Developing an Open/WebSphere Liberty UserRegistry with Tycho

Aug 16, 2019 3:08 PM

  1. Developing an Open/WebSphere Liberty UserRegistry with Tycho
  2. Developing Open Liberty Features, Part 2
  3. Converting Tycho Projects to maven-bundle-plugin, Initial Phase

In my last post, I put something of a stick in the ground and announced a multi-blog-post project to discuss the process of making an XPages app portable for the future. In true season-cliffhanger fashion, though, I'm not going to start that immediately, but instead have a one-off entry about something almost entirely unrelated.

Specifically, I'm going to talk about developing a custom UserRegistry and TrustAssociationInterceptor for Open Liberty/WebSphere Liberty. IBM provides documentation for this process, and it's alright enough, but I had to learn some specific things coming at it from a Domino perspective.

What These Services Are

Before I get in to the specifics, it's worth discussing what specifically these services are, especially TrustAssociationInterceptor with its ominous-sounding name.

A UserRegistry class is a mechanism to provide a Liberty server with authentication and user info services. Liberty has a couple of these built-in, and the prototypical ones are the basic and LDAP registries. Essentially, these do the job of the Directory and Directory Assistance on Domino.

A TrustAssociationInterceptor class is related. What it does is take an incoming HTTP request and look for any credentials it understands. If present, it tells Liberty that the request can be considered authenticated for a given user name. The classic mechanisms for this are HTTP Basic and form-cookie authentication, but this can also cover mechanisms like OAuth. In Domino, this maps to the built-in authentication mechanisms and, more particularly, to DSAPI filters.

How I Used Them

My desire to implement these developed when I was working on the Domino Open Liberty Runtime. I wanted to allow Liberty to use the containing Domino server as a user registry without having to enable LDAP and, as a stretch goal, I wanted to have some sort of implicit SSO without having to configure LTPA.

So I ended up devising something of an ad-hoc directory API exposed as a servlet on Domino, which Liberty could use to make the needed queries. To pair with that, I wrote a TrustAssociationInterceptor implementation that looks for Domino auth cookies in incoming requests, make a call to a small servlet with that cookie, and grabs the associated username. That provides only one-way SSO, but that's good enough for now.

The Easy Part

The good part was that my assumption that my comfort with Tycho going in would help was generally correct. Since the final output I wanted was a bundle, I was able to just add it to my project structure like any other, and work with it in Eclipse's PDE normally. Tycho and PDE didn't necessarily help much - I still had to track down the Liberty API plugins and make a local update site out of them, but that was old hat by this point.

What Made Development Weird

I went into the project in high spirits: the interfaces required weren't bad, and Liberty uses OSGi internally. I figured that, with my years of OSGi experience, this would be a piece of cake.

And, admittedly, it kind of was. The core concepts are the same: building with Tycho, bundle activators, MANIFEST.MF, and all that. However, Liberty's use of OSGi is, I believe, much more modern than Domino's, and certainly much less focused on Equinox specifically.

For one, though Liberty is indeed OSGi-based, it doesn't use Maven Tycho for its build process. Instead, it uses Gradle and the often-friendlier bnd tooling to handle its OSGi composition. That's not too huge of a difference, and the build process doesn't really affect the final built feature. The full differences are a whole big topic on their own, but the way they shake out for this purpose is essentially a difference in philosophy, and the different build mechanism was something of a herald of the downstream distinctions.

One big way this shows is in service registration. Coming from an Eclipse heritage, Equinox-based apps tend to use "plugin.xml" to register services, Liberty (and most others, I assume) favors programmatic registration of services inside the bundle activator. While this does indeed work on Equinox (including on Domino), this was the first time I'd encountered it, and it took some getting used to.

The other oddity was how you encapsulate your bundle as a feature in Liberty parlance. Liberty uses the term "feature" to refer to individual components that make up the server, and which you can configure in the "server.xml" file. These are declared using files similar to MANIFEST.MF with specialized headers to declare the name of the feature, the bundles that make it up, and any APIs it provides to the server and apps. In my case, I wrote a generic mechanism to deploy these features when a server is established, which writes the manifest files to the server's feature directory. Once they're deployed, they become available to the server as a feature with the "usr" prefix, like "usr:dominoUserRegistry-1.0" for my case.

In The Future

I have some ideas for additional features I'd like to develop - providing implicit APIs for Darwino and Jakarta NoSQL/JNoSQL would be handy, for example. This way went pretty smoothly, but I'll probably develop non-Domino ones using either Gradle or Maven with the maven-bundle-plugin. Either way, it ended up fairly pleasant once I discarded my old assumptions, and it's another good entry in the "pros" column for Liberty.

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