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Backstage Software Catalog

What is a Software Catalog?

The Backstage Software Catalog is a centralized system that keeps track of ownership and metadata for all the software in your ecosystem (services, websites, libraries, data pipelines, etc). The catalog is built around the concept of metadata YAML files stored together with the code, which are then harvested and visualized in Backstage.

software-catalog

How it works

Backstage and the Backstage Software Catalog make it easy for one team to manage 10 services — and makes it possible for your company to manage thousands of them.

More specifically, the Software Catalog enables two main use-cases:

  1. Helping teams manage and maintain the software they own. Teams get a uniform view of all their software; services, libraries, websites, ML models — you name it, Backstage knows all about it.
  2. Makes all the software in your company, and who owns it, discoverable. No more orphan software hiding in the dark corners of your software ecosystem.

Getting Started

The Software Catalog is available to browse at /catalog. If you've followed Getting Started with Backstage, you should be able to browse the catalog at http://localhost:3000.

screenshot of software catalog

Adding components to the catalog

The source of truth for the components in your software catalog are metadata YAML files stored in source control (GitHub, GitHub Enterprise, GitLab, ...).

There are 3 ways to add components to the catalog:

  1. Manually register components
  2. Creating new components through Backstage
  3. Integrating with an external source

Manually register components

Users can register new components by going to /create and clicking the REGISTER EXISTING COMPONENT button:

screenshot of manually register existing component

Backstage expects the full URL to the YAML in your source control. Example:

https://github.com/backstage/backstage/blob/master/packages/catalog-model/examples/components/artist-lookup-component.yaml

More examples can be found here.

screenshot of creating new components

It is important to note that any kind of software can be registered in Backstage. Even if the software is not maintained by your company (SaaS offering, for example) it is still useful to create components for tracking ownership.

Creating new components through Backstage

All software created through the Backstage Software Templates are automatically registered in the catalog.

Static catalog configuration

In addition to manually registering components, it is also possible to register components through static configuration. For example, the above example can be added using the following configuration:

catalog:
locations:
- type: url
target: https://github.com/backstage/backstage/blob/master/packages/catalog-model/examples/components/artist-lookup-component.yaml

More information about catalog configuration can be found here.

Updating component metadata

Teams owning the components are responsible for maintaining the metadata about them, and do so using their normal Git workflow.

screenshot of updating component metadata

Once the change has been merged, Backstage will automatically show the updated metadata in the software catalog after a short while.

Finding software in the catalog

By default the software catalog shows components owned by the team of the logged in user. But you can also switch to All to see all the components across your company's software ecosystem. Basic inline search and column filtering makes it easy to browse a big set of components.

screenshot of finding software in the catalog

Starring components

For easy and quick access to components you visit frequently, Backstage supports starring of components:

screenshot of starred components

Integrated tooling through plugins

The software catalog is a great way to organize the infrastructure tools you use to manage the software. This is how Backstage creates one developer portal for all your tools. Rather than asking teams to jump between different infrastructure UIs (and incurring additional cognitive overhead each time they make a context switch), most of these tools can be organized around the entities in the catalog.

screenshot of tools

The Backstage platform can be customized by incorporating existing open source plugins, or by building your own.