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Reducing Upgrade Risk with Aspect Oriented Programming
Pages: 1, 2

Upgrading the Observer "Listener" via AOP

Once we've intercepted the getNewData() method, its return data can be augmented by a call into a JNDI naming service. The call searches for a file named report.txt. This data is then returned to the caller--NMSListener.update().

public class UpgradeInterceptor implements Interceptor
   public Object intercept(Invocation invocation)
     throws Throwable
     String methodName = getFullMethodName(invocation);
     System.out.println("Intercepted method name: " + methodName);

     // Call the intercepted method.
     Object result = invocation.proceed();

     // Now call into JNDI to get some data
     Lookup aLookup = new Lookup();

     // Add this data to the intercepted method result
     return (String) result + aLookup.directoryLookup("report.txt");

The Lookup class retrieves the required object (report.txt) from the naming service using the following code:

    // Create the initial context
     Context ctx = new InitialContext(env);

     // Look up an object
     Object obj = ctx.lookup(searchElement);

The object is then returned to the intercept method.

Executing the Program

The code was written using Java Standard Edition version 1.5.0_01. The following four AOP-related .jar files are required and have to be placed in the classpath:

  • bsh-2.0b1.jar
  • cglib-asm-1.0.jar
  • dynaop-1.0-beta.jar
  • jakarta-oro-2.0.7.jar

These can be downloaded from the dynaop project's Documents and Files page. They're included in a single .zip file called dynaop-1.0-beta.zip. Remember to place the script file (mentioned at the start of the article) in the same folder as the source code. You'll also have to install JNDI and copy the file report.txt into the root (e.g., D:\). Then compile these with the other Java files and execute the program with the command:

java ObserverTest

This should generate the following output:

Intercepted method name: NMSSubject.getNewData()
Updated subject data is Data Set: E:\report.txt
Elapsed time in seconds 2

The first line indicates the interception and call into the upgrade code. The second line indicates the augmented data. The third line illustrates the time taken to run the program--an uninstrumented version of the program has an elapsed time of zero! This overhead is a downside to using the AOP technique.

Upgrading via AOP

We've now seen all of the elements required to implement an AOP-borne upgrade. For the example above, I added the upgrade code in the UpgradeInterceptor class. Let's say we had an operational system that we wanted to upgrade (perhaps some serious bug had just been discovered). Let's assume that the ObserverTest class in the field has no AOP instrumentation.

To upgrade the ObserverTest class, we have to copy the following files:

  • Copy the compiled AOP-instrumented ObserverTest class
  • .
  • Copy the dynaop script file dynaop.bsh.

The next time the ObserverTest class is instantiated, it will use interception, thereby facilitating the upgrade.

Related Reading

AspectJ Cookbook
By Russell Miles


Once the ObserverTest class has been upgraded in this fashion, the fielded code no longer matches the compiled version--a potentially confusing state. A full release would be advisable at some convenient time to re-align the source with the released code. This technique should be used only in exceptional circumstances--if at all! Also, there is a potentially substantial time penalty incurred during the interception process.


Most successful software applications tend to suffer from feature creep--adding more code as each release unfolds. Some organizations still celebrate the number of lines of code their indefatigable programmers add as the product matures! Traditionally, this is sometimes referred to as "vertical development"--the software grows like an ever-expanding skyscraper.

A major benefit of AOP is that it allows for horizontal (rather than vertical) integration of new features. This powerful model facilitates a healthy degree of separation between legacy code and new features. Beyond this, AOP is an instrumentation technique that allows interfaces to be updated by intercepting code. This provides a useful mechanism for upgrading code as part of a minor or patch release. If the code has adhered to design principles such as separation of concerns, then the interception can be very effective at reducing risk. In this example, that separation was achieved with the Observer pattern, which provides a clear separation between data publishers and subscribers.


Stephen B. Morris is an independent writer/consultant based in Ireland.

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