Database-Backed Refreshable Beans with Groovy and Spring 3

Posted on October 30, 2010 by Scott Leberknight

In 2009 I published a two-part series of articles on IBM developerWorks entitled Groovier Spring. The articles showed how Spring supports implementing beans in Groovy whose behavior can be changed at runtime via the "refreshable beans" feature. This feature essentially detects when a Spring bean backed by a Groovy script has changed, recompiles it, and replaces the old bean with the new one. This feature is pretty powerful in certain scenarios, for example in PDF generation; mail or any kind of template generation; and as a way to implement runtime modifiable business rules. One specific use case I showed was how to implement PDF generation where the Groovy scripts reside in a database, allowing you to change how PDFs are generated by simply updating Groovy scripts in your database.

In order to load Groovy scripts from a database, I showed how to implement custom ScriptFactoryPostProcessor and ScriptSource classes. The CustomScriptFactoryPostProcessor extends the default Spring ScriptFactoryPostProcessor and overrides the convertToScriptSource method to recognize a database-based script, e.g. you could specify a script source of database:com/nearinfinity/demo/GroovyPdfGenerator.groovy. There is also DatabaseScriptSource that implements the ScriptSource interface and which knows how to load Groovy scripts from a database.

In order to put these pieces together, you need to do a bit of configuration. In the articles I used Spring 2.5.x which was current at the time in early 2009. The configuration looked like this:

<bean id="dataSource"
    <!-- set data source props, e.g. driverClassName, url, username, password... -->

<bean id="scriptFactoryPostProcessor"
    <property name="dataSource" ref="dataSource"/>

<lang:groovy id="pdfGenerator"
    <lang:property name="companyName" value="Database Groovy Bookstore"/>

In Spring 2.5.x this works because the <lang:groovy> tag looks for a Spring bean with id "scriptFactoryPostProcessor" and if one exists it uses it, if not it creates it. In the above configuration we created our own "scriptFactoryPostProcessor" bean for <lang:groovy> tags to utilize. So all's well...until you move to Spring 3.x at which point the above configuration no longer works. This was pointed out to me by João from Brazil who tried the sample code in the articles with Spring 3.x, and it did not work. After trying a bunch of things, we eventually determined that in Spring 3.x the <lang:groovy> tag looks for a ScriptFactoryPostProcessor bean whose id is "org.springframework.scripting.config.scriptFactoryPostProcessor" not just "scriptFactoryPostProcessor." So once you figure this out, it is easy to change the above configuration to:

<bean id="org.springframework.scripting.config.scriptFactoryPostProcessor"
    <property name="dataSource" ref="dataSource"/>

<lang:groovy id="pdfGenerator"
    <lang:property name="companyName" value="Database Groovy Bookstore"/>

Then, everything works as expected and the Groovy scripts can reside in your database and be automatically reloaded when you change them. So if you download the article sample code as-is, it will work since the bundled Spring version is 2.5.4, but if you update to Spring 3.x then you'll need to modify the configuration in applicationContext.xml for example #7 (EX #7) as shown above to change the "scriptFactoryPostProcessor" bean to be "org.springframework.scripting.config.scriptFactoryPostProcessor." Note there is a scheduled JIRA issue SPR-5106 that will make the ScriptFactoryPostProcessor mechanism pluggable, so that you won't need to extend the default ScriptFactoryPostProcessor and replace the default bean, etc. But until then, this hack continues to work pretty well.

Missing aop 'target' packages in Spring 3.0.0.M1 zip file

Posted on January 15, 2009 by Scott Leberknight

Today I was mucking around with the Spring 3.0.0.M1 source release I downloaded as a ZIP file. I wanted to simply get the sample PetClinic up and running and be able to load Spring as a project in IntelliJ. Note Spring now requires Java 6 to build, so if you're using an older 32-bit Macbook Pro you'll need to install JDK 6. I used these instructions generously provided by Landon Fuller to install Soy Latte, which is a Java 6 port for Mac OS X (Tiger and Leopard). So I went to run the "ant jar package" command (after first setting up Ivy since that is how Spring now manages dependencies) and everything went well until I got a compilation exception. There unfortunately wasn't any nice error message about why the compile failed.

So next I loaded up the Spring project in IntelliJ and tried to compile from there. Aha! It tells me that the package is missing as well as the package, and of course all the classes in those packages were also missing. I was fairly sure I didn't accidentally delete those two packages in the source code, so I checked the file to be sure. Sure enough those two 'target' packages are not present in the source code in the zip file. The resolution is to go grab the missing files from the Spring 3.0.0.M1 subversion repository and put them in the correct place in the source tree. The better resolution is to do an export of the 3.0.0.M1 tag from the Subversion repo directly, rather than be lazy like I was and download the zip file.

I still am wondering why the 'target' packages were missing, however. My guess is that whatever build process builds the zip file for distribution excluded directories named 'target' since 'target' is a common output directory name in build systems like Ant and Maven and usually should be excluded since it contains generated artifacts. If that assumption is correct and all directories named 'target' were excluded, then unfortunately the two aop subpackages named 'target' got mistakenly excluded which caused a bit of head-scratching as to why Spring wouldn't compile.

Groovy + Spring = Groovier Spring

Posted on January 06, 2009 by Scott Leberknight

If you're into Groovy and Spring, check out my two-part series on IBM developerWorks on using Groovy together with Spring's dynamic language support for potentially more flexible (and interesting) applications. In Part 1 I show how to easily integrate Groovy scripts (i.e. .groovy files containing one or more classes) into Spring-based applications. In Part 2 I show how to use the "refreshable beans" feature in Spring to automatically and transparently reload Spring beans implemented in Groovy from pretty much anywhere including a relational database, and why you might actually are to do something like that!

Using a Hibernate Interceptor To Set Audit Trail Properties

Posted on August 27, 2008 by Scott Leberknight

In almost every application I've done, the database tables have some kind of audit trail fields. Sometimes this is a separate "audit log" table where all inserts, updates, deletes, and possibly even queries are logged. Other times there are the four typical audit trail fields in each table, for example you might have created_by, created_on, updated_by, and updated_on fields in each table. The goal in the latter case is to update those four fields with the appropriate information as to who created or updated a record and when they did it. Using s simple Hibernate Interceptor this can be accomplished with no changes to your application code (with several assumptions which I'll detail next). In other words, you won't need to and definitely should not be manually setting those audit properties littered around your application code.

The basic assumptions I'll make for this simple audit interceptor are that: (1) model objects contain the four audit properties mentioned above, and (2) there is an easy way to obtain the current user's information from anywhere in the code. The first assumption is needed since you need some way to identify which properties constitute the audit trail properties. The second assumption is required because you need some way to obtain the credentials of the person making the change in order to set the createdBy or updatedBy property in your Hibernate Interceptor class.

So, for reference purposes, assume you have a (Groovy) base entity like this with the four audit properties:

class BaseEntity implements Serializable {
  String createdBy
  Date createdOn
  String updatedBy
  Date updatedOn

I'm using the Hibernate ImprovedNamingStrategy so that camel case names are translated to underscored names, e.g. "createdBy" becomes "created_by". Next assume there is a BlogEntry entity class that extends BaseEntity and inherits the audit trail properties:

class BlogEntry extends BaseEntity {
  @Id @GeneratedValue (strategy = GenerationType.IDENTITY)
  Long id

  Long version

  String title

  @Column (name = "entry_text")
  String text

  @Temporal (TemporalType.TIMESTAMP)
  Date publishedOn

To implement the interceptor, we need to implement the aforementioned Interceptor interface. We could do this directly, but it is better to extend EmptyInterceptor so we need only implement the methods we actually care about. Without further ado, here's the implementation (excluding package declaration and imports):

class AuditTrailInterceptor extends EmptyInterceptor {

  boolean onFlushDirty(Object entity, Serializable id, Object[] currentState,
                      Object[] previousState, String[] propertyNames,
                      Type[] types) {
    setValue(currentState, propertyNames, "updatedBy", UserUtils.getCurrentUsername())
    setValue(currentState, propertyNames, "updatedOn", new Date())

  boolean onSave(Object entity, Serializable id, Object[] state,
                 String[] propertyNames, Type[] types) {
    setValue(state, propertyNames, "createdBy", UserUtils.getCurrentUsername())
    setValue(state, propertyNames, "createdOn", new Date())

  private void setValue(Object[] currentState, String[] propertyNames,
                        String propertyToSet, Object value) {
    def index = propertyNames.toList().indexOf(propertyToSet)
    if (index >= 0) {
      currentState[index] = value

So what did we do? First, we implemented the onFlushDirty and onSave methods because they are called for SQL updates and inserts, respectively. For example, when a new entity is first saved, the onSave method is called, at which point we want to set the createdBy and createdOn properties. And if an existing entity is updated, onFlushDirty is called and we set the updatedBy and updatedOn.

Second, we are using the setValue helper method to do the real work. Specfically, the only way to modify the state in a Hibernate Interceptor (that I am aware of anyway) is to dig into the currentState array and change the appropriate value. In order to do that, you first need to trawl through the propertyNames array to find the index of the property you are trying to set. For example, if you are updating a blog entry you need to set the updatedBy and updatedOn properties within the currentState array. For a BlogEntry object, the currentState array might look like this before the update (the updated by and on propertes are both null in this case because the entity was created by Bob but has not been updated yet):

   2008-08-27 10:57:19.0,
   2008-08-27 10:57:19.0, 
   "Lorem ipsum...",
   "My First Blog Entry",

You then need to look at the propertyNames array to provide context for what the above data represents:


So in the above updatedBy is at index 2 and updatedOn is located at index 3. setValue() works by finding the index of the property it needs to set, e.g. "updatedBy," and if the property was found, it changes the value at that index in the currentState array. So for updatedBy at index 2, the following is the equivalent code if we had actually hardcoded the implementation to always expect the audit fields as the first four properties (which is obviously not a great idea):

// Equivalent hard-coded code to change "updatedBy" in above example
// Don't use in production!
currentState[2] = UserUtils.getCurrentUsername()

To actually make your interceptor do something, you need to enable it on the Hibernate Session. You can do this in one of several ways. If you are using plain Hibernate (i.e. not with Spring or another framework) you can set the interceptor globally on the SessionFactory, or you can enable it for each Session as in the following example code:

// Configure interceptor globally (applies to all Sessions)
sessionFactory =
  new AnnotationConfiguration()
    .setInterceptor(new AuditTrailInterceptor())

// Enable per Session
Session session = getSessionFactory().openSession(new AuditTrailInterceptor())

If you enable the interceptor globally, it must be thread-safe. If you are using Spring you can easily configure a global interceptor on your session factory bean:

<bean id="sessionFactory"
  <property name="entityInterceptor">
    <bean class="com.nearinfinity.hibernate.interceptor.AuditTrailInterceptor"/>
  <!-- additional Hibernate configuration properties -->

On the other hand, if you would rather enable the interceptor per session, you either need to use the openSession(Interceptor) method to open your sessions or alternatively implement your own version of CurrentSessionContext to use the getCurrentSession() method in order to set the interceptor. Using getCurrentSession() is preferable anyway since it allows several different classes (e.g. DAOs) to use the same session without needing to explicitly pass the Session object around to each object that needs it.

At this point we're done. But, if you know about the Hibernate eventing system (e.g. you can listen for events such as inserts and updates and define event listener classes to respond to those events), you might be wondering why I didn't use that mechanism rather than the Interceptor. The reason is that, to the best of my current knowledge, you cannot alter state of objects in event listeners. So for example you would not be able to change an entity's state in a PreInsertEventListener implementation class. If anyone knows this is incorrect or has implemented it, I'd love to hear about it. Until next time, happy auditing!

This is the final (and way, way overdue) article in a series of blogs describing how you can effectively use Hibernate validators. The fifth article described how to bypass Hibernate validation in specific use cases, for example if you need to save a "draft" object that should not be validated yet. In this article I'll describe how the Hibernate Validator can be integrated into web applications so that validation errors propagate seamlessly from the data access code back up through the web tier and to the end user as nicely formatted error messages. For this article I'm using Spring MVC, but the basic concept should be applicable no matter which of the 100 billion Java web frameworks you are using.

The basic concept is this: When a user submits a form, you first want to bind the form values to your domain object (making sure of course that you only allow user-editable fields to be bound to the object). You then want to validate the domain object with the updated values. Finally, you want the Hibernate Validator validation errors translated into your web framework's native error validation mechanism so it can inform the user of the errors and do things like display the errors to the user next to the problematic fields. Stated more succinctly, the following steps must occur: submit form, data binding to domain object, validate domain object using Hibernate Validator, translate Hibernate Validator errors to web framework errors, re-display form with nicely formatted error messages to user for correction.

The only piece we don't have is the translation of Hibernate Validator errors into web framework errors. Since I'm using Spring MVC in this case, I'll need to take the Hibernate Validator errors and translate them into a Spring Errors object. For this I can use Spring MVC's Validator interface to implement the error translation in a generic fashion. For this blog the implementation is going to be simple and naive, and won't take into account things like nested properties or internationalization because I want to keep things relatively simple.

So, let's look at the HibernateAnnotationSpringValidator class which is responsible for validating any of our domain objects (which are all assumed to ultimately extend from a custom BaseEntity class for this example) and then translating the Hibernate Validator InvalidValue objects into Spring MVC Errors.

package com.nearinfinity.common.spring.validation.hibernate;

// imports...

public class HibernateAnnotationSpringValidator implements Validator {

  private Map validatorCache = new HashMap();

  public boolean supports(Class clazz) {
    return BaseEntity.class.isAssignableFrom(clazz);

  public void validate(Object value, Errors errors) {
    Class type = value.getClass();
    ClassValidator validator = validatorCache.get(type);
    if (validator == null) {
      validator = new ClassValidator(type);
      validatorCache.put(type, validator);
    InvalidValue[] invalidValues = validator.getInvalidValues(value);
    translateToSpringValidationErrors(invalidValues, errors);

  private void translateToSpringValidationErrors(InvalidValue[] invalidValues, Errors errors) {
    for (InvalidValue invalidValue : invalidValues) {
      String propertyName = invalidValue.getPropertyName();
      if (propertyName == null) {
        errors.reject(null, invalidValue.getMessage());
      else {
        String titleCasedPropertyName = StringUtils.camelCaseToTitleCase(propertyName);
        String errorMessage = titleCasedPropertyName + " " + invalidValue.getMessage();
        errors.rejectValue(invalidValue.getPropertyPath(), null, errorMessage);


The most important things in the above code are the validate and translateToSpringValidationErrors methods. As expected, validate expects a domain object that extends from BaseEntity and uses Hibernate Validator to validate it. This validator caches Hibernate ClassValidator instances and so one instance of HibernateAnnotationSpringValidator could be used in all of your Spring MVC controllers if desired. It then validates the object and gets back an array of InvalidValue objects from Hibernate Validator. Finally, it calls translateToSpringValidationErrors.

The translateToSpringValidationErrors method iterates through the InvalidValues and transforms them into Spring MVC errors. This implementation is very simplistic and not i18n-ready as it uses the domain object property names to create the error messages using a utility method I wrote called camelCaseToTitleCase. For example, if the property name is "firstName" then the "titleCasedPropertyName" is simply "First Name." So, if the InvalidValue's getMessage() method returns "is required" then the error message would be "First Name is required." Obviously for production use you'll want to make something more robust than this and support i18n if you need to.

Now you have all the pieces and simply need to plug-in the HibernateAnnotationSpringValidator and use as you would any Spring Validator which is documented extensively in the Spring docs and lots of books, blogs, twitters, etc. Obviously this example only works with Spring MVC. To make it work for the web framework you are using, you'll need to hook into your framework's validation mechanism and do something similar. Again, the two most important things are (1) using Hibernate Validator to validate an object (doesn't even need to be a domain object for that matter since Hibernate Validator can be used on its own independent of Hibernate even) and (2) translating the Hibernate validation errors into your web framework's native errors. That's it!