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Name: David Wragg
Member since: 2003-08-24 15:46:33
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IoC containers, Part 2 soon. But in the meantime, some Lisp links.
Whatever happened to Henry Baker, I wonder.
Mike Spille wrote an interesting essay about Inversion of Control containers, (with a followup here). He gives a checklist of desirable features in these containers, and surveys HiveMind, Spring, and PicoContainer. PicoContainer comes out worst, partly because it lacks some of the features from his checklist (and in fact, these omissions are deliberate on the part of the creators of PicoContainer).
I have a particular interest in IoC containers, because I developed one at work, and continue to maintain it and enhance it today. I call it the init framework (colleagues often call it components.xml, because its per-module configuration files have that name). Here, I'll just call it TIF.
In terms of generalities, TIF has a lot in common with the well-known IoC containers. It shares many ideas and some specific techniques, and the basic benefits are similar. But these similarities represent a case of convergent evolution. I began work on TIF a little over 2 years ago (the CVS logs say the first check-in was on 2002-07-01; the first lines of code must have been written a few days earlier). If those other IoC containers existed at that time, I wasn't aware of them.
(From the public CVS repositories, it seems that HiveMind originates in May 2003, PicoContainer from mid-2003, and Spring from August 2003, but it is possible that those dates are misleading: the projects may have been hosted elsewhere before moving to their current repositories. In any case, some of these ideas may well have been around earlier; I seem to remember being aware of Apache Avalon, though it was certainly not something I had any desire to imitate.)
So I find it interesting to compare TIF with the open source ones, and to consider why I made the design choices I did and why the authers of the other containers made similar or different choices. Since Mike's essay it perhaps the nearest thing I have seen to a survey of the IoC "market", it provides useful context for these comparisons.
In summary, here is how the comparison comes out:
These last two points stand out, because Mike's article, and the subsequent discussion, criticized PicoContainer for missing precisely these features. Mike's position is that these are examples where the creators of PicoContainer put their purist principles ahead of the pragmatic needs of developers who might use their container. I can't speak for the creators of PicoContainer, but my decisions had very pragmatic reasons behind them: If my container doesn't meet the needs of the real-world projects I work on, my colleagues simply won't use it!
In subsequent posts, I will consider each of these features in turn, and explain how TIF works the way it does. Then I will write another post to describe notable features of TIF not shared by other containers.
(These posts are partly a response to colleagues who have asked me why I wrote TIF when there are similar open-souce projects around, and why it doesn't support cyclical dependencies. I expect someone will eventually ask me why it doesn't support setter-based injection, and I will be able to point them here.)
The term microkernel has a specific meaning, from operating systems research, and that meaning does not seem to be relevant to NetKernel in any way. Their use of the term kernel also seems dubious, but at least that is a general term used in different ways in different parts of the software world, so they can more reasonably appropriate it to apply to their project. (Maybe all this would seem less silly if microkernels, in the true sense of the word, were more widely seen as a good thing.)
I'd like to dismiss this as the usual marketing stupidity, but the misuse of the term continues even in the technical documentation, which claims:
We have deliberately omitted technical marketing documents which present business and/or technical analysis for choosing NetKernel. If you require technical marketing literature for NetKernel please visit the 1060research.com and 1060.org sites.
You also need to dig through their web-sites and documentation to discover that, while the concept may not be specific to Java, the current implementation certainly is . But surely this is important informantion for any potential customers? My guess is that they want to avoid the question of why they don't implement apparently-relevant standards from the Java world such as the Servlets API. I hope that the answer is that they are doing innovative things that don't fit inside those standards. It would be nice to see this explained properly.
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