Creating p2 composite repositories during the build

I like to build p2 composite repositories for all my Eclipse projects, to keep all the versions available for consumption.

Quoting from

The goal of composite repositories is to make this task easier by allowing you to have a parent repository which refers to multiple children. Users are then able to reference the parent repository and the children’s content will transparently be available to them.

The nice thing of composite repositories is that they can be nested at any level. Thus, I like to have nested composite repositories according to the major.minor, major.minor.service.qualifier.

Thus the layout of the p2 composite repository should be similar to the following screenshot


Note that the name of the directories that contain a standard p2 repository have the same name of the contained feature.

The key points of a p2 composite repository are the two files compositeArtifacts.xml and compositeContent.xml. Their structure is simple, e.g.,

Note that a child location is intended relative to the path of these files; you can also specify absolute paths, not to mention http urls to other remote p2 sites.

The structure is not that complex, so you can also create it by hand; but keeping it up to date might not be that trivial. With that respect, p2 provides some ant tasks for managing composite repositories (creating, adding an entry, removing an entry), and that’s my favorite way to deal with composite repositories. I’ll detail what I usually do in this blog post, in particular, how to create (or update) a p2 composite repository with a new entry during the build.

The ant file is completely reusable and customizable by passing properties; you can reuse it as it is, after you setup your pom.xml as detailed below.

In this blog post I’ll show how to do that with Maven/Tycho, but the same procedure can be done in a Buckminster build (as I’ll hint at the end).

I’ll use a simple example,, consisting of a plug-in project, a feature project, a project for the site, and a releng project (a Maven/Tycho parent project). The plug-in and feature project are not interesting in this context: the most interesting one is the site project (a Tycho eclipse-repository packaging type).

Of course, in order to run such ant tasks, you must run them using the org.eclipse.ant.core.antRunner application. Buckminster, as an Eclipse product, already contains that application. With Tycho, you can use the tycho-eclipserun-plugin, to run an Eclipse application from Maven.

We use this technique for releasing a new version of our EMF-Parsley Eclipse project. We do that directly from our Hudson HIPP instance; the idea is that the location of the final main composite site is the one that will be served through HTTP from the We have a dedicated Hudson job that will release a new version and put it in the composite repository.

The ant file

The internal details of this ant files are not necessary to reuse it, so you can skip the first part of this section (you only need to know the main properties to pass). Of course, if you read it and you have suggestions for improve it, I’d be very grateful 🙂

The ant file consists of some targets and macro definitions.

The main macro definition is the one invoking the p2 ant task:

Note that we’ll also create a p2.index file. I prefer not to compress the compositeArtifacts.xml and compositeContent.xml files for easier inspection or manual modification, but you can compress them setting the “compressed” to “true” property above.

This macro will be called twice in the main task

First of all, this task will copy the p2 repository created during the build in the correct place inside the nested p2 composite repository.

Then, it will create or update the composite site for the nested repository major.minor, and then it will create or update the composite site for the main site (the one storing all the versions). The good thing about these ant tasks is that if you add a child location that already exists they won’t complain (though you can set a property to make them fail in such situations); this is crucial for updating the main repository, since most of the time you will not release a new major.minor.

This target calls (i.e., depends on) another target to compute the properties to pass to the macrodef, according to the information passed from the pom.xml

Default properties (that can be modified by passing a value from the pom.xml file):

  • the absolute path of the parent folder for the composite p2 site (default is “p2.repositories” in your home directory)
  • updates.dir: the relative path of the composite p2 site (default is “updates”); this is relative to

Thus, by default, the main p2 composite update site will end in ${user.home}/p2.repositories/updates. As hinted in the beginning, this can be any absolute local file system path; in EMF-Parsley Eclipse, since we release from Hudson, it will be the path served by the Eclipse we server So we specify the two above properties accordingly.

These are the properties that must be passed from the pom.xml file

  • site.label: the main label that will appear in the composite site (and that will be recorded in the “Eclipse available sites”). The final label will be “${site.label} All Versions” for the main site and “${site.label} <major.minor>” for the nested composite sites.
  • the location of the p2 repository created during the build (usually of the shape <>/target/repository)
  • unqualifiedVersion: the version without qualifier (e.g., 1.1.0)
  • buildQualifier: the replaced qualifier in the built version

Note that except for the first property, the other ones have exactly the same name as the ones in Tycho (and are set by Tycho directly during the build, so we’ll reuse them).

The ant file will use an additional target (not shown here, but you’ll find it in the sources of the example) to extract the major.minor part of the passed version.

Calling the ant task from pom.xml

Now, we only need to execute the above ant task from the pom.xml file of the eclipse-repository project,

ATTENTION: in the following snipped, for the sake of readability, I split the <appArgLine> into several lines, but in your pom.xml it must be exactly in one (long) line.

As I said, you should pass site.label as you see fit (for the other properties you can use the default).

You may want to put this plugin specification inside a Maven profile, that you activate only when you are actually doing a release (see, e.g., what we do in this pom.xml, taken from our EMF-Parsley Eclipse project).

Try the example

Let’s simulate some releases:

To see what you get, just clone the repository found here, cd to p2composite.example.tycho and run

After Maven finished downloading all the dependencies you should see something like

And here’s the directory layout of your ${user.home}/p2.repositories

p2composite2Run the command again, and you’ll get another child in the nested composite repository 1.0 (the qualifier has been replaced automatically with the new timestamp):

p2composite3Let’s increase the service number, i.e., 1.0.1, (using the tycho-versions-plugin) and rebuild:

and the new child will still be in 1.0 folder:

p2composite4Let’s increase the minor number, i.e., 1.1.0 and rebuild

and you’ll get another major.minor child repository

p2composite5Let’s increase the major number, i.e., 2.0.0

and you’ll get another major.minorp2composite6and so on 🙂

With Buckminster

As I hinted before, with Buckminster you can directly call the p2 ant tasks, since they are included in the Buckminster headless product. You will only need to add custom actions in the .cspec (or in the .cspex if you’re inside a plugin or feature project) that call the ant task passing the right properties. An example can be found here. This refers to a slightly different ant file from the one shown in this blog post, but the idea is still the same.

Possible Improvements

You may want to add another nesting level, e.g., major -> major.minor etc… This should be straightforward: you just need to call the macrodef another time, and compute the main update site directory differently.

Hope this helps.



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5 thoughts on “Creating p2 composite repositories during the build

  1. gillesB

    Hello Lorenzo,

    thank you for the great scripts.
    To me it seems that the p2.composite.repository-task only supports local files.
    Do you have any strategy to deploy the p2 repository to a remote server?
    Or is a shared folder a valid option?

    Best Regards

  2. Pingback: eclipse – How to deploy a p2 repository to a remote server with Tycho – Stack Overflow | Test cmsTest cms

  3. Frank Appel

    Hi Lorenzo,

    thanks for the p2 composite repository script and the usage explanation. Helped me to perform an overdue update of the deployment mechanism of our Xiliary ( repository. From now on, we’ll be able to preserve also older versions for download 🙂 It was pretty straight forward and works like a charm so far. Good post!



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