Build architectures and managing dependencies
By darcy on Dec 03, 2008
Since the OpenJDK source was released, there have been various discussions about aspects of the build architecture, including how dependencies on third parties libraries should be managed. For example, on a Linux system should the JDK use its own libzip or the libzip that comes with the distribution? I think the appropriate answers to these and related question hinge on whether the final deliverable from the OpenJDK project is viewed as the source code itself or a binary built from the source.
Traditionally before OpenJDK, the end result of the Sun's JDK project that most people used were the JDK and JRE binaries. These binaries were meant to be universal in the sense of being usable on a given processor family across a version range of operating systems. For example, there was a single windows x86 binary for use on, say, Windows NT, Windows XP, etc., a single Solaris SPARC binary for use across Solaris 8 through Solaris 10, and effectively a single Linux x86 binary for use across different Linux distributions.
This "single binary" model drives decisions about what platform to produce the binary on, generally an older release, and what assumptions can be made about available system resources, generally rather weak ones. With a single binary deliverable, since fewer environment resources can be relied on, making the JDK build self-contained is necessary for it to be reliable in a wide variety of environments. With this delivery architecture, there is some justification to, for example, including a copy a library like libzip in the JDK build rather than relying on a system library, even though there are increased maintenance costs.
However, when an OpenJDK/IcedTea binary is being built on a particular Linux distribution for use only on that distribution, the constraints are different. If the build is being done by the OS vendor, the vendor controls the OS contents and knows whether or not system libraries like libzip are reliable and kept up to date. Since stronger assumptions can be made about the host environment, weaker conditions need to be fulfilled by the JDK source tree. For an OS vendor, relying on a single copy of native libraries for the OS and the JDK is preferable to building (and maintaining) multiple copies.
Going forward, I'd expect the JDK build to evolve to better accommodate options to use host platform resources. Perhaps modules systems in the future can help manage such dependencies more transparently.