Chapter 6. Packaging and Deploying Spring-based OSGi applications

A traditional Spring application uses either a single application context, or a parent context containing service layer, data layer, and domain objects with a child context containing web layer components. The application context may well be formed by aggregating the contents of multiple configuration files.

When deploying an application to OSGi the more natural structure is to package the application as a set of peer bundles (application contexts) interacting via the OSGi service registry. Independent subsystems should be packaged as independent bundles or sets of bundles (vertical partitioning). A subsystem may be package in a single bundle, or divided into several bundles partitioned by layer (horizontal partitioning). A straightforward web application may for example be divided into four modules (bundles): a web bundle, service layer bundle, data layer bundle, and domain model bundle. Such an application would look like this:

Bundles and Application Contexts

In this example the data layer bundle yields a data layer application context that contains a number of internal components (beans). Two of those beans are made publicly available outside of the application context by publishing them as services in the OSGi service registry.

The service layer bundle yields a service layer application context that contains a number of internal components (beans). Some of those components depend on data layer services, and import those services from the OSGi service registry. Two of the service layer components are made externally available as services in the OSGi service registry.

The web component bundle yields a web application context that contains a number of internal components (beans). Some of those components depend on application services, and import those services from the OSGi service registry. Since the domain model bundle contributes only domain model types, but does not need to create any components of its own, it has no associated application context.

6.1. Bundle Format And Manifest Headers

Each application module should be packaged as an OSGi bundle. A bundle is essentially a jar file with a META-INF/MANIFEST.MF file containing a series of headers recognized by the OSGi Service Platform. See the OSGi Service Platform Core Specification section 3.2 for details. Some OSGi implementations may support exploded jar files, but the format remains the same.

The Spring extender recognizes a bundle as "Spring-powered" and will create an associated application context when the bundle is started and one or both of the following conditions is true:

  • The bundle path contains a folder META-INF/spring with one or more files in that folder with a '.xml' extension.

  • META-INF/MANIFEST.MF contains a manifest header Spring-Context.

In addition, if the optional SpringExtender-Version header is declared in the bundle manifest, then the extender will only recognize bundles where the specified version constraints are satisfied by the version of the extender bundle (Bundle-Version). The value of the SpringExtender-Version header must follow the syntax for a version range as specified in section 3.2.5 of the OSGi Service Platform Core Specification.

In the absence of the Spring-Context header the extender expects every ".xml" file in the META-INF/spring folder to be a valid Spring configuration file, and all directives (see below) take on their default values.

An application context is constructed from this set of files. A suggested practice is to split the application context configuration into at least two files, named by convention modulename-context.xml and modulename-osgi-context.xml. The modulename-context.xml file contains regular bean definitions independent of any knowledge of OSGi. The modulename-osgi-context.xml file contains the bean definitions for importing and exporting OSGi services. It may (but is not required to) use the Spring Dynamic Modules OSGi schema as the top-level namespace instead of the Spring 'beans' namespace.

The Spring-Context manifest header may be used to specify an alternate set of configuration files. The resource paths are treated as relative resource paths and resolve to entries defined in the bundle and the set of attached fragments. When the Spring-Context header defines at least one configuration file location, any files in META-INF/spring are ignored unless directly referenced from the Spring-Context header.

The syntax for the Spring-Context header value is:

Spring-Context-Value ::= context ( ',' context ) *
context ::= path ( ';' path ) * (';' directive) *

This syntax is consistent with the OSGi Service Platform common header syntax defined in section 3.2.3 of the OSGi Service Platform Core Specification.

For example, the manifest entry:

Spring-Context: config/account-data-context.xml, config/account-security-context.xml

will cause an application context to be instantiated using the configuration found in the files account-data-context.xml and account-security-context.xml in the bundle jar file.

A number of directives are available for use with the Spring-Context header. These directives are:

  • create-asynchronously (false|true): controls whether the application context is created asynchronously (the default), or synchronously.

    For example:

    Spring-Context: *;create-asynchronously:=false 

    Creates an application context synchronously, using all of the "*.xml" files contained in the META-INF/spring folder.

    Spring-Context: config/account-data-context.xml;create-asynchrously:=false

    Creates an application context synchronously using the config/account-data-context.xml configuration file. Care must be taken when specifying synchronous context creation as the application context will be created on the OSGi event thread, blocking further event delivery until the context is fully initialized. If an error occurs during the synchronous creation of the application context then a FrameworkEvent.ERROR event is raised. The bundle will still proceed to the ACTIVE state.

  • wait-for-dependencies (true|false): controls whether or not application context creation should wait for any mandatory service dependencies to be satisfied before proceeding (the default), or proceed immediately without waiting if dependencies are not satisfied upon startup.

    For example:

    Spring-Context: config/osgi-*.xml;wait-for-dependencies:=false

    Creates an application context using all the files matching "osgi-*.xml" in the config directory. Context creation will begin immediately even if dependencies are not satisfied. This essentially means that mandatory service references are treated as though they were optional - clients will be injected with a service object that may not be backed by an actual service in the registry initially. See section 5.2 for more details.

  • timeout (300): the time to wait (in seconds) for mandatory dependencies to be satisfied before giving up and failing application context creation. This setting is ignored if wait-for-dependencies:=false is specified. The default is 5 minutes (300 seconds).

    For example:

    Spring-Context: *;timeout:=60

    Creates an application context that waits up to 1 minute (60 seconds) for its mandatory dependencies to appear.

  • publish-context (true|false): controls whether or not the application context object itself should be published in the OSGi service registry. The default is to publish the context.

    For example:

    Spring-Context: *;publish-context:=false

    If there is no Spring-Context manifest entry, or no value is specified for a given directive in that entry, then the directive takes on its default value.

6.2. Extender Configuration Options

Aside from bundle-specific configurations, Spring DM allows the core extender generic behaviour be configured. This is useful when embedding Spring DM inside a managed environment or when a bundles-wide functionality is desired. To allow for extensible configuration, the extender relies on OSGi fragments to override its defaults. The extender looks for all XML files under META-INF/spring/extender folder in its bundle space and assembled them into an application context (of type OsgiBundleXmlApplicationContext) that is used internally as its configuration. To override a default setting of the extender, look up the appropriate bean name from the table below, define it in a suitable manner and then attach it as a fragment to the spring-osgi-extender.jar, using:

Fragment-Host: org.springframework.osgi.extender

The following beans are currently recognized by the extender:

Table 6.1. Extender Configuration Options

Bean NameTypeRoleDefault Behaviour/Value
taskExecutorTaskExecutor [a]Creates and runs the Spring application contexts associated with each bundle. The task executor is responsible for managing its own pool of threads used by the application contextsSimpleAsyncTaskExecutor is used by default which means a new thread will be created for each application contexts. While this is suitable for testing and development, we strongly recommend to use a thread pool in a production environment
shutdownTaskExecutorTaskExecutor [b]Destroys managed Spring application contexts associated with each bundle. The task executor is responsible for managing its own pool of threads used by the application contextsTimerTaskExecutor is used by default which means all application context will be destroyed in a serialized manner (which is desired). Since the shutdown order normally matters, it is recommended to keep the default implementation or, for managed environments, to use a thread-pool that executes only one task at a time (so that contexts are stopped in the given order).
extenderPropertiesjava.util.PropertiesDefines simple properties such as the maximum time for contexts to gracefully closeSee the defaults below
applicationEventMulticasterApplicationEventMulticaster [c] ApplicationEventMultiCaster used for propagating Spring DM events to third parties. An instance of SimpleApplicationEventMulticaster is used. See AbstractApplicationContext javadoc for more information regarding available beans in an application context.
applicationContextCreatorOsgiApplicationContextCreator [d] Allows customization of the application context created by the extender. This includes changing the application context class type or additional processing (see below).The Extender default behaviour applies.
(irrelevant)OsgiBeanFactoryPostProcessor [d] Similar to Spring's BeanFactoryPostProcessor interface, beans of type OsgiBeanFactoryPostProcessor are automatically detected and applied to all contexts created by the extender (whether user-defined or not). This type of post processor is useful as it allows customization of the bean factory such as adding/removing/changing existing bean definitions or adding new bean instances.The Extender default behaviour applies.
osgiApplicationContextListenerOsgiBundleApplicationContextListener [e] Application context event listener registered automatically by the extender.Default implementation provides logging of the managed application contexts lifecycle.
[a] org.springframework.core.task
[b] org.springframework.core.task
[c] org.springframework.context.event
[d] org.springframework.osgi.extender package
[e] org.springframework.osgi.context.event package

From the extenderProperties bean, the following properties are recognized:

Table 6.2. Available extenderProperties

NameTypeDescriptionDefault Value
shutdown.wait.timejava.lang.LongThe amount of time the extender will wait for each application context to shutdown gracefully. Expressed in milliseconds.10000 ms (10 s)
process.annotationsjava.lang.BooleanFlag indicating whether or not, the extender will process Spring DM annotations. Note that this can be enabled in each process bundle by adding the appropriate bean post processor. See Section A.1, “Annotation-Based Injection” for more information.false
dependencies.wait.timejava.lang.LongThe amount of time the newly created application contexts will wait for their mandatory service dependencies during startup. Expressed in milliseconds. This settings is used only if the context owning bundle manifest does not define a value. 300000 ms (300 s or 5 min)

Since an application context is used, the full power of the Spring IoC container can be used for creating the extender configuration beans

6.2.1. Listening To Extender Events

There are cases when the failure or succesful startup of an application context needs to be acknowledged for logging purposes (for example). For these cases, Spring DM offers a dedicated package org.springframework.osgi.context.event which defines the events that OSGi application contexts can send during their lifecycle. At the moment, the following events are available:

Table 6.3. Spring DM build-in events

OsgiBundleContextRefreshedEventPublished when an OSGi application context has been succesfully initialized or refreshed (e.g. using the refresh() method on the ConfigurableApplicationContext interface). There are no guarantees on how many times this event might be received during the lifecycle of an application context - this is left up to the used implementation.
OsgiBundleContextFailedEventPublished when an OSGi application context is closed due to a failure. This event can appear any time during the lifecycle of an application context - before, during or after refresh. Usually the cause indicates an error in the configuration - syntax typo, incorrect wiring, missing bean and so forth.
OsgiBundleContextClosedEventPublished when an OSGi application context is closed after a successful refresh (normally issued a Spring bundle is being stopped).

Parties interested in receiving these events should implement OsgiBundleApplicationContextListener and then publish it as an OSGi service. The Spring DM extender will automatically detect the listener and will send the events to it. By taking advantage of the OSGi service registry, the extender decouples the received from the event publisher and moreover, makes the registration/unregistration process easier. For example, there is nothing special a client should do to unregister the listener - simply stopping the bundle will automatically unregister all its published services (including the listener), an event which will detected by the extender which will remove the listener. Of course, it is also possible for the client to unregister the listener manually during a bundle lifecycle.

The Spring DM events semantics are slightly different then Spring's. The OSGi events are not sent to beans inside the causing application context but to other parties (possible beans in other application contexts) interested in monitoring its behaviour.

6.3. Required Spring Framework And Spring Dynamic Modules Bundles

The Spring Dynamic Modules project provides an number of bundle artifacts that must be installed in your OSGi platform in order for the Spring extender to function correctly:

  • The extender bundle itself, org.springframework.osgi.extender

  • The core implementation bundle for the Spring Dynamic Modules support, org.springframework.osgi.core

  • The Spring Dynamic Modules I/O support library bundle,

In addition the Spring Framework provides a number of bundles that are required to be installed. As of release 2.5 of the Spring Framework, the Spring jars included in the Spring distribution are valid OSGi bundles and can be installed directly into an OSGi platform. The minimum required set of bundles is:

  • spring-core.jar (bundle symbolic name org.springframework.core)

  • spring-context.jar (bundle symbolic name org.springframework.context)

  • spring-beans.jar (bundle symbolic name org.springframework.beans)

  • spring-aop.jar (bundle symbolic name org.springframework.aop)

In additional the following supporting library bundles are required. OSGi-ready versions of these libraries are shipped with the Spring Dynamic Modules distribution.

  • aopalliance

  • backport-util (when running on JDK 1.4)

  • cglib-nodep (when proxying classes rather then interfaces, needed in most cases)

  • commons-logging API (SLF4J version highly recommended:

    • SLF4J API (com.springsource.sfl4j.api.jar)

    • SLF4J Implementation Bridge (such as Log4j - com.springsource.sfl4j.log4j.jar)

    • SLF4J commons logging adapter (


  • logging implementation suitable for commons-logging (such as log4j)

6.4. Spring XML Authoring Support

Spring 2.0 introduced (among other things) easier XML configuration and extensible XML authoring. The latter gives the ability of creating custom schemas that are discovered automatically (in non-OSGi environment) by the Spring XML infrastructure by including them in the classpath. Spring DM is aware of this process and supports it in OSGi environments so that custom schemas are available to bundles that use them without any extra code or manifest declaration.

All bundles deployed in the OSGi space (whether they are Spring-powered or not) are scanned by Spring DM for custom Spring namespace declaration (by checking the bundle space forMETA-INF/spring.handlers and META-INF/spring.schemas). If these are found, Spring DM will make the schemas and the namespaces available through an OSGi service that will be automatically used by Spring-powered bundles. This mean that if you deploy a bundle that uses a custom schema, all you have to do is deploy the library that provides the namespace parser and the schema. Bundles that embedded inside their classpath libraries that provide custom schemas will use these over those available in the OSGi space. However, the namespaces of the embedded libraries will not shared with other bundles, that is, they will not be seen by any other bundle.

In short, with using Spring DM, custom Spring namespaces are supported transparently without any additional work. Embedded namespace providers will have priority but will not be shared, as opposed to providers deployed as bundles which will be seen (and used) by others.

6.5. Importing and Exporting Packages

Refer to the OSGi Service Platform for details of the Import-Package and Export-Package manifest headers. Your bundle will need an Import-Package entry for every external package that the bundle depends on. If your bundle provides types that other bundles need access to, you will need Export-Package entries for every package that should be available from outside of the bundle.

6.6. Considerations When Using External Libraries

Many enterprise application libraries assume that all of the types and resources that comprise the application are accessible through the context class loader. While most developers do not use the context class loader, the loader is used heavily by application servers, containers or applications that are multi-threaded.

In OSGi R4, the set of types and resources available through the context class loader is undefined. This means that the OSGi platform does not make a guarantee of the thread context class loader value or in other words, it does not manage it.

Thus code (for example libraries) that performs manual class loading or that generates new classes dynamically can cause problems when executed inside an OSGi environment.

Spring Dynamic Modules guarantees that during the creation of an application context on behalf of a given bundle, all of the types and resources on the bundle's classpath are accessible via the context class loader. Spring Dynamic Modules also allows you to control what is accessible through the context class loader when invoking external services and when servicing requests on exported services. See section 5 for details on this.

Work is underway in the OSGi R5 timeframe to provide standardized support for dealing with generated classes and implicit class path dependencies introduced by third-party libraries. In the interim you may need to rely on workarounds such as the DynamicImport-Package manifest header, or the facilities provided by specific OSGi implementations such as Equinox's buddy mechanism. The Spring Dynamic Modules documentation contains more details on known issues with common enterprise libraries and the workarounds.

6.7. Diagnosing Problems

Your chosen OSGi platform implementation should be able to provide you with a good deal of information about the current status of the OSGi environment. For example, starting Equinox with the -console argument provides a command-line console through which you can determine which bundles are installed and their states, the packages and services exported by bundles, find out why a bundle has failed to resolve, and drive bundles through the lifecycle.

In addition, Spring itself and the Spring Dynamic Modules bundles contain extensive logging instrumentation that can help you diagnose problems. The recommended approach is to deploy the Simple Logging Facade for Java (slf4j) slf4j-api.jar and slf4j-log4j13.jar bundles (the jar files distributed by the project are valid OSGi bundles). Then you simply need to create a file in the root of your bundle classpath.

Note that Spring Dynamic Modules uses commons-logging API internally which means that its logging implementation is fully pluggable. Please see the FAQ and Resources pages for more information on other logging libraries besides log4j.