Mahesh Subramaniya

engineer, developer, photographer, coffee lover
@msubramaniya |

Understanding how jars are loaded into JVM from a directory in Linux

Question: If the lib/ folder has jar1.jar and jar2.jar, what is the order of the jar loading into the JVM if you use Linux(EXT3 file system)?

Short Answer: One cannot say or technically, Random.

The order in which Jar files are loaded into JVM are influenced by how the file system orders its file in the directory. Since the java.io.File API depends on the native API, different platforms lists file in different order.

EXT3 file system

EXT3 file system is defacto file system in Linux kernel for over 15 years. There are some extensive documentation on what it is and how it works.

Lets see how the files are created and fetched in the ext3 file system.

Create 5 files

$ echo `seq 1 5` | xargs touch

List the file in alphabetical order. The ls command without any argumentt will list files in lexicographical order.

$ ls
1   2   3   4   5

List the files in the list order. Again these files are sorted by lexicographical order.

$ ls -l
total 0
-rw-rw-r-- 1 training training 0 Jul 10 02:04 1
-rw-rw-r-- 1 training training 0 Jul 10 02:04 2
-rw-rw-r-- 1 training training 0 Jul 10 02:04 3
-rw-rw-r-- 1 training training 0 Jul 10 02:04 4
-rw-rw-r-- 1 training training 0 Jul 10 02:04 5

List the files in directory order -U switch will list the file in unordered and which is the way files are arranged the file in the file system

$ ls -U
2  1  5  3  4

For more clarity, let us list the file in list order

$ ls -Ul
total 0
-rw-rw-r-- 1 training training 0 Jul 10 02:04 2
-rw-rw-r-- 1 training training 0 Jul 10 02:04 1
-rw-rw-r-- 1 training training 0 Jul 10 02:04 5
-rw-rw-r-- 1 training training 0 Jul 10 02:04 3
-rw-rw-r-- 1 training training 0 Jul 10 02:04 4

If you think the files are ordered by inode number, then you may be wrong again. Here is the listing of files with inode number in 1st column.

$ ls -Uli
total 0
671786 -rw-rw-r-- 1 training training 0 Jul 10 02:04 2
671780 -rw-rw-r-- 1 training training 0 Jul 10 02:04 1
671789 -rw-rw-r-- 1 training training 0 Jul 10 02:04 5
671787 -rw-rw-r-- 1 training training 0 Jul 10 02:04 3
671788 -rw-rw-r-- 1 training training 0 Jul 10 02:04 4
$ 

To add more interesting discussion, let us look across different machines with same Operating system and EXT3 file system.

EXT3 file system hash the filenames and places the entry in the directory level inode table.

readdir() returning filenames in a hash-sorted order, so that reads from the inode table would be done in a random order.

So now you got an understanding of what directory ordering will look like.

So if your one machine load jars as jar1.jar, jar2.jar, another Linux machine with same OS release may load as jar2.jar,jar1.jar or may be same order as the other machine. Random.

Since it is random, you cannot expect the same ordering in another machine with EXT3 file system.

Why is this important to understand?

With the usage of Maven, developers tend to miss to verify the list of jars gets packaged into a web application. When maven pulls the dependencies and the dependencies uses two different versions same component, say javax.mail 1.3,1.4 then EXT3 file system doesn’t guarantee the order of jar loaded.

So always exercise caution and do review your lib/ folder to see what jars are pulled and packaged by your maven or any other packaging tool you use.

If you have tools like IDEs like IntelliJ , try to generate the POM diagram and review the jars and its transitive dependencies.

Tagged under: java, jee, j2ee, linux, filesystem,