A briefly overview to Java frameworks

When you have a look at Merriam Webster about the word framework you find the following explanations:

  • a basic conceptional structure
  • a skeletal, openwork, or structural frame

May you could think that libraries and frameworks are equal things. But this is not correct. The source code calls the functionality of a library directly. When you use a framework it is exactly the opposite. The framework calls specific functions of your business logic. This concept is also know as Inversion of Control (IoC).

For web applications we can distinguish between Client-Side and Server-Side frameworks. The difference is that the client usually run in a web browser, that means to available programming languages are limited to JavaScript. Depending on the web server we are able to chose between different programming languages. the most popular languages for the internet are PHP and Java. All web languages have one thing in common. They produce as output HTML, witch can displayed in a web browser.

In this article I created an short overview of the most common Java frameworks which also could be used in desktop applications. If you wish to have a fast introduction for Java Server Application you can check out my Article about Java EE and Jakarta.

If you plan to use one or some of the discussed frameworks in your Java application, you just need to include them as Maven or Gradle dependency.

Before I continue I wish to telly you, that this frameworks are made to help you in your daily business as developer to solve problems. Every problem have multiple solutions. For this reason it is more important to learn the concepts behind the frameworks instead just how to use a special framework. During the last two decades since I’m programming I saw the rise and fall of plenty Frameworks. Examples of frameworks today almost nobody remember are: Google Web Toolkit and JBoss Seam.

The most used framework in Java for writing and executing unit tests is JUnit. An also often used alternative to JUnit is TestNG. Both solutions working quite equal. The basic idea is execute a function by defined parameters and compare the output with an expected results. When the output fit with the expectation the test passed successful. JUnit and TestNG supporting the Test Driven Development (TDD) paradigm.

If you need to emulate in your test case a behavior of an external system you do not have in the moment your tests are running, then Mockito is your best friend. Mockito works perfectly together with JUnit and TestNG.

The Behavioral Driven Development (BDD) is an evolution to unit tests where you are able to define the circumstances the customer will accepted the integrated functionality. The category of BDD integration tests are called acceptance tests. Integration tests are not a replacement for unit tests, they are an extension to them. The frameworks JGiven and Cucumber are also very similar both are like Mockito an extension for the unit test frameworks JUnit and TestNG.

For dealing in Java with relational databases we can choose between several persistence frameworks. Those frameworks allow you to define your database structure in Java objects without writing any line of SQL The mapping between Java objects and database tables happens in the background. Another very great benefit of using O/R Mapper like Hibernate, iBatis and eclipse link is the possibility to replace the underlying database sever. But this achievement is not so easy to reach as it in the beginning seems.

In the next section I introduce a technique was first introduced by the Spring Framework. Dependency Injection (DI). This allows the loose coupling between modules and an more easy replacement of components without a new compile. The solution from Google for DI is called Guice and Java Enterprise binges its own standard named CDI.

Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) are another category for frameworks. It depends on the chosen technology like JavaFX or JSF which framework is useful. The most of the provided controls are equal. Common libraries for GUI JSF components are PrimeFaces, BootsFaces or ButterFaces. OmniFaces is a framework to have standardized solution for JSF problems, like chaching and so on. Collections for JavaFX controls you can find in ControlsFX and BootstrapFX.

If you have to deal with Event Stream Processing (ESP) may you should have a look on Hazelcast or Apache Kafka. ESP means that the system will react on constantly generated data. The event is a reference to each data point which can be persisted in a database and the stream represent to output of the events.

In December a often used technology comes out of the shadow, because of a attacking vulnerability in Log4J. Log4J together with the Simple Logging Facade for Java (SLF4J) is one of the most used dependencies in the software industry. So you can imagine how critical was this information. Now you can imagine which important role Logging has for software development. Another logging framework is Logback, which I use.

Another very helpful dependency for professional software development is FF4J. This allows you to define feature toggles, also know as feature flags to enable and disable functionality of a software program by configuration.

Name Category
JUnit, TestNG TDD – unit testing
Mockito TDD mocking objects
JGiven, Cucumber BDD – acceptance testing
Hibernate, iBatis, Eclipse Link JPA- O/R Mapper
Spring Framework, Google Guice Dependency Injection
PrimeFaces, BootsFaces, ButterFaces JSF User Interfaces
ControlsFX, BootstrapFX JavaFX User Interfaces
Hazelcast, Apache Kafka Event Stream Processing
SLF4J, Logback, Log4J Logging
FF4j Feature Flags

This list could be much longer. I just tried to focus on the most used ones the are for Java programmers relevant. Feel free to leave a comment to suggest something I may forgot. If you share this article on several social media platforms with your friends or colleagues I will appreciate.

How to reduce the size of a PDF document

 When you own a big collection of PDF files the used storage space can increasing quite high. Sometimes I own PDF documents with more than 100 MB. Well nowadays this storage capacities are not a big issue. But if you want to backup those files to other mediums like USB pen drives or a DVD it would be great to reduce the file size of you PDF collection.

Long a go I worked with a little scrip that allowed me to reduce the file size of a PDF document significantly. This script called a interactive tool called PDF Sam with some command line parameters. Unfortunately many years ago the software PDF Sam become with this option commercial, so I was needed a new solution.

Before I go closer to my approach I will discuss some basic information about what happens in the background. As first, when your PDF blew up to a huge file is the reason because of the included graphics. If you scanned you handwritten notes to save them in one single archive you should be aware that every scan is a image file. By default the PDF processor already optimize those files. This is why the file size almost don’t get reduced when you try to compress them by a tool like zip.

Scanned images can optimized before to include them to a PDF document by a graphic tool like Gimp. Actions you can perform are reduce the image quality and increase the contrast. Specially for scanned handwritten notes are this steps important. If the contrast is very low and maybe you plan to print those documents, it could happens they are not readable. Another problem in this case is that you can’t apply a text search over the document. A solution to this problem is the usage of an OCR tool to transform text in images back to real text.

We resume shortly the previous minds. When we try to reduce the file size of a PDF we need to reduce the quality of the included images. This can be done by reducing the amount of dots per inch (dpi). Be aware that after the compression the image is still readable. As long you do not plan to do a high quality print like a magazine or a book, nothing will get affected.

When we wanna reduce plenty PDF files in a short time we can’t do all those actions by hand. For instance we need an automated solution. To reach the goal it is important that the tool we use support the command line. The we can create a simple batch job to perform the task without any hands on.

We have several options to optimize the images inside a PDF. If it is a great idea to perform all options, depend on the purpose of the usage.

  1. change the image file to the PNG format
  2. reduce the graphic dimensions to the real printable area
  3. reduce the DPI
  4. change the image color profile to gray-scale

As Ubuntu Linux user I have all of the things I need already together. And now comes the part that I explain you my well working solution.

Ghostscript

GPL Ghostscript is used for PostScript/PDF preview and printing. Usually as a back-end to a program such as ghostview, it can display PostScript and PDF documents in an X11 environment.

If you don’t have Ghostscript installed on you system, you can do this very fast.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get -y install ghostscript

 Before you execute any script or command be aware you do not overwrite with the output the existing files. In the case something get wrong you loose all originals to try other options. Before you start to try out anything backup your files or generate the compressed PDF in a separate folder.

gs -sDEVICE=pdfwrite \
   -dCompatibilityLevel=1.4 \
   -dPDFSETTINGS=/default \
   -dNOPAUSE -dQUIET -dBATCH -dDetectDuplicateImages \
   -dCompressFonts=true \
   -r150 \
   -sOutputFile=output.pdf input.pdf

The important parameter is r150, which reduce the output resolution to 150 dpi. In the manage you can check for more parameters to compress the result more stronger. The given command you are able to place in a script, were its surrounded by a FOR loop to fetch all PDF files in a directory, to write them reduced in another directory.

The command I used for a original file with 260 MB and 640 pages. After the operation was done the size got reduced to around 36 MB. The shrunken file is almost 7 times smaller than the original. A huge different. As you can see in the screenshot, the quality of the pictures is almost identical.

As alternative, in the case you won’t come closer to the command line there is a online PDF compression tool in German and English language for free use available.

PDF Workbench

Linux Systems have many powerful tools to deal with PDF documents. For example the Libreoffice Suite have a button where you can generate for every document a proper PDF file. But sometimes you wish to create a PDF in the printing dialog of any other application in your system. With the cups PDF print driver you enable this functionality on your system.

sudo apt-get install printer-driver-cups-pdf

As I already explained, OCR allows you to extract from graphics text to make a document searchable. When you need to work with this type of software be aware that the result is good, but you cant avoid mistakes. Even when you perform an OCR on a scanned book page, you will find several mistakes. OCRFeeder is a free and very powerful solution for Linux systems.

Another powerful helper is the tool PDF Arranger which allows you to add or remove pages to an existing PDF. You are also able to change the order of the pages.

Resources

  • https://www.ghostscript.com
  • https://wiki.gnome.org/Apps/OCRFeeder
  • https://github.com/pdfarranger/pdfarranger
  • https://docupub.com/pdfcompress/

Java Enterprise in briefly detail

If you plan to get in touch with Java Enterprise, may in the beginning it’s a bit overwhelmed and confusing. But don’t worry It’s not so worst like it seems. To start with it, you just need to know some basics about the ideas and concepts.

As first Java EE is not a tool nor a compiler you download and use it in the same manner like Java Development Kit (JDK) also known as Software Development Kit (SDK). Java Enterprise is a set of specifications. Those specifications are supported by an API and the API have a reference implementation. The reference implementation is a bundle you can download and it’s called Application Server.

Since Java EE 8 the Eclipse Foundation maintain Java Enterprise. Oracle and the Eclipse Foundation was not able to find a common agreement for the usage of the Java Trademark, which is owned by Oracle. The short version of this story is that the Eclipse Foundation renamed JavaEE to JakartaEE. This has also an impact to old projects, because the package paths was also changed in Jakarta EE 9 from javax to jakarta. Jakarta EE 9.1 upgrade all components from JDK 8 to JDK 11.

If you want to start with developing Jakarta Enterprise [1] applications you need some prerequisites. As first you have to choose the right version of the JDK. The JDK already contains the runtime environment Java Vitual Machine (JVM) in the same version like the JDK. You don’t need to install the JVM separately. A good choice for a proper JDK is always the latest LTS Version. Java 17 JDK got released 2021 and have support for 3 years until 2024. Here you can find some information about the Java release cycle.

If you wish to overcome the Oracle license restrictions you may could switch to an free Open Source implementation of the JDK. One of the most famous free available variant of the JDK is the OpenJDK from adoptium [2]. Another interesting implementation is GraalVM [3] which is build on top of the OpenJDK. The enterprise edition of GraalVM can speed up your application 1.3 times. For production system a commercial license of the enterprise edition is necessary. GraalVM includes also an own Compiler.

  Version   Year   JSR   Servlet   Tomcat   JavaSE
J2EE – 1.2 1999
J2EE – 1.3 2001 JSR 58
J2EE – 1.4 2003 JSR 151
Java EE 5 2006 JSR 244
Java EE 6 2009 JSR 316
Java EE 7 2013 JSR 342
Java EE 8 2017 JSR 366
Jakarta 8 2019 4.0 9.0 8
Jakarta 9 2020 5.0 10.0 8 & 11
Jakarta 9.1 2021 5.0 10.0 11

The table above is not complete but the most important current versions are listed. Feel free to send me an message if you have some additional information are missing in this overview.

Dependencies (Maven):

<dependency>
    <groupId>jakarta.platform</groupId>
    <artifactId>jakarta.jakartaee-api</artifactId>
    <version>${version}</version>
    <scope>provided</scope>
</dependency>

<dependency>
    <groupId>org.eclipse.microprofile</groupId>
    <artifactId>microprofile</artifactId>
    <version>${version}</version>
    <type>pom</type>
    <scope>provided</scope>
</dependency>

In the next step you have to choose the Jakarta EE environment implementation. This means decide for an application server. It’s very important that the application server you choose can operate on the JVM version you had installed on your system. The reason is quite simple, because the application server is implemented in Java. If you plan to develop a Servlet project, it’s not necessary to operate a full application server, a simple Servlet Container like Apache Tomcat (Catalina) or Jetty contains everything is required.

Jakarta Enterprise reference implementations are: Payara (fork of Glassfish), WildFly (formerly known as JBoss), Apache Geronimo, Apache TomEE, Apache Tomcat, Jetty and so on.

May you heard about Microprofile [4]. Don’t get confused about it, it’s not that difficult like it seems in the beginnin. In general you can understand Microprofiles as a subset of JakartaEE to run Micro Services. Microprofiles got extended by some technologies to trace, observe and monitor the status of the service. Version 5 was released on December 2021 and is full compatible to JakartaEE 9.


Core Technologies

Plain Old Java Beans

POJOs are simplified Java Objects without any business logic. This type of Java Beans only contains attributes and its corresponding getters and setters. POJOs do not:

  • Extend pre-specified classes: e. g. public class Test extends javax.servlet.http.HttpServlet is not considered to be a POJO class.
  • Contain pre-specified annotations: e. g. @javax.persistence.Entity public class Test is not a POJO class.
  • Implement pre-specified interfaces: e. g. public class Test implements javax.ejb.EntityBean is not considered to be a POJO class.

(Jakarta) Enterprise Java Beans

An EJB component, or enterprise bean, is a body of code that has fields and methods to implement modules of business logic. You can think of an enterprise bean as a building block that can be used alone or with other enterprise beans to execute business logic on the Java EE server.

Enterprise beans are either (stateless or stateful) session beans or message-driven beans. Stateless means, when the client finishes executing, the session bean and its data are gone. A message-driven bean combines features of a session bean and a message listener, allowing a business component to receive (JMS) messages asynchronously.

(Jakarta) Java Servlet

Java Servlet technology lets you define HTTP-specific Servlet classes. A Servlet class extends the capabilities of servers that host applications accessed by way of a request-response programming model. Although Servlets can respond to any type of request, they are commonly used to extend the applications hosted by web servers.

(Jakarta) Java Server Pages

JSP is a UI technology and lets you put snippets of Servlet code directly into a text-based document. JSP files transformed by the compiler to a Java Servlet.

(Jakarta) Java Server Pages Standard Tag Library

The JSTL encapsulates core functionality common to many JSP applications. Instead of mixing tags from numerous vendors in your JSP applications, you use a single, standard set of tags. JSTL has iterator and conditional tags for handling flow control, tags for manipulating XML documents, internationalization tags, tags for accessing databases using SQL, and tags for commonly used functions.

(Jakarta) Java Server Faces

JSF technology is a user interface framework for building web applications. JSF was introduced to solve the problem of JSP, where program logic and layout was extremely mixed up.

(Jakarta) Managed Beans

Managed Beans, lightweight container-managed objects (POJOs) with minimal requirements, support a small set of basic services, such as resource injection, lifecycle callbacks, and interceptors. Managed Beans represent a generalization of the managed beans specified by Java Server Faces technology and can be used anywhere in a Java EE application, not just in web modules.

(Jakarta) Java Persistence API

The JPA is a Java standards–based solution for persistence. Persistence uses an object/relational mapping approach to bridge the gap between an object-oriented model and a relational database. The Java Persistence API can also be used in Java SE applications outside of the Java EE environment. Hibernate and Eclipse Link are some reference Implementation for JPA.

(Jakarta) Java Transaction API

The JTA provides a standard interface for demarcating transactions. The Java EE architecture provides a default auto commit to handle transaction commits and rollbacks. An auto commit means that any other applications that are viewing data will see the updated data after each database read or write operation. However, if your application performs two separate database access operations that depend on each other, you will want to use the JTA API to demarcate where the entire transaction, including both operations, begins, rolls back, and commits.

(Jakarta) Java API for RESTful Web Services

The JAX-RS defines APIs for the development of web services built according to the Representational State Transfer (REST) architectural style. A JAX-RS application is a web application that consists of classes packaged as a servlet in a WAR file along with required libraries.

(Jakarta) Dependency Injection for Java

Dependency Injection for Java defines a standard set of annotations (and one interface) for use on injectable classes like Google Guice or the Sprig Framework. In the Java EE platform, CDI provides support for Dependency Injection. Specifically, you can use injection points only in a CDI-enabled application.

(Jakarta) Contexts & Dependency Injection for Java EE

CDI defines a set of contextual services, provided by Java EE containers, that make it easy for developers to use enterprise beans along with Java Server Faces technology in web applications. Designed for use with stateful objects, CDI also has many broader uses, allowing developers a great deal of flexibility to integrate different kinds of components in a loosely coupled but typesafe way.

(Jakarta) Bean Validation

The Bean Validation specification defines a metadata model and API for validating data in Java Beans components. Instead of distributing validation of data over several layers, such as the browser and the server side, you can define the validation constraints in one place and share them across the different layers.

(Jakarta) Java Message Service API

JMS API is a messaging standard that allows Java EE application components to create, send, receive, and read messages. It enables distributed communication that is loosely coupled, reliable, and asynchronous.

(Jakarta) Java EE Connector Architecture

The Java EE Connector Architecture is used by tools vendors and system integrators to create resource adapters that support access to enterprise information systems that can be plugged in to any Java EE product. A resource adapter is a software component that allows Java EE application components to access and interact with the underlying resource manager of the EIS. Because a resource adapter is specific to its resource manager, a different resource adapter typically exists for each type of database or enterprise information system.

The Java EE Connector Architecture also provides a performance-oriented, secure, scalable, and message-based transactional integration of Java EE platform–based web services with existing EISs that can be either synchronous or asynchronous. Existing applications and EISs integrated through the Java EE Connector Architecture into the Java EE platform can be exposed as XML-based web services by using JAX-WS and Java EE component models. Thus JAX-WS and the Java EE Connector Architecture are complementary technologies for enterprise application integration (EAI) and end-to-end business integration.

(Jakarta) JavaMail API

Java EE applications use the JavaMail API to send email notifications. The JavaMail API has two parts:

  • An application-level interface used by the application components to send mail
  • A service provider interface

The Java EE platform includes the JavaMail API with a service provider that allows application components to send Internet mail.

(Jakarta) Java Authorization Contract for Containers

The JACC specification defines a contract between a Java EE application server and an authorization policy provider. All Java EE containers support this contract. The JACC specification defines java.security.Permission classes that satisfy the Java EE authorization model. The specification defines the binding of container-access decisions to operations on instances of these permission classes. It defines the semantics of policy providers that use the new permission classes to address the authorization requirements of the Java EE platform, including the definition and use of roles.

(Jakarta) Java Authentication Service Provider Interface for Containers

The JASPIC specification defines a service provider interface (SPI) by which authentication providers that implement message authentication mechanisms may be integrated in client or server message-processing containers or runtimes. Authentication providers integrated through this interface operate on network messages provided to them by their calling containers. The authentication providers transform outgoing messages so that the source of each message can be authenticated by the receiving container, and the recipient of the message can be authenticated by the message sender. Authentication providers authenticate each incoming message and return to their calling containers the identity established as a result of the message authentication.

(Jakarta) Java EE Security API

The purpose of the Java EE Security API specification is to modernize and simplify the security APIs by simultaneously establishing common approaches and mechanisms and removing the more complex APIs from the developer view where possible. Java EE Security introduces the following APIs:

  • SecurityContext interface: Provides a common, uniform access point that enables an application to test aspects of caller data and grant or deny access to resources.
  • HttpAuthenticationMechanism interface: Authenticates callers of a web application, and is specified only for use in the servlet container.
  • IdentityStore interface: Provides an abstraction of an identity store and that can be used to authenticate users and retrieve caller groups.

(Jakarta) Java API for WebSocket

WebSocket is an application protocol that provides full-duplex communications between two peers over TCP. The Java API for WebSocket enables Java EE applications to create endpoints using annotations that specify the configuration parameters of the endpoint and designate its lifecycle callback methods.

(Jakarta) Java API for JSON Processing

The JSON-P enables Java EE applications to parse, transform, and query JSON data using the object model or the streaming model.

JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) is a text-based data exchange format derived from JavaScript that is used in web services and other connected applications.

(Jakarta) Java API for JSON Binding

The JSON-B provides a binding layer for converting Java objects to and from JSON messages. JSON-B also supports the ability to customize the default mapping process used in this binding layer through the use of Java annotations for a given field, JavaBean property, type or package, or by providing an implementation of a property naming strategy. JSON-B is introduced in the Java EE 8 platform.

(Jakarta) Concurrency Utilities for Java EE

Concurrency Utilities for Java EE is a standard API for providing asynchronous capabilities to Java EE application components through the following types of objects: managed executor service, managed scheduled executor service, managed thread factory, and context service.

(Jakarta) Batch Applications for the Java Platform

Batch jobs are tasks that can be executed without user interaction. The Batch Applications for the Java Platform specification is a batch framework that provides support for creating and running batch jobs in Java applications. The batch framework consists of a batch runtime, a job specification language based on XML, a Java API to interact with the batch runtime, and a Java API to implement batch artifacts.

Resources

[1] https://jakarta.ee
[2] https://adoptopenjdk.net
[3] https://www.graalvm.org
[4] https://microprofile.io

Notice: I try to keep this post up to date, but mistakes could happen. Please feel free to drop me a message, if you detected some mistakes or if you have some suggestions. If you like this article it would be great to leave a thumbs up and share with friends and colleges.

Treasure chest – Part 2

In the previous part of the article treasure chest, I described how the database connection for the TP-CORE library got established. Also I gave a insight to the internal structure of the ConfiguartionDO. Now in the second part I explain the ConfiguartionDAO and its corresponding service. With all this knowledge you able to include the application configuration feature of TP-CORE in your own project to build your own configuration registry.

Lets resume in short the architectural design of the TP-CORE library and where the fragments of the features located. TP-CORE is organized as layer architecture as shown in the graphic below.

As you can see there are three relevant packages (layer) we have to pay attention. As first the business layer resides like all other layers in an equal named package. The whole API of TP-CORE is defined by interfaces and stored in the business layer. The implementation of the defined interfaces are placed in the application layer. Domain Objects are simple data classes and placed in the domain layer. Another important pattern is heavily used in the TP-CORE library is the Data Access Object (DAO).

The GenericDAO provides the basic CRUD operations, we don’t need to repeat in every specialization again. A full description how the GenericDAO is implemented I documented in the GitHub Wiki of TP-CORE.

Now the days micro services and RESTful application are state of the art. Especially in TP-CORE the defined services aren’t REST. This design decision is based on the mind that TP-CORE is a dependency and not a standalone service. Maybe in future, after I got more feedback how and where this library is used, I could rethink the current concept. For now we treat TP-CORE as what it is, a library. That implies for the usage in your project, you can replace, overwrite, extend or wrap the basic implementation of the ConfigurationDAO to your special necessities.

To keep the portability of changing the DBMS Hibernate (HBM) is used as JPA implementation and O/R mapper. The Spring configuration for Hibernate uses the EntityManager instead of the Session, to send requests to the DBMS. Since version 5 Hibernate use the JPA 2 standard to formulate queries.

As I already mentioned, the application configuration feature of TP-CORE is implemented as DAO. The domain object and the database connection was topic of the first part of this article. Now I discuss how to give access to the domain object with the ConfigurationDAO and its implementation ConfigurationHbmDAO. The domain object ConfigurationDO or a list of domain objects will be in general the return value of the DAO. Actions like create are void and throw just an exception in the case of a failure. For a better style the return type is defined as Boolean. This simplifies also writing unit tests.

Sometimes it could be necessary to overwrite a basic implementation. A common scenario is a protected delete. For example: a requirement exist that a special entry is protected against a unwanted deletion. The most easy solution is to overwrite the delete whit a statement, refuses every time a request to delete a domain object whit a specific UUID. Only adding a new method like protectedDelete() is not a god idea, because a developer could use by accident the default delete method and the protected objects are not protected anymore. To avoid this problem you should prefer the possibility of overwriting GenericDAO methods.

As default query to fetch an object, the identifier defined as primary key (PK) is used. A simple expression fetching an object is written in the find method of the GenericHbmDAO. In the specialization as ConfigurationHbmDAO are more complex queries formulated. To keep a good design it is important to avoid any native SQL. Listing 1 shows fetch operations.

//GenericHbmDAO
public T find(final PK id) {
  return mainEntityManagerFactory.find(genericType, id);
}
//ConfigurationHbmDAO
public List getAllConfigurationSetEntries(final String module,
final String version, final String configSet) {

  CriteriaBuilder builder = mainEntityManagerFactory.getCriteriaBuilder();
  CriteriaQuery query = builder.createQuery(ConfigurationDO.class);
  // create Criteria
  Root root = query.from(ConfigurationDO.class);
  query.where(
    builder.equal(root.get("modulName"), module),
    builder.equal(root.get("version"), version),
    builder.equal(root.get("configurationSet"), configSet)
  );
  return mainEntityManagerFactory.createQuery(query).getResultList();
}

The readability of these few lines of source is pretty easy. The query we formulated for getAllConfigurationSetEntries() returns a list of ConfigurationDO objects from the same module whit equal version of a configSet. A module is for example the library TP-CORE it self or an ACL and so on. The configSet is a namespace that describes configuration entries they belong together like a bundle and will used in a service like e-mail. The version is related to the service. If in future some changes needed the version number have increase. Lets get a bit closer to see how the e-mail example will work in particular.

We assume that a e-mail service in the module TP-CORE contains the configuration entries: mailer.host, mailer.port, user and password. As first we define the module=core, configSet=email and version=1. If we call now getAllConfigurationSetEntries(core, 1, email); the result is a list of four domain objects with the entries for mailer.host, mailer.port, user and password. If in a newer version of the email service more configuration entries will needed, a new version will defined. It is very important that in the database the already exiting entries for the mail service will be duplicated with the new version number. Of course as effect the registry table will grow continual, but with a stable and well planned development process those changes occur not that often. The TP-CORE library contains an simple SMTP Mailer which is using the ConfigurationDAO. If you wish to investigate the usage by the MailClient real world example you can have a look on the official documentation in the TP-CORE GitHub Wiki.

The benefit of duplicate all existing entries of a service, when the service configuration got changed is that a history is created. In the case of update a whole application it is now possible to compare the entries of a service by version to decide exist changes they take effect to the application. In practical usage this feature is very helpful, but it will not avoid that updates could change our actual configuration by accident. To solve this problem the domain object has two different entries for the configuration value: default and configuration.

The application configuration follows the convention over configuration paradigm. Each service need by definition for all existing configuration entries a fix defined default value. Those default values can’t changed itself but when the value in the ConfigurationDO is set then the defaultValue entry will ignored. If an application have to be updated its also necessary to support a procedure to capture all custom changes of the updated configuration set and restore them in the new service version. The basic functionality (API) for application configuration in TP-CORE release 3.0 is:

  • void updateConfigurationEntries(List<ConfigurationDO> configuration)
  • ConfigurationDO getConfigurationByKey( String key, String module, String version)
  • List<ConfigurationDO> getAllConfigurationSetEntries(String module, String version, String configSet)
  • List<ConfigurationDO> getAllModuleEntries(String module)
  • List<ConfigurationDO> getAllDeprecatedEntries()
  • List<ConfigurationDO> getHistoryOfAEntry(String module, String key, String configSet)
  • String getValueByKey(String key, String module, String version)
  • void restoreKeyToDefault(ConfigurationDO entry)

The following listing gives you an idea how a implementation in your own service could look like. This snipped is taken from the JavaMailClient and shows how the internal processing of the fetched ConfigurationDO objects are managed.

private void processConfiguration() {
    List configurationEntries =  
        configurationDAO.getAllConfigurationSetEntries("core", 1, "email");

    for (ConfigurationDO entry : configurationEntries) {
        String value;
        if (StringUtils.isEmpty(entry.getValue())) {
            value = entry.getDefaultValue();
        } else {
            value = entry.getValue();
        }

        if (entry.getKey()
                .equals(cryptoTools.calculateHash("mailer.host",
                        HashAlgorithm.SHA256))) {
            configuration.replace("mailer.host", value);
        } else if (entry.getKey()
                .equals(cryptoTools.calculateHash("mailer.port",
                        HashAlgorithm.SHA256))) {
            configuration.replace("mailer.port", value);
        } else if (entry.getKey()
                .equals(cryptoTools.calculateHash("user",
                        HashAlgorithm.SHA256))) {
            configuration.replace("mailer.user", value);
        } else if (entry.getKey()
                .equals(cryptoTools.calculateHash("password",
                        HashAlgorithm.SHA256))) {
            configuration.replace("mailer.password", value);
        }
    }
}

Another functionality of the application configuration is located in the service layer. The ConfigurationService operates on the module perspective. The current methods resetModuleToDefault() and filterMandatoryFieldsOfConfigSet() already give a good impression what that means.

If you take a look on the MailClientService you detect the method updateDatabaseConfiguration(). May you wonder why this method is not part of the ConfigurationService? Of course this intention in general is not wrong, but in this specific implementation is the update functionality specialized to the MailClient configuration. The basic idea of the configuration layer is to combine several DAO objects to a composed functionality. The orchestration layer is the correct place to combine services together as a complex process.

Fazit

The implementation of the application configuration inside the small library TP-CORE allows to define an application wide configuration registry. This works also in the case the application has a distribute architecture like micro services. The usage is quite simple and can easily extended to own needs. The proof that the idea is well working shows the real world usage in the MailClient and FeatureToggle implementation of TP-CORE.

I hope this article was helpful and may you also like to use TP-CORE in your own project. Feel free to do that, because of the Apache 2 license is also no restriction for commercial usage. If you have some suggestions feel free to leave a comment or give a thumbs up. A star on my TP-CORE GitHub project s also welcome.

Treasure chest – Part 1

Through the years, different techniques to storage configuration settings for applications got established. We can choose between database, property files, XML or YAML, just to give a few impressions of the options we could choose from. But before we jumping into all technical details of a possible implementation, we need to get a bit familiar of some requirements.

Many times in my professional life I touched this topic. Problems occur periodically after an application was updated. My peak of frustration, I reached with Windows 10. After every major update many settings for security and privacy switched back to default, apps I already uninstalled messed up my system again and so on. This was reasons for me to chose an alternative to stop suffering. Now after I switched to Ubuntu Mate I’m fine, because those problems got disappear.

Several times I also had to maintain legacy projects and needed to migrate data to newer versions. A difficult and complex procedure. Because of those activities I questioned myself how this problem could handled in a proper way. My answer you can find in the open source project TP-CORE. The feature application configuration is my way how to avoid the effect of overwriting important configuration entries during the update procedure.

TP-CORE is a free available library with some useful functionality written in Java. The source code is available on GitHub and the binaries are published on Maven Central. To use TP-CORE in your project you can add it as dependency.

<dependency>
   <groupId>io.github.together.modules</groupId>
   <artifactId>core</artifactId>
   <version>2.2.0</version>
</dependency>

The feature of application configuration is implemented as ConfigurationDAO and use a database. My decision for a database approach was driven by the requirement of having a history. Off course the choice have also some limitations. Obviously has the configuration for the database connection needed to be stored somewhere else.

TP-CORE use Spring and Hibernate (JPA) to support several DBMS like PostgreSQL, Oracle or MariaDB. My personal preference is to use PostgreSQL, so we can as next step discuss how to setup our database environment. The easiest way running a PostgreSQL Server is to use the official Docker image. If you need a brief overview how to deal with Docker and PostgreSQL may you like to check my article: Learn to walk with Docker and PostgreSQL. Below is a short listing how the PostgreSQL container could get instantiated in Docker.

docker network create -d bridge –subnet=172.18.0.0/16 services

docker run -d –name postgres \
-p 5432:5432 –net services –ip 172.18.0.2 \
-e POSTGRES_PASSWORD=password \
-e PGPASSWORD=password \
-v /home/<user>/postgreSQL:/var/lib/postgresql/data \
postgres:11

May you need to make some changes on the listing above to fit it for your system. After your DBMS is running well we have to create the schemata and the user with a proper password. In our case the schema is called together. the user is also called together and the password will be together too.

CREATE ROLE together LOGIN
  ENCRYPTED PASSWORD 'md582721599778493074c7de7e2bb735332'
  NOSUPERUSER INHERIT NOCREATEDB NOCREATEROLE NOREPLICATION;

CREATE DATABASE "together"
  WITH OWNER = together
       ENCODING = 'UTF8'
       TABLESPACE = pg_default
       LC_COLLATE = 'en_US.utf8'
       LC_CTYPE = 'en_US.utf8'
       CONNECTION LIMIT = -1;

To establish the connection from your application to the PostgreSQL DBMS we use a XML configuration from the Spring Framework. The GitHub repository of TP-CORE contains already a working configuration file called spring-dao.xml. The Spring configuration includes some other useful features like transactions and a connection pool. All necessary dependencies are already included. You just need to replace the correct entries for the connection variables:

  • ${jdbc.user} = together
  • ${jdbc.password} = togehter
  • ${hibernate.dialect.database} = org.hibernate.dialect.PostgreSQL95Dialect
  • ${jdbc.driverClassName} = org.postgresql.Driver
  • ${jdbc.url} = jdbc:postgresql://172.18.0.2:5432/together
  • ${dbcp.initialSize} = 10
  • ${hibernate.hbm2ddl.auto} = update
  • ${hibernate.show_sql} = false

In the next step you need to tell your application how to instanciate the Spring context, using the configuration file spring-dao.xml. Depending on your application type you have two possibilities. For a standard Java app, you can add the following line to your main method:

ApplicationContext =
   new ClassPathXmlApplicationContext("/spring-dao.xml");

Web application are configured by the web.xml in the WEB-INF directory. there you need to add those lines:

<context-param>
  <param-name>contextConfigLocation</param-name>
  <param-value>/WEB-INF/spring-dao.xml</param-value>
</context-param>

The creation of the database table will managed by Hibernate during the application start. When you discover the GitHub repository of the TP-CORE project you will find in the directory /src/main/filters the file database.properties. This file contains more connection strings to other database systems. In the case you wish to compile TP-CORE by your own, you can modify database.properties to your preferred configuration. The full processed configuration file with all token replacements you will find in the target directory.

In the next paragraph we will have a closer look on the Domain Object ConfigurationDO.

The most columns you see in the image above, is very clear, for what they got used. As first point we need to clarify, what makes an entry unique? Of course the UUID as primary key fits this requirement as well. In our case the UUID is the primary key and is auto generated by the application, when a new row will created. But using in an application all the time a non human readable id as key, to grab a value is heavily error prone and uncomfortable. For this use case I decided a combination of configuration key, module name and service version to define a unique key entry.

To understand the benefit of this construction I will give a simple example. Imagine you have functionality of sending E-Mails in your application. This functionality requires several configuration entries like host, user and password to connect with an SMTP server. to group all those entries together in one bundle we have the CONFIG_SET. If your application deals with an modular architecture like micro services, it could be also helpful to organize the configuration entries by module or service name. For this reason the MODULE_NAME was also included into this data structure. Both entries can be used like name spaces to fetch relevant information more efficient.

Now it could be possible that some changes of the functionality create new configuration entries or some entries got obsolete. To enable a history and allow a backward compatibility the data structure got extended by SERVICE_VERSION.

Every entry contains a mandatory default value and an optional configuration value. The application can overwrite the default value by filling the configuration value field. This allows updates without effect the custom configuration, as long the developer respect to not fill entries for configuration values and always use the default entry. This definition is the convention over configuration paradigm.

The flags deprecated and mandatory for a configuration key are very explicit and descriptive. Also the column comment don’t need as well any further explanation.

If there are changes of one or more configuration entries for a service, the whole configuration set has to be duplicated with the new service version. As example you can have a look on the MailClient functionality of TP-CORE how the application configuration is used.

A very important information is that the configuration key is in the DBMS stored as SHA-512 hash. This is a simple protection against a direct manipulation of the configuration in the DBMS, outside of the application. For sure this is not a huge security, but minimum it makes the things a bit uncomfortable. In the application code is a human readable key name used. The mapping is automatic, and we don’t need to worry about it.

Resume

In this first part I talked about why I had need my own implementation of a application registry to storage configuration settings. The solution I prefer is using a database and I showed how enable the database configuration in your own project. Shortly we also had a view on the data structure and how the Domain Object is working.

In the second part of this article I give a introduction to the Data Access Object (DAO) and his corresponding service. With this information you are able to extend or adapt the application configuration implementation to your own needs.

Treasure Chest – Part 2