Project Jigsaw: Modular run-time images
2014/12/08 09:41:18 -08:00

As I wrote previously, Project Jigsaw is coming into JDK 9 in several large steps. JEP 200 defines the modular structure of the JDK, JEP 201 reorganizes the JDK source code into modular form, and JEP 220 restructures the JDK and JRE run-time images to support modules. The actual module system will be defined in JSR 376, which is just getting under way, and implemented by a corresponding JEP, yet to be submitted.

We implemented the source-code reorganization (JEP 201) last August. This step, by design, had no impact on developers or end users.

Most of the changes for modular run-time images (JEP 220) were integrated late last week and are now available in JDK 9 early-access build 41. This step, in contrast to the source-code reorganization, will have significant impact on developers and end users. All of the details are in the JEP, but here are the highlights:

  • JRE and JDK images now have identical structures. Previously a JDK image embedded the JRE in a jre subdirectory; now a JDK image is simply a run-time image that happens to contain the full set of development tools and other items historically found in the JDK.

  • User-editable configuration files previously located in the lib directory are now in the new conf directory. The files that remain in the lib directory are private implementation details of the run-time system, and should never be opened or modified.

  • The endorsed-standards override mechanism has been removed. Applications that rely upon this mechanism, either by setting the system property java.endorsed.dirs or by placing jar files into the lib/endorsed directory of a JRE, will not work. We expect to provide similar functionality later in JDK 9 in the form of upgradeable modules.

  • The extension mechanism has been removed. Applications that rely upon this mechanism, either by setting the system property java.ext.dirs or by placing jar files into the lib/ext directory of a JRE, will not work. In most cases, jar files that were previously installed as extensions can simply be placed at the front of the class path.

  • The internal files rt.jar, tools.jar, and dt.jar have been removed. The content of these files is now stored in a more efficient format in implementation-private files in the lib directory. Class and resource files previously in tools.jar and dt.jar are now always visible via the bootstrap or application class loaders in a JDK image.

  • A new, built-in NIO file-system provider can be used to access the class and resource files stored in a run-time image. Tools that previously read rt.jar and other internal jar files directly should be updated to use this file system.

We’re aware that these changes will break some applications, in particular IDEs and other development tools which rely upon the internal structure of the JDK. We think that the improvements to performance, security, and maintainability enabled by these changes are, however, more than worth it. We’ve already reached out to the maintainers of the major IDEs to make sure that they know about these changes, and we’re ready to assist as necessary.

If you have trouble running an existing application on JDK 9 build 41 or later and you think it’s due to this restructuring, yet not caused by one of the changes listed above or in JEP 220, then please let us know on the jigsaw-dev mailing list (you’ll need to subscribe first, if you haven’t already), or else submit a bug report via Thanks!