Monday, 10 August 2009

Starting JBoss And Tomcat Blocking Till Boot Is Completed

Our build is maven based. The jBPM project contains a bunch of modules. We have several integration test suites. Using the maven plugins to set up integration testing turned out to be insufficient. In order to keep our continuous integration builds platform independent we use a combination of ant scripts and mvn builds.

The strategy of our integration testing is that we start from a distribution that we unpack. Scripts like installing jBPM on JBoss are also interesting for our users. So they are included in the distribution. Then our Continuous Integration (CI) scripts leverage those scripts from the distribution. That way also those jBPM installer scripts also get validated by the CI.

For JBoss the CI build works as follows:
  • Build a distribution (mvn -Pdistro clean install)
  • Unzip the jBPM distribution file
  • Unzip JBoss
  • Use the install script from the distribution to install jBPM in JBoss
  • Customzie the jBPM installation for execution of the test suite
  • Start JBoss
  • Recreate the jBPM database schema
  • Run the integration test suite remotely
    • jBPM testsuite uses the plain jBPM API
    • Instead of executing the commands in the testrun itself, jBPM is configured to translate all invocations to remote EJB calls transparantly
  • Drop the jBPM database schema
  • Shut down JBoss
Since jBPM 3 we have an ant task that starts a JBoss instance in the background, but waits for the server boot to complete before the ant task finishes. That way we're sure that after the
task completes, that the server is up and running and ready to serve requests. We've done this in ant for a long time with an ant task and a Launcher. The StartJBossTask will create a Launcher thread, starts it and joins for it to complete.
public class StartJBossTask extends Task {

private static final String END_MESSAGE = " Started in ";

public void execute() throws BuildException {
try {
// build the command string
String command = the command string...;

// launch the command and wait till the END_MESSAGE appears
Thread launcher = new Launcher(this, command, END_MESSAGE, null);

} catch (Exception e) {

The Launcher is a thread that spawns a process and listens to its InputStream till a certain message is displayed on the console by the spawned process.

public class Launcher extends Thread {

Task task;
String command;
String endMsg;
File dir;

public Launcher(Task task, String command, String endMsg, String dir) {
this.task = task;
this.command = command;
this.endMsg = endMsg;
this.dir = (dir!=null ? new File(dir) : null);

public void run() {
try {
task.log("starting '" + command + "'...");
Process process = new ProcessBuilder(command)

BufferedReader reader = new BufferedReader(new InputStreamReader(process.getInputStream()));
String line = "";
while (line.indexOf(endMsg) == -1) {
line = reader.readLine();

task.log("'" + command + "' started.");
} catch (IOException e) {
throw new BuildException("couldn't start '" + command + "'", e);

Last week I wanted to do the same for Tomcat. When leveraging that code just the same way as works for JBoss, Tomcat only showed environment variables and then hanged:
Using CATALINA_BASE:   C:\Software\apache-tomcat-6.0.20
Using CATALINA_HOME: C:\Software\apache-tomcat-6.0.20
Using CATALINA_TMPDIR: C:\Software\apache-tomcat-6.0.20\temp
Using JRE_HOME: C:\Software\jdk1.5.0_11
Can you spot what is wrong ? Well... it took quite some time for me and that is why I'm sharing it here.

The clue is that Tomcat logging used not only standard output, but also standard error as output for logging. I could fix it by adding the .redirectErrorStream(true) like this:
      Process process = new ProcessBuilder(command)
So now we have Tomcat up and running, we couldn't leverage the same remote EJB configuration as we did with JBoss. So for Tomcat CI, we leverage cactus and run the tests in the webapp.

Conclusion: When you fork a process in Java and you see it hangs unexpectedly, check if you're reading both input *and* its error stream. Or if it is for starting JBoss or Tomcat with ant, simply look in the jBPM sources.


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