon-merlin, a more recent development which we _seem_
to be converging on as the successor to all other previously produced 
containers. Merlin
is further described in the email by Stephen Mcconnell. Arguably the 
most extensive and most dynamic IoC container implementation around (and 
also the most complex). Re: my earlier blurb on 'geronimo and avalon' 
for more
yadayada. - haven't looked at 
in much detail, but seems
very similar in scope and setup to avalon at first glance. Framework 
being refactored out
of hibernate, one developer, still in alpha with no releases I think. No 
offense to Howard
intended, but I think he's cut himself a rather big piece of the puzzle 
to recode from scratch
at once. But I am an uninformed whiner, so I'm not going to comment 
further in the hope that
Howard will just eventually see the light and direct his energy towards 
collaboration with the
avalon peeps :P

I am spending too much time on writing messages to this mailing list (it 
is nearly 3am over here).
I promise this is the last message from me for two weeks :D


- Leo

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