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Writing Backstage Configuration Files

File Format

Configuration is stored in YAML format in app-config.yaml files. This configuration is shared between the frontend and backend and it looks something like this:

app:
title: Backstage Example App
baseUrl: http://localhost:3000

backend:
listen: 0.0.0.0:7007
baseUrl: http://localhost:7007

organization:
name: CNCF

proxy:
/my/api:
target: https://example.com/api/
changeOrigin: true
pathRewrite:
^/proxy/my/api/: /

Configuration files are typically checked in and stored in the repo that houses the rest of the Backstage application.

The particular configuration that is available to each Backstage app depends on what plugins and packages are installed. To view the configuration reference for your own project, including what configuration keys available and whether they are needed by the frontend, use the following command:

yarn backstage-cli config:docs

Environment Variable Overrides

Individual configuration values can be overridden using environment variables prefixed with APP_CONFIG_. Everything following that prefix in the environment variable name will be used as the config key, with _ replaced by .. For example, to override the app.baseUrl value, set the APP_CONFIG_app_baseUrl environment variable to the desired value.

The value of the environment variable is parsed as JSON, but it will fall back to being interpreted as a string if it fails to parse. Note that if you for example want to pass on the string "false", you need to wrap it in double quotes, e.g. export APP_CONFIG_example='"false"'.

While it may be tempting to use environment variable overrides for supplying a lot of configuration values, we recommend using them sparingly. Try to stick to using configuration files, and only use environment variables for things like reusing deployment artifacts across staging and production environments.

Note that environment variables work for frontend configuration too. They are picked up by the serve tasks of @backstage/cli for local development, and are injected by the entrypoint of the nginx container serving the frontend in a production build.

Configuration Files

It is possible to have multiple configuration files (bundled and/or remote*), both to support different environments, but also to define configuration that is local to specific packages. The configuration files to load are selected using a --config <local-path|url> flag, and it is possible to load any number of files. Paths are relative to the working directory of the executed process, for example package/backend. This means that to select a config file in the repo root when running the backend, you would use --config ../../my-config.yaml, and for config file on a config server you would use --config https://some.domain.io/app-config.yaml

Note: In case URLs are passed, it is also needed to set the remote option in the loadBackendConfig call.

If no config flags are specified, the default behavior is to load app-config.yaml and, if it exists, app-config.local.yaml from the repo root. In the provided project setup, app-config.local.yaml is .gitignore'd, making it a good place to add config overrides and secrets for local development.

Note that if any config flags are provided, the default app-config.yaml files are NOT loaded. To include them you need to explicitly include them with a flag, for example:

yarn start --config ../../app-config.yaml --config ../../app-config.staging.yaml --config https://some.domain.io/app-config.yaml

All loaded configuration files are merged together using the following rules:

  • Configurations have different priority, higher priority means you replace values from configurations with lower priority.
  • Primitive values are completely replaced, as are arrays and all of their contents.
  • Objects are merged together deeply, meaning that if any of the included configs contain a value for a given path, it will be found.

The priority of the configurations is determined by the following rules, in order:

  • Configuration from the APP_CONFIG_ environment variables has the highest priority, followed by files.
  • Files loaded with config flags are ordered by priority, where the last flag has the highest priority.
  • If no config flags are provided, app-config.local.yaml has higher priority than app-config.yaml.

Includes and Dynamic Data

Includes are supported via special data loading keys that are prefixed with $, which in turn provide a number of different ways to read in data. To load in an external configuration value, supply an object with one of the special include keys, for example $env or $file. A full list of supported include keys can be found below. For example, the following will read the config key backend.mySecretKey from the environment variable MY_SECRET_KEY:

backend:
mySecretKey:
$env: MY_SECRET_KEY

With the above configuration, calling config.getString('backend.mySecretKey') will return the value of the environment variable MY_SECRET_KEY when the backend started up. All includes are loaded at startup, so changing the contents of files or environment variables will not be reflected at runtime.

Below is a list of the currently supported methods for loading includes.

Env Includes

This reads a string value from an environment variable. For example, the following configuration loads the string value from the MY_SECRET environment variable.

$env: MY_SECRET

Note however, that it's often more convenient to use environment variable substitution instead.

File Includes

This reads a string value from the entire contents of a text file. The file path is relative to the source config file. For example, the following reads the contents of my-secret.txt relative to the config file itself:

$file: ./my-secret.txt

Including Files

The $include keyword can be used to load configuration values from an external file. It's able to load and parse data from .json, .yml, and .yaml files. It's also possible to include a URL fragment (#) to point to a value at the given path in the file, using a dot-separated list of keys.

For example, the following would read my-secret-key from my-secrets.json:

$include: ./my-secrets.json#deployment.key

Example my-secrets.json file:

{
"deployment": {
"key": "my-secret-key"
}
}

Environment Variable Substitution

Configuration files support environment variable substitution via a ${MY_VAR} syntax. For example:

app:
baseUrl: https://${HOST}

Note that all environment variables must be available, or the entire configuration value will evaluate to undefined.

The substitution syntax can be escaped using $${...}, which will be resolved as ${...}.

Combining Includes and Environment Variable Substitution

The Includes and Environment Variable Substitutions can be combined to do something like read a secrets configuration for a specific environment. For example:

integrations:
github:
- host: github.com
apps:
- $include: secrets.${BACKSTAGE_ENVIRONMENT}.yaml

Example secrets.prod.yaml:

appId: 1
webhookUrl: https://smee.io/foo
clientId: someGithubAppClientId
clientSecret: someGithubAppClientSecret
webhookSecret: someWebhookSecret
privateKey: |
-----BEGIN RSA PRIVATE KEY-----
SomeRsaPrivateKeySecurelyStored
-----END RSA PRIVATE KEY-----

Warning: Sensitive information, such as private keys, should not be hard coded. We recommend that this entire file should be a secret and stored as such in a secure storage solution like Vault, to ensure they are neither exposed nor misused. This example key part only shows the format on how to use the yaml | syntax to make sure that the key is valid.