Backward compatible configuration key values for MicroProfile Config

Introduction

With MicroProfile config, you can define the application configuration using key-value pairs which can be retrieved from various resources.
You can use it for defining the configuration in a very flexible way and this for is useful for your applications but also for frameworks which need some config.

But one day, you like to change the key for whatever good reason. But can you do this easily? If you have written the application, it probably is. But what if you have written a little framework. Do the developers read the release notes where you have stated the changes?

The backward compatibility struggle

When your configuration parameter is required, the change will quickly be detected by the developer. They upgrade to your new version and get an exception that the key is not defined. Annoying maybe but not that dramatic.
The scenario where the parameter is optional is a much greater threat. The developer has defined a custom value, overriding your default but by changing the key, the default value is picked up again. Unless the developer has written your release not notice that a change of the key name is required.

So we need a way to define the fact that the key config.key.old is now config.key.new and ideally the value for the old parameter should be picked up.

The Alias config ConfigSource

The solution for the above-described problem can be solved with the tools we have at our disposal within MicroProfile Config itself.
We can define a Config Source which will be consulted at the end of the chain. As you probably know, you can define multiple Config Sources. Each will be asked to provide a value for the key. If a source cannot supply the value, the next source is contacted.
When our ConfigSource is contacted at the end of the chain, we can see if the developer (of the framework in this case) has defined an alias for this parameter key. In this case, we define that the search for a value for config.key.new, should also be tried with key-value config.key.old. So our special ConfigSource just asks for the value of the config parameter with the old key. If there is a value found with this key value, it is returned. If nothing comes up, it returns null as required to have the default value then be selected.

The Atbash Alias config ConfigSource

The Alias config ConfigSource concept is thus fairly simple. The Atbash config extension contains this feature since his latest release (version 0.9.3)

The configuration is also fairly simple. We only need to configure the mapping from the old to the new key value. This can be done by adding a properties file on the classpath. The file much have the structure: Alias.<something>.properties and must be located within the config path. This file needs to be created by the framework developer in case he is changing one of the configuration key values.

In our example here, the contents of the config/alias.demo.properties should be

config.key.new=config.key.old

Do you want some more information and an example? Have a look at the demo in the Atbash demo repository.

And another nice thing, it works with Java 8 and Java 11 classpath.

Conclusion

By adding a ConfigSource at the end of the chain, we can make the key values of our configuration parameters backward compatible. In case the developer still uses the old values of the key, we can look up the new key value and put a warning in the log. This makes sure that the application still works and informs the developer of the changed name.

Have fun.