External Configuration Store Pattern


Context and Problem


The majority of application runtime environments include configuration information that is held in files deployed with the application, located within the application folders. In some cases it is possible to edit these files to change the behavior of the application after it has been deployed. However, in many cases, changes to the configuration require the application to be redeployed, resulting in unacceptable downtime and additional administrative overhead.


Local configuration files also limit the configuration to a single application, whereas in some scenarios it would be useful to share configuration settings across multiple applications. Examples include database connection strings, UI theme information, or the URLs of queues and storage used by a related set of applications.


Managing changes to local configurations across multiple running instances of the application, especially in a cloud-hosted scenario, may also be challenging. It may result in instances using different configuration settings while the update is being deployed.

In addition, updates to applications and components may require changes to configuration schemas. Many configuration systems do not support different versions of configuration information.




Store the configuration information in external storage, and provide an interface that can be used to quickly and efficiently read and update configuration settings. The type of external store depends on the hosting and runtime environment of the application. In a cloud-hosted scenario it is typically a cloud-based storage service, but could be a hosted database or other system.

The backing store chosen for configuration information should be fronted by a suitable interface that provides consistent and easy to use access in a controlled way that enables reuse. Ideally, it should expose the information in a correctly typed and structured format. The implementation may also need to authorize users’ access in order to protect configuration data, and be flexible enough to allow multiple versions of the configuration (such as development, staging, or production, and multiple release versions of each one) to be stored.




shows an overview of this pattern.


Issues and Considerations


Consider the following points when deciding how to implement this pattern:


  • Choose a backing store that offers acceptable performance, high availability, robustness, and can be backed up as part of the application maintenance and administration process. In a cloud-hosted application, using a cloud storage mechanism is usually a good choice to meet these requirements.
  • Design the schema of the backing store to allow flexibility in the types of information it can hold. Ensure that it provides for all configuration requirements such as typed data, collections of settings, multiple versions of settings, and any other features that the applications using it may require. The schema should be easy to extend as requirements change in order to support additional settings.

When to Use this Pattern


This pattern is ideally suited for:


  • Configuration settings that are shared between multiple applications and application instances, or where a standard configuration must be enforced across multiple applications and application instances.
  • Where the standard configuration system does not support all of the required configuration settings, such as storing images or complex data types.
  • As a complementary store for some of the settings for applications, perhaps allowing applications to override some or all of the centrally-stored settings.
  • As a mechanism for simplifying administration of multiple applications, and optionally for monitoring use of configuration settings by logging some or all types of access to the configuration store.