Grokbase Groups Struts dev June 2008
I'm not sure what you see as "lazy", exactly?


-----Original Message-----
From: Al Sutton <>
Sent: Saturday, June 28, 2008 12:06 PM
To: Struts Developers List <>
Subject: Re: environment awareness (project stage in JSF)


From what I can see your only real problem is QA on config files and
given that how can you you can guarentee that all of your servers will
never have their config drifted between zones because a certain problem
occurr in dev but does in production.

I've previously worked on a project that used LDAP directories for
everything (data storage and configuration). The app servers were only
given the LDAP FQDN to bind to and pulled all of their config data from
there. The LDAP servers had IP access control rules which prevented any
machine outside of the domain attaching to them, this meant a server on
the dev network couldn't get the production configuration and vice
versa. You could use an HTTP URL and web server as an alternative, but
the principal is the same, protect the data which can cause things to go
wrong (i.e. the config file), and don't try to code to prevent every
screw-up a support techie will make (they can be pretty inventive when
it comes to how to screw things up).

I can also see concerns over where do you draw the line between
environments. With your example of credit card processing where would
you say dev and production separate, do you write the code to return
dummy auths and/or declines in dev mode, or do you call out to the
payment gateway? One means that anyone with a spare machine can test
something, the other means you need them to have the correct config and
equipment to talk to the payment gateway?, what happens if someone wants
to switch between the two in order to test the gateway interface, do you
create another environment label?

All in all it does seem like a lazy solution to me, whats needed is
better QA, not a solution which makes people sloppy because they think
that the code will catch their mistakes.


Brian Pontarelli wrote:
I think this is an over-simplification of a complex problem. Here are
a few examples from

- Thread pool sizes. We couldn't replicate production (1500+ servers)
in staging, so instead, we created as many VMs as we could handle on
the limited number of machines we had (~100) to get an accurate
simulation. This required smaller thread pools to not kill the OS

- Different back end host connections to the GDSs. You can't book a
real flight in staging or development.

- Different server names. We had around 7 tiers that spanned multiple
servers. Each request to Orbitz hits anywhere from 10-20 different
machines. Although we used Jini to discover the services, we still had
to configure the Jini lookup servers differently between environments

- A classic example that everyone uses is database configuration and
SMTP servers. These are could be in a JNDI entry or the application
might create connections directly, depends. If the application creates
this stuff it will need different configuration per environment.

- Not charging credit cards in development, but charging them in
staging and production. And we also had specific merchant accounts to
test in staging that were full transactions, but they didn't charge us
the full amount. We also had many different bank accounts setup to
test all the different types of cards and transaction boundaries.

And the list continues. I might agree that an MVC might not need to
know the environment, but an application will. The example you give
with logging has very little to do with environment concerns and more
to do with poor testing and programing. In addition, you should have
been able to turn it off.

I think a better example of bad environment configuration is using it
to configure everything and having complex and error prone
configuration files. I recall two cases that are quite humorous:

1. With Jini we could dynamically add machines and the system would
discover them and they would immediately start accepting work. Made
scaling simple. Someone had setup a box and mistakenly named the
environment to "pr0d" (yeah that's a zero in there). Took us hours to
figure that gem out and at 2am no less.

2. Someone was creating a new service to interact with a new GDS
feature that provided discounts on hotel rooms. They were testing it
out in development and being a developer, thought a 98% discount would
be some good test values. Rather than putting the value in the file it ended up in the file and made it all the way out to
production. The hotel called us up and mentioned that they had quickly
sold out over New Years at a whopping $6 a night. Luckily they only
had 5 rooms or something, but we ate the cost of selling a 5-star
hotel at 98% off.

I think the principle is sound, just needs a lot of testing and
understanding. I definitely don't think it has anything to do with
lazy developers. In fact, some of the best developers I know use it
extremely well to control size, performance, scale, functionality, and
much more in different environments.


On Jun 28, 2008, at 4:56 AM, Al Sutton wrote:

I think the concept is an idea which will appeal to lazy developers.

Why on earth would you want to put conditionals into your code that
you know will only evaluate to a set value in the environment they
run in?

If anything it makes problems harder to track down because if someone
takes a copy of the app from a production machine to a dev machine to
further investigate a problem it will behave differently, which is
just a hiding to nowhere in multi-threaded apps such as S2 webapps.

An example of one of the "joys" that can come from this type of idea
came from a project I worked on where a coder used log4j and isDebug
to conditionally build a log string and log some extra data. This
might be seen as a good idea, except the code within the conditional
block didn't properly check all the objects were not null and under
certain functionally valid conditions an NPE was thrown, so when a
problem arose in production at a customers site they were asked to
turn debug logging on and all that they sent back was a log with an
number of NPEs which didn't relate to the original problem.

Ohhh the fun we had explaining that a new release had to go through
their change (long) control procedure just so we could find out what
the original problem was and until that we we're kind of stuffed
finding out what in their environment triggered the problem.

Yes in an ideal world it shouldn't have happened. Yes it probably
should have been picked up by some QA test somewhere. But don't we
all live in the real world?


Chris Pratt wrote:
We use something similar in our system. The system uses a bunch of
resource bundles that are separated into logical domains, and each
entry can be overridden by a local file on each machine. Plus each
entry can be scoped by environment (production, test, development),
machine, or application name (in case multiple applications are
sharing a library component). We have log4j and spring configurers so
that it is tightly integrated into the tools we use. It's saved us an
eternity of time tracking down bugs from one environment to the next
since we deploy the same WAR file that was accepted by the quality
assurance group into production and let the configuration take care of

I've often thought of creating a Google Code project to open source
it, but wasn't sure if there would be enough interest.

On Fri, Jun 27, 2008 at 1:38 PM, Brian Pontarelli
Yeah, I found that environment resolution was a key feature for any
application. At Orbitz we could deploy the same bundle to any
server and the
bundle would figure out where it was and configure itself for that
environment. Worked really well.

I have also provided this type of feature in JCatapult using an API
that can
be implemented however developers need. The default implementation
JNDI, but it is simple to change it. The nice thing about that is
you can
assume at all times that the environment is available and make
around that.


On Jun 27, 2008, at 1:53 PM, Frank W. Zammetti wrote:

We d something similar as well, but we decided to use a simple env
var in
all environments... So the exact same EAR can deploy to any
environment and
the code within simply looks for that var and acts accordingly.
Simple but
highly effective.


-----Original Message-----
From: Ian Roughley <>
Sent: Friday, June 27, 2008 2:59 PM
To: Struts Developers List <>
Subject: Re: environment awareness (project stage in JSF)

I've actually had to implement this type of feature in multiple
enterprise applications. However, I would say that it's not
knowing the
environment, but being able to change configuration elements per
environment that is important (for what I did, and in rails I
think this
is the most important elements). i.e. change the SMTP, temp file
admin user email address, etc. depending on whether you are testing
locally vs. production.

If developers are using spring, there is a way to load property files
with a hostname extension (which is one solution) - but should we
expect users to be using Spring? The other question is being able to
modify properties depending on env (i.e.
devMode=true in
development and never in production).


Antonio Petrelli wrote:
2008/6/27 James Holmes <>:

I like it. This is one of the features of RoR that I really
found useful
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postedJun 27, '08 at 5:31p
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