The Difficulties of Domino Project Dependencies

Dec 31, 2020, 2:38 PM

Tags: java maven

This post is a drum I've been banging for a long time, from nagging the dev team in the IBM days through to formally requesting it in HCL's Ideas Portal. That idea there has been "Likely to implement" for a little while now, which is heartening, and either way I figured it'd be useful to have a proper blog post explaining the trouble and what a useful better version would be.

The Core Trouble

The main thing I'm talking about here is the act of having a third-party or (particularly) open-source project that depends on Domino artifacts - namely, Notes.jar, the NAPI, and the XPages UI components. I have more than a few such projects, so it's something I deal with pretty much daily.

When you're dealing with an XPages app in an NSF, this isn't really an issue: all the parts you need are there and are part of the classpath. You just reference lotus.domino.Database or com.ibm.xsp.extlib.util.ExtLibUtil and don't even give it a second thought. When you have a project outside of an NSF or Designer, though, you start to have to worry about this.

OSGi Projects

For OSGi-based projects, this means that you need to have a Target Platform that points to the XPages artifacts and then either have a variant of that that includes a packages Notes.jar or also include Notes.jar in your classpath another way. In Eclipse, this might be accomplished by adding Notes.jar to your active JVM and referencing a Notes or Domino installation's OSGi directories - this is something the XPages SDK helps with.

The immediate trouble this involves is if you want to build this project outside of Eclipse - most commonly now with Maven. This is where the IBM Domino Update Site for Build Management came in, which is a cleanly-packaged p2 update site of the XPages artifacts and Notes.jar, suitable for use with Maven+Tycho and any other tool (like Eclipse) that gets its dependencies out of a p2 repository. Unfortunately, it hasn't been updated since its initial release, and contains just the original 9.0.1 versions.

To aid with creating updated versions of that, I created the generate-domino-update-site tool a while back. Since no one outside HCL can legally share update sites themselves, the tool is the next-best thing: point it at Notes or Domino and it'll make one for you in a consistent way.

With either of those routes, though, there's still a gotcha: you still need to have each developer set up the update site for themselves, and it's only consistent across projects because the community settled on the notes-platform Maven property as a URI pointing to the update site. This is as opposed to something like Eclipse-the-IDE's repositories, which (as a virtue of being open-source) are publicly available and can be referenced freely.

Overall, it's a drag having to bring-your-own-site, but at least the use of notes-platform as a pseudo-standard smooths it out.

Non-OSGi Projects

Things get stickier with non-OSGi projects, though. With OSGi projects, the dependency mechanism lines up with the way the artifacts are delivered from the vendor: they all have OSGi metadata (or have a ready-made hook for it, like Notes.jar) and so just making a p2 site out of them makes them ready to go. They don't, though, have Maven metadata, and so referencing them that way takes extra processing.

I've gone about this two ways to date:

  • The aforementioned update site project also has a mechanism for "Mavenizing" update sites. You point the tool at an existing p2 site (like one created by the first step), pick a groupId for it, and it'll install the files into your local repository.
  • The P2 Maven Resolver plugin, which cuts out that middle step and uses a p2 repository as a source of Maven dependencies directly. This route is more "clever", but some tools get a little shaky with it.

Either way, the experience is okay but not perfect. There are some oddities to do with the different dependency mechanisms between OSGi and Maven, but overall it gets the job done.

The core trouble with it is that it's even less consistent across developers/projects than the Tycho notes-platform idiom. I've personally gone through a couple iterations of the Mavenized layout, with different inter-dependency schemes and groupIds. That leads to drift and incompatibility among projects. For example, I use the xpages-runtime project for client work to do my lingering XPages development, and there's some friction in keeping the dependency schemes between that and the client project in line, even though I'm the only developer.

What I'd Like

What I'd really like would be an official HCL-provided or -sanctioned repository for p2 and Maven use for these artifacts. I've pitched the idea of OpenNTF hosting this, since I already have the tools and servers on hand, though we'd have to come up with a way to agree about who is legally allowed to access it. All the better would be consistently-updated HCL-hosted repositories, where they could link access to one of the various HCL accounts we tend to have.

The best route would be to publish it on a repository that doesn't require authentication. While I'm making wishes, attaching Javadoc would be a classy touch too.

Anyway, that's the gist of it. It's one of the two main thorns in my side when doing Domino-targeted development (the other being initializing the runtime itself in the process), and it'd save me a whole lot of heartache if it had a proper solution.

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