söndag 10 mars 2019

Updates to the Apache ZooKeeper Node.js client

At last, Node.js is platform independent again!

Eh, what?

Apache Zookeeper?
From the docs: "... ZooKeeper is a distributed, open-source coordination service for distributed applications. It exposes a simple set of primitives that distributed applications can build upon to implement higher level services for synchronization, configuration maintenance, and groups and naming. It is designed to be easy to program to, and uses a data model styled after the familiar directory tree structure of file systems. It runs in Java and has bindings for both Java and C. ..."
(the docs)

A Node.js Zookeeper Client
You will find several Node.js implementations when browsing on npmjs.org, and one of them is simply called: zookeeper. Recently, I was added to the list of maintainers of the project, hosted on GitHub.

The project got my attention when we at work were looking for a new ZooKeeper client, because the API of the current one we were using had gone out of date. We were all developing on Mac OS X, and pushed changes to a CI using a Linux docker container. Implementing the new client seemed like a breeze.

Until a developer in a peer team came by our spot at the office:
- Hey, I cloned the app repo and followed your setup guide. But I get errors when installing packages. I think it's the "zookeeper" dependency that fails. Do you know what's wrong?

We quickly learned it was because Windows. We realized that the entire build process - compiling C code to a native Node.js add-on on the fly - used non-Windows compliant features like make, bash and gcc.

Oh sh*t. How can this be solved?
What about bypassing it with Docker? I've learned that Docker on Windows can be painful, because of access right issues between a Windows host and Linux in a container. Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) would probably work after some tweaking, but adding WSL as a requirement to run (or develop) an app is ... well ... a bit depressing.

How about fixing the root cause of the problem, the source code? I did choose that path and have spent a lot of time learning about Node.js add-ons, (a little bit of) C and C++, Windows equivalents to bash commands, node-gyp, and how to compile the Apache Zookeeper C Client from source.

Months later, I hit the "Create Pull Request" button. Shortly after, the changes were merged and an updated npm package was published.

Besides supporting Windows, the zookeeper npm package also builds on Node.js 10. Previous versions failed, because the use of deprecated V8 features.

Details of recent changes can be found in the Changelog.

Contribute to the Open Source project
If you are interested in contributing, check out the issues tab at the GitHub repo. Currently there are some issues labeled with "good first issue", go ahead and grab one!

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