The classical remote method invocation (RMI) mechanism adopted by several object-based middleware is ‘black-box’ in nature, and the RMI functionality, i.e., the RMI interaction policy and its configuration, is hard-coded into the application. This RMI nature hinders software development and reuse, forcing the programmer to focus on communication details often marginal to the application being developed. Extending the RMI behavior with extra functionality is also a very difficult job, because added code must be scattered among the entities involved in communications.
This situation could be improved by developing the system in several separate layers, confining communications and related matters to specific layers. As demonstrated by recent work on reflective middleware, reflection represents a powerful tool for realizing such a separation and therefore overcoming the problems referred to above. Such an approach improves the separation of concerns between the communication-related algorithms and the functional aspects of an application. However, communications and all related concerns are not managed as a single unit that is separate from the rest of the application, which makes their reuse, extension, and management difficult. As a consequence, communications concerns continue to be scattered across the meta-program, communication mechanisms continue to be black-box in nature, and there is only limited opportunity to adjust communication policies through configuration interfaces.
In this paper we examine the issues raised above, and propose a reflective approach specially designed to open up the RMI mechanism. Our proposal consists of a new reflective model, called multi-channel reification, that reflects on and reifies communication channels, i.e., it renders communication channels first-class citizens. This model is designed both for developing new communication mechanisms and for extending the behavior of communication mechanisms provided by the underlying system. Our approach is embodied in a framework called mChaRM, whisch is described in detail in this paper.
Keywords:Reflection Reflective model Reflective middleware Java RMI
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