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Equinox p2 Recommendation descriptors

What are recommendation descriptors?

Recommendation descriptors provide advice to the provisioning agent. This advice helps the agent make choices on the versions of IUs that need to be picked.

Why are those necessary?

One may ask, why do we need recommendations when InstallableUnits already define ranges of tolerated version? Because the ranges expressed in installable units are usually the expression of the producer's point of view who is trying to maximize the use cases in which its component can be used. This view point is different from the one of an integrator / product producer who wants to ship a very specific / tested alignment of versions and plug-ins.

Therefore the recommendation descriptor is here to represent the integrator/product producer view point at provisioning time, such that a provisioned system does not end up providing an uncontrolled set of installable units.

What are they made of?

Recommendation descriptors can be seen as rewriting rules on the requirements expressed by an IU (this is how they are currently implemented). Currently the only thing that is allowed to be rewritten is the version range expressed on a requirement. For example they allow the rewriting of the JFace IU dependency on swt [3.0, 4.0) to swt [3.3.0, 3.5)

What can they do?

  • Allow precise control over the set of IUs being installed by specifying in a recommendation descriptor the set of versions that must be used for each IU.
  • Prevent the installation of IUs that are known to be incompatible or undesirable. For example, one product producer could decide that he/she never wants to have PDE installed in a system where his/her product is installed.
  • Detection of incompatibilities between products. The recommendation descriptors can be analyzed (at install time, or at dev time) to check for incompatibilities. For example product X is incompatible with PDE.
  • Qualification: verify that a system is in a particular state matching what is described in recommendations.

Delivery mechanism?

Recommendations will not be a special construct. They will be delivered by an installable unit containing the necessary information.

Usage

The recommended way to use this construct is still being refined but for the moment here's what we have in mind. Recommendation descriptors will be used to replace the list of included plug-ins and features found in a feature.xml Group level recommendation descriptors shipped with eclipse should only provide recommendations for the plug-in that they actually own. For example the PDE recommendation descriptor should only have information about org.eclipse.pde.* IUs

Problems