Safe Class and Data Evolution in Large and Long-Lived Java Applications

Dmitriev, Mikhail (2001) Safe Class and Data Evolution in Large and Long-Lived Java Applications. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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There is a growing class of applications implemented in object-oriented languages that are large and complex, that exploit object persistence, and need to run uninterrupted for long periods of time. Development and maintenance of such applications can present challenges in the following interrelated areas: consistent and scalable evolution of persistent data and code, optimal build management, and runtime changes to applications. The research presented in this thesis addresses the above issues. Since Java is becoming increasingly popular platform for implementing large and long-lived applications, it was chosen for experiments. The first part of the research was undertaken in the context of the PJama system, an orthogonally persistent platform for Java. A technology that supports persistent class and object evolution for this platform was designed, built and evaluated. This technology integrates build management, persistent class evolution, and support for several forms of eager conversion of persistent objects. Research in build management for Java has resulted in the creation of a generally applicable, compiler-independent smart recompilation technology, which can be re-used in a Java IDE, or as a standalone Java-specific utility similar to make. The technology for eager object conversion that we developed allows the developers to perform arbitrarily complex changes to persistent objects and their collections. A high level of developer's control over the conversion process was achieved in part due to introduction of a mechanism for dynamic renaming of old class versions. This mechanism was implemented using minor non-standard extensions to the Java language. However, we also demonstrate how to achieve nearly the same results without modifying the language specification. In this form, we believe, our technology can be largely re-used with practically any persistent object solution for Java. The second part of this research was undertaken using as an implementation platform the HotSpot Java Virtual Machine (JVM), which is currently Sun's main production JVM. A technology was developed that allows the engineers to redefine classes on-the-fly in the running VM. Our main focus was on the runtime evolution of server-type applications, though we also address modification of applications running in the debugger. Unlike the only other similar system for Java known to us, our technology supports redefinition of classes that have methods currently active. Several policies for handling such methods have been proposed, one of them is currently operational, another one is in the experimental stage. We also propose to re-use the runtime evolution technology for dynamic fine-grain profiling of applications.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Malcolm Atkinson
Keywords: Computer science
Date of Award: 2001
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2001-74957
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2019 15:00
Last Modified: 27 Sep 2019 15:00

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