Fabric8 Documentation


The agent is the part of Fabric8 that is responsible for applying the profiles to containers. The agent can be run into any container and its role is to retrieve profile information from the registry and apply them locally. In more details, the agent will retrieve the profiles and versions that are assigned to the container on which its running, reconfigure the container, calculate what needs to be installed, removed or updated on the container and finally perform those task.

In reality there are two modules involved in the process:

  • fabric-configadmin The configuration admin bridge. Translates the registry information into configuration.
  • fabric-agent The deployment agent. Reads the translated configuration and provisions the container accordingly.

Often the term agent refers to just the deployment agent (fabric-agent module), but this section of the documentation will cover both and provide detailed information about the role of each one of them.

The configuration admin bridge (fabric-configadmin)

The configuration admin bridge is responsible for bridging the zookeeper registry with the configuration admin service. Once it connects to the zookeeper registry it will determine what version is assigned to the container, retrieve the version of profiles that are assigned to the container and translate them into configuration, which is then applied locally.

Note, that the profile contain two types of information:

  • Configuration information
    • System configuration
    • OSGi configuration
  • Provisioning information
    • Bundles
    • Features
    • Fabs

The configuration admin bridge will read all of them and create the OSGi configuration that represents them. All the provisioning & system information will go under the io.fabric8.agent pid. For containers that are assigned multiple profiles, or just use the profile hierarchy the overlay view of the profiles will be added to io.fabric8.agent (There is a single pid even if we have multiple profiles).

All the OSGi configuration will just use the pid and key value pairs that have been added to the profile.

The bridge will also watch the registry for changes, so any change in the profiles that are assigned to the container will be tracked and will immediately be applied to the local OSGi configuration of the container.

The deployment agent (fabric-agent)

The deployment agent is listening for local configuration changes on the io.fabric8.agent pid. Any change in that configuration will trigger the deployment agent. Once the deployment agent is triggered, it will read the whole io.fabric8.agent pid and calculate the bundles that the container should have installed. If the profiles assigned to the container also contain features or fabs, the deployment agent will translate them to bundles in order to populate a full list of bundles that the container should use. The next action of the deployment agent is to compare that list of bundles, with the list of bundles that are currently installed, in order to identify:

  • Bundles to Uninstall
  • Bundles to Install
  • Bundles to Update

Finally, it downloads all the missing parts and perform the installation / uninstallation of bundles.

How the deployment agent downloads artifacts

The deployment agent is capable of downloading artifacts from two different types of maven repositories:

  • Registered Fabric Maven Proxies More information on fabric maven proxies.
  • Configured Maven repositories Any maven repository that is configured on the profile.

Priority is always give to the fabric maven proxies. If more than one is registered in the cluster they will be used in order from the oldest to the newest.

If the target artifact is not found, then the configured maven repositories will be used. The list of repositories can be retrieved from the org.ops4j.pax.url.mvn.repositories property of the io.fabric8.agent pid.

To change that list of repositories for a specific profile you can simply, you the fabric:profile-edit command:

  fabric:profile-edit --pid io.fabric8.agent/org.ops4j.pax.url.mvn.repositories=http://repositorymanager.mylocalnetwork.net default

It is suggested to keep this configuration in one profile and have the rest of profiles inherit from it. The default profile, which is the root of all of the default profiles, seems the ideal place.

Configuring the download thread pool

By default the deployment agent uses a thread pool for concurrent download of needed artifcats. The default size of the pool is 2 which you can reconfigure by configuring the option with key io.fabric8.agent.download.threads in the etc\custom.properties file.

For example to use 5 threads:


No container restarts

It is important to clarify that during the process the container is kept alive, no restarts are needed. The only exception in this rule is when changing things that are related to the osgi framework or the system itself.

  • Changing the OSGi framework
  • Changing the framework configuration

So, in most cases the container will be kept alive, since those exceptions are extremely rare. Even when the container will need a restart, that will be done automatically by the deployment agent and after the restart the container will reconnect to the cluster without any manual intervention.

Monitoring the deployment / provisioning status

Through the whole process of the deployment / provisioning, the deployment agent will store the state in the runtime registry, so that its available to the whole cluster.

The user is able at any time to see that status using the fabric:container-list command.


    [id]                           [version] [alive] [profiles]                     [provision status]
    root*                          1.0       true    fabric, fabric-ensemble-0000-1 success
    mq1                            1.0       true    mq                             success
    mq2                            1.0       true    mq                             downloading
    billing-broker                 1.0       true    billing                        success
        admin-console              1.0       true    web, admin-console             success

To have a real time view of the provisioning status, you can make use of the shell:watch, as described bellow

    shell:watch fabric:container-list

Here is a small clip that demonstrates the use of the fabric:container-list while the containers are changing profiles and the deployment againsts starts provisioning.

Resolution and Startup Ordering

In order to successfully determine what needs to be installed and what needs to be removed, the fabric-agent will use the OBR resolver. The resolver will make sure that all requirements are meet. The requirements are usually package requirements but can also be service requirements. The resolver will use the bundle headers to identify both:

  • If a bundle specifies in its headers an Import-Package requirement, an other bundle with the corresponding Export-Package is required
  • If a bundle specifies in its headers an Import-Service requirement, an other bundle with the corresponding Export-Service is required

The last point is really important, because blueprint users that have mandatory references of services in their blueprint descriptor, will automatically have the Import-Service headers in their bundle (assuming the use of maven-bundle-plugin). If the bundle that exports that service doesn't explicitly specify it in its headers, then resolution will fail. Either the exporter bundle will have to add an Export-Service directive or the importer bundle will have to remove the Import-Service directive.

When the resolution is successful the fabric-agent will start the bundles. Even though you should try to avoid having requirements in the startup order of your bundles, the fabric-agent will attempt to start the bundles based on their expressed requirements and capabilities. This will not solve all issues, especially in cases where asynchronous service registration is involved. The best way to deal with this kind of issues is to use OSGi services.