Apache Revs Maven for Greater Speed and Extensibility

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The Apache Foundation has completed a major upgrade of its Maven software build system, making it speedier and more extensible.

A project two years in the making, this version of Maven is a reengineering of the core architecture, said Brian Fox, the Apache Foundation's vice president of the Maven project.

"There were some places where we wanted to extend Maven 2 in directions that were not possible given the architecture," Fox said. "This release has been about resetting the internal architecture so we can address those issues."

Users of this version have reported 10 percent to 40 percent improvements in build time over Maven 2.x versions. The software's creators have worked to maintain backward compatibility with plug-ins built for version 2, while making the software easier to use with other development tools, Fox said.

A big part of the reengineering project has been to switch from a legacy Plexus framework to the more widely used Google Guice framework for Maven's container management duties. Guice is speedier and the way it handles containers may be more readily understood by Java developers, which, in turn, should make Maven more extensible for use by other development tools, Fox said.

"It should be easier for people to work not only on Maven but to be able to write plug-ins and extend Maven itself," Fox said. Thus far, hundreds of plug-ins have been developed for Maven, for handling such tasks as code generation or code quality analysis.

And because Guice resembles Plexus, it was not too difficult for Maven's developers to create shims that could replicate Plexus' behavior, which ensures the backward compatibility.

Other new features: The dependency resolution logic--the logic guiding the versioning of the software assets--has been decoupled from the Maven core, which should also allow the external build systems to interact more easily with Maven. Also, the software can now do simultaneous builds on the same computer, which will allow developers to test two different configurations of a program at the same time.

Under development for 10 years, Maven is software that can orchestrate the many processes required to build and manage a complex piece of software from a set of source files.

Java developers might see Maven as the natural evolution from other Java build management tools, notably Make and Ant. Maven has a number of novel approaches in this space, including the practice of convention-over-configuration and a declarative model, both of which facilitate speedier automation of common build tasks. The software also facilitates easy reuse of binary components, called artifacts, which allows developers to test a single module within a large program without recompiling the entire program.

"Once you produce an official binary artifact, it shouldn't need to be produced again. It has a unique set of coordinates and identity, and a repository manager can hold onto it, just like a version of a source file," Fox said.

Although it is primarily used for enterprise Java projects, Maven is also used for C programs and other languages running on the JVM (Java Virtual Machine). Apache does not keep statistics on Maven's userbase, though the project has estimated that the software has had millions of users.

In addition to his duties at Apache, Fox also works as a vice president of engineering for Silver Spring, Maryland-based Sonatype, which runs a commercial repository for Maven artifacts, and tools for Maven. Sonatype just mirrored its repository in Europe and Asia for easier accessibility from those continents.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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