martes, diciembre 03, 2013

Are Configuration Files Documentation? ... Yes!!! TomEE + Asciidoctor Example

Normally in our projects we generate a considerable amount of documentation. Some documentation is directly a document written as is, for example Software Requirements Specifications (SRS) or Software Design Specifications (SDS), but there are other pieces of our projects that although they are not a document directly, they are consulted by developers/testers/managers, customers ... and treat it as is, for example user stories written by developers and/or QA in Cucumber or JBehave format or  javadoc. And now I ask to myself, are configuration files documentation too? Are people interested in having them in a document and treat them as documentation? And the answer is YES!!!. In this post we are going to see how to transform TomEE's configuration file into a document using an Asciidoctor extension I have developed specially for this occasion.

In TomEE, resources and containers can be configured inside a file called tomee.xml among other places. But what really makes interesting is that a subset of this file can be put inside the project, so each web application is responsible of configuring their own resources, for example DataSources, JMS Queues, ....  And having the ability of putting specific configuration of the server inside the application also opens the doors of creating more than one configuration file per application, and load one or another depending on the environment we are going to deploy the application. For example:
  • In developer environment the DataSource could point to an embedded database.
  • In QA environment the DataSource could point to a database installed on localhost.
  • In Stage environment the same DataSource points to an external IP1.
  • In Production environment the same DataSource points to an external IP2.
So as you can see, it would be interesting to have all these information as readable documentation, so everyone involved in the project could review it and for example know exactly which servers are being used in each environment as datasources, or configuration parameters like pool size of stateless manager.

And this is exactly what tomee-asciidoctor-extension does. It allows us to embed Apache TomEE configuration files into an AsciiDoc documentation.

Let's see an example of Apache TomEE configuration file:

This is a typical configuration file where for example you can see some DataSources defined, custom resource or definition of TransactionManager.

Probably your projects will have a document called for example infrastructure (or something similar) where all information related with the software that is being used in the project and  environments used will be described.

A simple example of these kind of documents can be:

Note that besides describing the software that is going to be used for solving our problem, in this case an Apache TomEE, we are using the tomee-asciidoctor-extension to add the Apache TomEE's container and resources configuration file, so when someone wants to inspect the documentation will also see exactly the configuration values that had Apache TomEE at time of generating the document. If you look carefully you only need to add next line to transform a Apache TomEE configuration file into documentation:


In this case we are including a file called resources.xml. Note that in order to extension detects an Apache TomEE configuration file, we need to use the special keyword tomee: followed by the location of the file. Also note that we are using an attribute called initialLevel. Because we are embedding one document into another one, we need a way to set at which level the document will be rendered, and this is what this attribute is designed for.

Previous document rendered with default style sheet looks like:

See that thanks of Asciidoctor and its extension system, we are able to convert configuration files to documentation.

You can see the code of this extension at:

We keep learning,
Siente y baila y goza, Que la vida es una sola, Voy a reír, voy a bailar, Vive, sigue, Siempre pa'lante (Vivir Mi Mida - Marc Anthony)


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