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From Alex Blewitt <>
Subject Re: [JNDI] [Config] Configuration: flat file or registry?
Date Tue, 12 Aug 2003 10:55:26 GMT
> The discussion of a database (directory) vs. flat-file based 
> configuration
> made me recall all the horrors our development team had with both IBM
> WebSphere and Sun IPlanet J2EE servers few years ago. As some of you 
> might
> know both of these had database/directory backed configuration.

Yes, but the initial releases of WebSphere hid a lot of it from you. As 
things moved on, they provided more interfaces to the repository, 
including the ability to pull out an XML-representation of the 

> When you look at an J2EE server, this is not the case. There are many
> things to configure and the relationships between the entities are
> complex. Multiple entities belong to the same group and their
> configuration affect each other. Having the configuration in a format
> where you can only see a glipse of the whole at once is a bad idea.

This is why tools exist to pull out formats of the repository in known 
formats. However, managing relationships between naming services is in 
fact very easy; you simply have forward references to the components 
you are relating to.

Where WebSphere fell over was hiding this all from the end user. If we 
can provide a well-defined naming convention (in the same way as you 
might provide a well-defined XML schema) then these can become much 
less problematic.

> With files you can easily take backups of the configuration and revert 
> to
> earlier configurations when something goes sour.  As mentioned by 
> others,
> configuration files can be version controlled with, for example CVS. 
> Also
> fixing broken configurations (inconsistent links, etc) is much easyer 
> with
> file-based configuration.

This has been raised before a few times, with a couple of suggestions:

o Take backups of the registry storage itself. This can be done if the 
naming backend is a DB or even flat-file based. An advantage of taking 
a backup of the registry is that it's much faster to restore, and has 
all information encoded within.
o Export it to a text file and store that in CVS.

> With both WebSphere (2.0 and 3.0) and Iplanet (don't remember the
> version), the configuration database could easily be driven into an
> incosistent state, from where the only way out was to re-install the 
> whole
> server and start from scratch.  I have never seen this happen with
> file-based configuration (WebLogic, JBoss, orion-server, etc).

I think that it's equally possible that you can get an XML file without 
a required entity, in much the same way that a repository can get into 
an inconsistent state.

Again, you raise an interesting point that should the repository be 
hosed/become inconsistent, then it's somewhat more problematic to get 
out of. I'm sure the same is true if a file format was used as well, 
but the key point is that it should be easy to recover from a hosed 
configuration, whatever the format of the configuration.

You might like to add your thoughts to the 


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