Glassfish and Upstart

Warning: the article you're about to read is largely empirical. Take everything in it in a grain of salt, and verify it yourself before putting it into production. You have been warned.

The following observations apply to Glassfish Other versions probably act similarly, but check the docs.

asadmin create-service

Glassfish is capable of emitting SysV init scripts for the DAS, or for any instance. These init scripts wrap asadmin start-domain and asadmin start-local-instance. However, the scripts it emits are (justifiably) minimalist, and it makes some very strong assumptions about the layout of your system's rc.d trees and about your system's choice of runlevels. The minimal init scripts avoid any integration with platform “enhancements” (such as Redhat's /var/lock/subsys mechanism and condrestart convention, or Debian's start-stop-daemon helpers) in the name of portability, and the assumptions it makes about runlevels and init layout are becoming incrementally more fragile as more distributions switch to alternate init systems with SysV compatiblity layers.

Fork and expect

Upstart's process tracking mechanism relies on services following one of three forking models, so that it can accurately track which children of PID 1 are associated with which services:

Surprisingly, asadmin-launched Glassfish matches none of these models, and using asadmin start-domain to launch Glassfish from Upstart is not, as far as I can tell, possible. It's tricky to debug why, since JVM thread creation floods strace with chaff, but I suspect that either asadmin or Glassfish itself is forking too many times.

From this mailing list thread, though, it appears to be safe to launch Glassfish directly, using java -jar GLASSFISH_ROOT/modules/glassfish.jar -domain DOMAIN. This fits nicely into Upstart's non-forking expect mode, but you lose the ability to pass VM configuration settings to Glassfish during startup. Any memory settings or Java environment properties you want to pass to Glassfish have to be passed to the java command manually.

You also lose asadmin's treatment of Glassfish's working directory. Since Upstart can configure the working directory, this isn't a big deal.

SIGTERM versus asadmin stop-domain

Upstart always stops services by sending them a signal. While you can dictate which signal it uses, you cannot replace signals with another mechanims. Glassfish shuts down abruptly when it recieves SIGTERM or SIGINT, leaving some ugly noise in the logs and potentially aborting any transactions and requests in flight. The Glassfish developers believe this is harmless and that the server's operation is correct, and that's probably true, but I've not tested its effect on outward-facing requests or on in-flight operations far enough to be comfortable with it.

I chose to run a “clean”(er) shutdown using asadmin stop-domain. This fits nicely in Upstart's pre-stop step, provided you do not use Upstart's respawn feature. Upstart will correctly notice that Glassfish has already stopped after pre-stop finishes, but when respawn is enabled Upstart will treat this as an unexpected termination, switch goals from stop to respawn, and restart Glassfish.

(The Upstart documentation claims that respawn does not apply if the tracked process exits during pre-stop. This may be true in newer versions of Upstart, but the version used in Ubuntu 12.04 does restart Glassfish if it stops during pre-stop.)

Yes, this does make it impossible to stop Glassfish, ever, unless you set a respawn limit.

Fortunately, you don't actually want to use respawn to manage availability. The respawn mode cripples your ability to manage the service “out of band” by forcing Upstart to restart it as a daemon every time it stops for any reason. This means you cannot stop a server with SIGTERM or SIGKILL; it'll immediately start again.

initctl reload

It sends SIGHUP. This does not reload Glassfish's configuration. Deal with it; use initctl restart or asadmin restart-domain instead. Most of Glassfish's configuration can be changed on the fly with asadmin set or other commands anyways, so this is not a big limitation.


Upstart supports “instances” of a service. This slots nicely into Glassfish's ability to host multiple domains and instances on the same physical hardware. I ended up with a generic glassfish-domain.conf Upstart configuration:

description "Glassfish DAS"
console log

instance $DOMAIN

setuid glassfish
setgid glassfish
umask 0022
chdir /opt/glassfish3

exec /usr/bin/java -jar /opt/glassfish3/glassfish/modules/glassfish.jar -domain "${DOMAIN}"

pre-stop exec /opt/glassfish3/bin/asadmin stop-domain "${DOMAIN}"

Combined with a per-domain wrapper:

description "Glassfish 'example' domain"
console log

# Consider using runlevels here.
start on started networking
stop on deconfiguring-networking

pre-start script
    start glassfish-domain DOMAIN=example
end script

post-stop script
    stop glassfish-domain DOMAIN=example
end script

Possible refinements