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From Bruce Atherton <>
Subject Re: Ant 2 design (was Re: NIO 2.0 == Ant 2.0?)
Date Sat, 18 Feb 2012 19:48:23 GMT
Of course you are right, and initially parallelism and distributed 
builds will probably not be in the initial alpha release (unless it is 
on someones scratching list). Just getting something to run existing 
build files reliably will be fine.

But you have suggested that we tag build files that require Ant 2 
features with something that identifies them as requiring Ant 2. I think 
this is reasonable for the leap from Ant 1 to Ant 2, but one thing HTML 
has shown is that version numbers are an anti-pattern, which is why the 
DOCTYPE for HTML5 has done away with them (although that introduced its 
own "version" ie. no version). What is important is the list of features 
that are needed to interpret and run the file correctly.

One can imagine a version tag listing Ant 2 as a minimum for a build 
file with an attribute for a comma separated list of the features that 
are required from Ant for the build. With this and the kind of packaging 
system that OSGI and possibly Java 8 will introduce, Ant could 
dynamically configure itself to load the parallelizing implementation of 
the state machine or the distributed implementation.

So long as the design is flexible enough that the kinds of usecases that 
Dominique and Gilles are suggesting can be implemented eventually, then 
the KISS principle can still be followed.

I would also note that features like DSLs for custom builds, automatic 
parallelism, and distribution to a fault tolerant cluster are exactly 
the kinds of features that would allow many users that I know of to 
justify allocating resources to rewrite major build scripts.

On 2/18/2012 11:26 AM, Mansour Al Akeel wrote:
> Keeping it simple, is a great idea.
> I am not sure if introducing parallelism is a good idea or if it's
> easy to implement and maintain.
> If it is design is modular, I think all these can be added as plugins.
> Performance ??!!
> On Sat, Feb 18, 2012 at 1:47 PM, Bruce Atherton<>  wrote:
>> This too I find a great idea. Multicores mean we need more ways of
>> exploiting parallelism, particularly if they can be identified automatically
>> by the application.
>> For backward compatibility it would have to be optional, though, either
>> specified on the command line or at the build file level or using a
>> different kind of target tag. Of course, the additional information you
>> suggest on targets would make that the case anyway, but in some cases I
>> think we might be able to automate it based just on what we have if the
>> build system is written properly so that dependencies on targets that
>> provide needed resources are explicitly identified.
>> Too many build systems in my experience rely on the order the dependencies
>> are resolved on a higher order target rather than explicitly identifying
>> dependencies on the targets that they are required on. This despite the fact
>> that we have some language somewhere that you can't rely on the order of
>> resolution of the dependencies. Sometimes that has proved a requirement to
>> avoid targets that depended on each other, but I've seen it used as a
>> shortcut instead far too often.
>> Creating Ant clusters is also a great idea, at least to plan for. Perhaps
>> something like Zookeeper to coordinate builds and a message bus like
>> ActiveMQ or perhaps better QPid to schedule and report back to other nodes
>> on the results.
>> The idea of turning the dependency tree into a state machine is also
>> interesting. It would combine the tree and the resolving of the tree with
>> execution of tasks into a single entity. I worry, though, that some
>> flexibility in our current system might be lost if the two portions are
>> combined into one. Perhaps not. It could also introduce the possibility of
>> cycles. Currently the dependency tree gets executed as a DAG but there have
>> been a lot of requests for looping which a state machine could more easily
>> support.
>> On 2/18/2012 2:02 AM, Gilles Scokart wrote:
>>> For me, one feature for a 2,0 would be a different style of dependency
>>> tree that would allow better parallel execution (on the same machine,
>>> or why not on distributed machines).
>>> I see the 'targets' being more declarative, becoming a state
>>> transition saying : I need this resources in that state, I will use
>>> this other resources (and I don't want the to change during my
>>> execution, and I will produce this other resources in that other
>>> state.
>>> The dependency tree would be an logical engine finding the shortest
>>> path to go to the desired state, using parallel/distributed processing
>>> when possible.
>>> That's what I miss with existing build system : I want to go as
>>> quickly as possible to a desired build state (from a current state).
>>> Gilles Scokart
>>> On 17 February 2012 20:07, Bruce Atherton<>    wrote:
>>>> It doesn't require a rewrite, but a rewrite could simplify integrating a
>>>> usecase like this as well as integrating other features that we already
>>>> have
>>>> into it and making them simpler and unified inthe code. I agree the
>>>> usecase
>>>> is an excellent one which could simplify the lives of exactly the type of
>>>> users I am talking about.
>>>> It sounds like you are suggesting that the dependency tree be extensible
>>>> and
>>>> modifiable, perhaps manipulable, within targets as well so long as that
>>>> part
>>>> of the tree hasn't run yet. In a sense that is what macros do because
>>>> they
>>>> allow you to swap in some static block of tasks to replace a single task.
>>>> There is also the feature from EasyAnt for changing target dependencies.
>>>> But
>>>> what I'm hearing is that you want more flexibility than that.
>>>> Something to walk the existing dependency tree, perhaps, with conditional
>>>> behaviors to modify the metadata on existing element such as dependencies
>>>> and if/unless, replacing the element with another or a subtree (perhaps
>>>> itself dynamically walked and created), adding branches, perhaps deleting
>>>> elements or subtrees. Kind of like what we can do with a tree of files
>>>> and
>>>> directories already. Does that sound like what the design you'd like to
>>>> see
>>>> would have?
>>>> And perhaps it could encompass providing both the macro and target
>>>> dependency changes to the tree as well, along with any other code we have
>>>> that alters the dependency tree. I'm not sure which of the various ways
>>>> to
>>>> call back into Ant do this. I'm sure there are other examples in the
>>>> codebase.
>>>> I'm not familiar enough with this part of the code any more to know
>>>> whether
>>>> there is already a single elegant solution in Ant 1 that all the code
>>>> which
>>>> modifies the dependency tree shares, but given our BC requirements I
>>>> doubt
>>>> it.
>>>> One example of a FileSystemProvider that Java 7 suggests in its API docs
>>>> is
>>>> a "memory" file system, one identified by the URL "memory://". Perhaps
>>>> our
>>>> dependency tree could be a kind of file system, then we could reuse vast
>>>> swathes of code we already have, both in the standard class libraries and
>>>> in
>>>> Ant itself. Just an idea off the top of my head.
>>>> On 2/17/2012 5:53 AM, Dominique Devienne wrote:
>>>>> 2012/2/17 Bruce Atherton<>:
>>>>>> A lot of companies have their own, internally written build file
>>>>>> generators
>>>>>> just so their build systems are consistent and exactly what they
>>>>>> Our
>>>>>> Related Projects and External Tools page has some of these that were
>>>>>> made
>>>>>> public, I suspect.
>>>>>> Surely there is a better way than requiring users of Ant to write
>>>>>> generators
>>>>>> to deal with the complexity and keep it customized.
>>>>> At one point I did write a build(s) (XSLT-based) generator
>>>>> specifically for a large and hairy project. Later I rewrote the whole
>>>>> thing with macrodefs. But my point is that I don't view build
>>>>> generators as bad, in fact it often helps IMHO to have a declarative
>>>>> custom DSL (in XML in my case, so read "DSL" with a grain of salt)
>>>>> that's used as the input for generating Ant build fragments, and have
>>>>> those fragments be able to "insert" them into the target graph. I've
>>>>> also long felt Ant needed generalized if/unless/os (and my own
>>>>> extensions like ifTrue, unlessTrue, when) on any "XML tag" (or
>>>>> UnknownElement if you prefer), just read the recent "add if/unless to
>>>>> <javac>'s<compilerarg>" thread.<macrodef>      is nice,
but you can't use
>>>>> it for arbitrary, *and conditional*, XML "fragments" inside tasks. All
>>>>> those things you can often do more easily with a generator, but that's
>>>>> often cumbersome, doesn't play well with IDEs, etc... I guess I'm
>>>>> saying I've often wished for generator-like features as a built-in
>>>>> part of Ant. Do you see what I'm saying? Ant now does late
>>>>> "conversion" from UnkownElement to actual configuration of the Java
>>>>> code it maps to, and a way to influence/transform that almost AST-like
>>>>> graph would make Ant more powerful and flexible, perhaps at the
>>>>> expense of creating "dialects" unreadable to someone not familiar with
>>>>> them. Given Ant's XML roots, perhaps a tighter built-in integration
>>>>> with XSLT to dynamically "rewrite" the build at runtime/buildtime
>>>>> would be one way to achieve what I envision (notwithstanding the talks
>>>>> of non-XML front-ends of course).
>>>>> Stepping of my soapbox now :)  What I'm saying has nothing to do with
>>>>> Java7, nor necessarily require a rewrite either. --DD
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