Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Jakarta Commons Net API

Jakarta Commons Net(JCN) Java Library is just one of those open source projects I've enjoyed working with. Specially its FTP API. Which is gonna be the focus of this discussion.

I've implemented a component that uses this library in a Web Service environment which basically connects to a remote FTP service then iterate through the list of directories, process the files and handle the reply codes properly. The list of files may go to several thousands. 

Here are the things I found really useful from JCN.

1. It automatically issues a new PORT command to the server so we don't have to worry about manually setting the port for different platforms (Unix, Linux, Windows, Mac, etc.) when connecting. Also validates data connections to client to ensure the request had originated from the intended host. We don't want our application deal with strangers eh?

2. It allows you to page through the list of FTP files. I think this is an awesome feature! From my previous project the list of files can span to several thousands. But through FTPListParseEngine class I was able to page through the files and process them in smaller chunks. This is a great performance boost. We only load the ftp file objects we currently need. Creating this objects are expensive. We keep the metabolism of an application running this way and saves us the evil of bottlenecks.  

3. Provides very easy to use and effecient way of handling FT Reply Codes. The codes are basically messages passed by the FTP Server indicating if the request was processed successfully or not. There are about 49 codes which you can check at this link http://www.turboftp.com/turboftp/manual/TURBOFTPFTP_Server_Reply_Codes.htm . After a command is issued to the server, the server returns an int value representing the code. Just capture this code and apply the behavior you want to happen in the application. 

This is a great way to isolate specific ftp issues and handle it properly so the application can still function, say even if the FTP service is down. Or if your previous request gave a code that identifies your request as not processed, you can resend it upto a certain number of times until you mark it failed. There's no point sending an ftp command or request if the data connection is not established, as shown below.

Also shown below is an example of flagging the reply if its ok or not with their matching simple behavior implementation.

I can see no reason why JCN can't be used. It provides the necessary security and performance gain we need. Plus it provides you an elegant way of handling FTP Reply Codes that you can use to manipulate the behavior of an application consuming an ftp service. Documentation is well written too.

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