2010/12/15 - Apache Excalibur has been retired.

For more information, please explore the Attic.


A very common problem that you have to face in nearly every application is resolving a source, which means finding a resource using a URI. Of course after you located the resource, you want to do something with it, like reading or writing or getting some meta information about it.

Of course, the JRE already provides some mechanisms and classes to deal with resources. For example the java.io.* package provides a lot of useful classes to deal with files stored on the local file system. The java.net.* package provides similar functionality if you want to deal with remote resources via http or ftp. In addition there are various third party libraries, like the Jakarta Commons HttpClient library that deal with this topic as well.

But all these approaches have three problems:

  • No unified interface - you have to distinguish between access of local resources and remote resources.
  • Not suitable for web applications if it comes to extending the supported protocols.

Out of these problems the idea of the source resolver has been born. It provides a unique interface to any resource, being it a local file or a distant resource on an ftp server. And it is possible to provide your own application specific protocols in a multi application friendly way.

The source resolver of Apache Excalibur is a useful component that resolves resources from a given URI. The URI can use all available protocols of the JRE, like HTTP, FTP, FILE etc.. In addition own protocols, like myxmldatabase://root/documents/test.xml can be plugged-in and then be used in the same way, "usual" resources (files etc.) are accessed.

The main advantage in comparison to the mechanisms provided by the JRE is that the source resolver can be used without any problems within web application servers. Each web application can use it's own configured version of this component avoiding any possible conflicts between these applications.

The architecture of this package is simple but powerful. The main component is the SourceResolver. It is used to resolve any URI. If the SourceResolver can resolve the protocol of the URI, it returns a Source object. This Source object is an abstraction of the underlying resource. This resource can be accessed by a provided InputStream.

Own protocols can be configured using the SourceFactory interface. Whenever the SourceResolver finds a protocol that it can't handle by itself, it gets a role selector for a SourceFactory and tries to get a component with the role name of the protocol. If such a factory exists, the source creation is passed on to this factory.

The Source object is handled similar to Avalon components. After it has been used it must be released using the SourceResolver. The SourceResolver in turn passed on the release of the object to the SourceFactory that created it.

The Source object is a lightwight object which can be extended with several interface. For example the XMLizable interface from the XML package to generate SAX events from the Source. Or the Monitorable interface from the monitor package to monitor the resource.

For caching purposes the Source object offers a SourceValidity object which can be used in addition to the system ID of the Source to verify if a cache contains a valid version of the Source object.


You can see the source resolving in action in the Apache Cocoon project and in Fortress.