Build Infrastructure Project

So the Build Infrastructure Project for OpenJDK has finally gotten started. Please go to the project page for details, this is just some ramblings and babbling that people may find interesting. Hopefully not containing too many outright lies and mistakes, but if there are any, they belong to me and me alone. Most importantly:

The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle.

So what is this Build Infrastructure project all about? Does "makefiles".equals("BuildInfrastructure")? No, but close, maybe "BuildInfrastructure".startsWith("makefiles")&&"BuildInfrastructure".endsWith("makefiles") :^)

For a long time now, most changes to the JDK makefiles and build process has been evolving slowly, some may say glacially, and it has certainly been fragmented. :^( I've been involved for many years now in trying to do some simplifications, and changes to the original Sun JDK Makefiles via the initial Peabody (JRL) project, and then OpenJDK.

I can't speak to the very original JDK Makefiles (JDK 1.1), but from where I entered the picture (and this is just my opinion) the makefiles for the most part, served the Release Engineering (RE) team for building the product, and developers just had to navigate around and find useful patterns that allowed them to get their job done, often times only building small parts of the JDK any way they could (and avoiding complete JDK builds at all costs). The important builds came from RE, and as long as their builds were successful, always from scratch, all was well with the world. But the developers suffered from:

  • No good or reliable incremental builds
  • Slow builds of Java source
  • Incorrect assumptions about *.java timestamps and what needs to be compiled
  • Implicit compilations by javac confusing matters
  • The "one pile" of "classes/" build scheme (related to the implicit issue)
  • Poor automation around source list selections and when and how javah is run
  • Like plastic bags, it was important to avoid sticking your head into the makefiles too completely:

Multiple events happened over time that triggered evolutionary changes to the JDK build processes. I don't have actual dates for these, but you get the general idea:

  • Hotspot, fastdebug builds, plug&play shared libraries (removal of java_g)

    These may seem unrelated, but when the Hotspot team started building "fastdebug" VM libraries (using -g -O and including assertions), that could just be plugged into any JDK image, that was a game changer. It became possible to plug&play native components when building this way, instead of the java_g builds where all the components had to be built the same way, an all or nothing run environment that was horribly slow and limiting. So we tried to create a single build flow, with just variations on the builds (I sometimes called them "build flavors" of product, debug, and fastdebug). Of course, at the same time, the machines got faster, and perhaps now using a complete debug build of a jdk make more sense? In any case, that fastdebug event influenced matters. We do want different build flavors, but we don't want separate make logic for them.

  • Ant scripts

    Ant scripts seem to create intense discussions. I originally found Ant tolerable, and actually pretty efficient for small vanilla Java projects. The fact that IDEs (like NetBeans) worked so well with them also made them interesting, I jumped on board and let the ants crawl all over me, or rather my manager had me work on the JavaFX Ant scripts and they crawled all over me. :^( (Trust me, large disjoint sets of Ant scripts are very hard to manage.) Over time, I discovered that the Ant "<parallel>" capabilities are not useful, the XML scripting is verbose and difficult to use when you go beyond that simple Java project model, and I probably tracked down more issues involving Ant and Ant scripts since they were introduced into the JDK build than any other change to the build process. Ant can be very tricky. It is a Java app, which is kind of cool, but when you are actually building a JDK, it becomes more of an annoyance. I have always resisted any situation where Make runs Ant which runs Make, or where Ant runs Make which runs Ant, I figured my sanity was more important. So the bottom line is, I think we need a better answer, and it probably looks more like Make than Ant, and will likely not even include Ant. Sorry if that offends the Ant lovers. :^(

  • Peabody (JRL) builds and the need to build on a wider variety of platforms, and by a larger population of developers.

    Before Peabody and the JRL sources were exposed, the number of developers was limited and the fact that it was so difficult to build wasn't as big a factor. A developer would spend a day or so getting his system ready to do a build, and then would never have to look at it again, until he had a new system. It was a one time build setup, per developer. But as the number of people wanting to build the JDK exploded (note I said "build" not develop) it was obvious that the complex build setups were more of a problem. In addition, the antiquated Linux/Solaris/Windows systems used previously did not match what this new crop of JDK builders had access to. The various makefile sanity checks that worked so well for RE now needed to become warnings instead of fatal build errors.

  • OpenJDK, and a further explosion of developers and builders of the source.

    These same build issues continued with OpenJDK, we tried to make life easier, and provided the README-builds.html document to try and help guide people. But we knew, and we were being told day after day, it was not as good as it could be.

  • Separate repos for hotspot, langtools, jaxp, jaxws, corba, ...

    The fact that we used nested repositories has been an issue from day one. The isolation it provides for various teams and the extra dimension to distributed development it creates does have it's benefits, but it also comes with some issues. Many tools that say they "support Mercurial" don't actually support nested repositories, and without using something like the Mercurial "subrepos" functionality, coordinating changesets in between repositories is still an issue. The Forest Extension upon which we relied has not become any kind of official extension and continues to be problematic. But for now we are sticking with nested repositories but expect some changes in the future here.

  • The jaxp and jaxws source drop bundles

    These source drops served their purpose, but we need a better answer here. It does create a complexity to building that needs to be fixed.

  • The complications of building a product from open and closed sources

    This is unique to our JDK builds that use all or most of the OpenJDK sources but then augment the build with additional sources. We have tried to have this not impact the actual overall build process, this is our pain, but certainly impacts what we do in the OpenJDK from time to time.

  • And in comes GNU make's "$(eval)" function.

    At the time I thought this feature was significant, I did some experiments and discovered that it only worked well with GNU make 3.81, and we seemed to be stuck on GNU make 3.78.1 or 3.79, and in some cases people were using GNU make 3.80. This GNU Make eval function allows for the value to be evaluated and parsed again as make syntax. This might not seem to be a sane or important feature, but it actually is a very special and powerful feature. So an effort was made to get us up-to-date and working well on GNU make 3.81. In any case, this turned out to be a critical feature for what people will see moving forward in the Build Infrastructure Project.

So this is what we need to keep in mind:

  • Different build flavors, same build flow
  • Ability to use 'make -j N' on large multi-CPU machines is critical, as is being able to quickly and reliably get incremental builds done, this means:
    • target dependencies must be complete and accurate
    • nested makes should be avoided
    • ant scripts should be avoided for multiple reasons (it is a form of nested make), but we need to allow for IDE builds at the same time
    • rules that generate targets will need to avoid timestamp changes when the result has not changed
    • Java package compilations need to be made parallel and we also need to consider some kind of javac server setup (something that had been talked about a long time ago)
  • Continued use of different compilers: gcc/g++ (various versions), Sun Studio (various versions), and Windows Visual Studio (various versions)
  • Allow for clean cross compilation, this means making sure we just build it and not run it as part of the build
  • Nested repositories need to work well, so we need a way to share common make logic between repositories
  • The build dependencies should be managed as part of the makefiles

So as the Build Infrastructure Project progresses, expect some revolutionary changes.



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Various blogs on JDK development procedures, including building, build infrastructure, testing, and source maintenance.


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