Config Updates Without Redeployment for Spring and Kubernetes

Spring PropertySources and Kubernetes Configmaps

Here’s what you’ll accomplish by the end of this article:

  • Create a small Spring Boot application that loads a property file from a configurable location overriding configuration that is packaged with the application.
  • Package the application in a docker image and see how to override the config file via docker commands.
  • Deploy the application to kubernetes.
  • Use a Kubernetes Configmap to update your configuration without redeployment of your application.
  • Learn about when using these methods together is recommended.

Starting your Spring Boot application example

A fast way to get a spring boot application started is the Spring Initializr. All you need for this example is Spring Boot and Spring WebFlux.

Download the project from Spring Initializr

In its initial state, this application should start and open a web server on port 8080 by running the com.example.demo.DemoApplication class.

The next step is to add a controller that enables you to load a value. Create a new class in the com.example.demo package called HelloController.

import org.springframework.beans.factory.annotation.Value;
import org.springframework.web.bind.annotation.GetMapping;
import org.springframework.web.bind.annotation.RestController;

public class HelloController {

    @GetMapping(path = "/hello")
    public Greeting hello(@Value("${message}") String message ) {
        return new Greeting(message);


class Greeting {
    private String greeting;
    public Greeting(String greeting) {
        this.greeting = greeting;

    public String getGreeting() {
        return greeting;

    public void setGreeting(String greeting) {
        this.greeting = greeting;

A quick breakdown fo what we have here:

  • @RestController tells spring this class provides endpoints to make available on the web server
  • @GetMapping(path = "/hello") creates an endpoint on the path /hello
  • @Value("${message}") String message injects a property called message whenever this function is called
  • The Greeting class is just a struct for us to return in our message

Next, let’s define the message property in src/main/resources/

message=This is the default message.

At this point, when you run the application and make a GET request to /hello, you’ll see receive this response:

{"greeting":"This is the default message."}

The application.proeprties file cannot be updated at runtime. But, you can provide spring configuration instructions to load a configuration from another source. For this, we need an additional dependency and a configuration class.

First, the dependency is commons-configuration. Add this to your dependencies in the pom.xml


This package provides a component that loads a property file from disk and then reloads it when changes are detected. You need to wrap PropertiesConfiguration from commons-configuration into a class that provides the PropertySource interface so that Spring can bring this configuration into the application context and inject the values.

import org.apache.commons.configuration.PropertiesConfiguration;
import org.springframework.core.env.PropertySource;

 * ReloadablePropertySource wraps a commons-config PropertiesConfiguration
 * in a Spring PropertySource interface so that a PrpoertiesConfiguration
 * can be added to a Spring Environment Property Sources list.
class ReloadablePropertySource extends PropertySource {

    private PropertiesConfiguration propertiesConfiguration;

    public ReloadablePropertySource(String name,
                        PropertiesConfiguration propertiesConfiguration) {
        this.propertiesConfiguration = propertiesConfiguration;

    public Object getProperty(String s) {
        return propertiesConfiguration.getProperty(s);

Next you need to instantiate this in a spring configuration class.

import org.apache.commons.configuration.PropertiesConfiguration;
import org.apache.commons.configuration.reloading.FileChangedReloadingStrategy;
import org.springframework.beans.factory.annotation.Autowired;
import org.springframework.beans.factory.annotation.Value;
import org.springframework.boot.autoconfigure.condition.ConditionalOnProperty;
import org.springframework.context.annotation.Bean;
import org.springframework.context.annotation.Configuration;
import org.springframework.core.env.ConfigurableEnvironment;
import org.springframework.core.env.MutablePropertySources;


public class DemoConfiguration {

    private ConfigurableEnvironment env;

    public DemoConfiguration(@Autowired ConfigurableEnvironment env) {
        this.env = env;

    @ConditionalOnProperty(name = "spring.config.location",
                            matchIfMissing = false)
    public PropertiesConfiguration propertiesConfiguration(
            @Value("${spring.config.location}") String path) throws Exception {
        PropertiesConfiguration configuration =
            new PropertiesConfiguration( new File(path));
        FileChangedReloadingStrategy fcrs = new FileChangedReloadingStrategy();
        return configuration;

    @ConditionalOnProperty(name = "spring.config.location",
                            matchIfMissing = false)
    public ReloadablePropertySource reloadablePropertySource(
            PropertiesConfiguration properties) {
        ReloadablePropertySource ret =
            new ReloadablePropertySource("dynamic", properties);
        MutablePropertySources sources = env.getPropertySources();
        return ret;

Here’s what’s happening in DemoConfiguration 1:

  • @ConditionalOnProperty(name = "spring.config.location", matchIfMissing = false) gates these methods from running unless a property spring.config.location is available. You will pass this on the command line with a system property in a few steps.
  • the propertiesConfiguration method creates a commons-configuration PropertiesConfiguration object that refreshes after 1 second if there are nay changes.
  • the reloadablePropertySource method takes the PropertiesConfiguration you created and makes it the first place Spring will look for properties with sources.addFirst(ret).

Try rerunning your application and verify that it behaves the same as before. Nothing should have changed yet with the way your endpoint works.

Now, add a new folder in the root of your project called k8s and create a new file with this content:

message=Hello my name is Jake

This will be your override file. The embedded should remain in place.

Including the following system property argument in your VM options will define the property needed for the configuration override you just created in DemoConfiguration to run.


When you recompile and rerun your application, the /hello endpoint will now return the message in k8s/ instead of! Try updating and observe how the message variable changes.

Running the DemoApplication in Docker

As a sanity check before you jump into Kubernetes, verify the application behavior using Docker only. This can save you some time if you have issues.

First you need to build a docker image with your application. As outlined in creating images for java apps on kubernetes, you can quickly build an image for a Spring Boot application with buildpacks.

mvn spring-boot:build-image

This gets you a pretty robust image for your application without having to create a Dockerfile.

Now you can run your application with docker like this:

docker run -it --rm -p 8081:8080 demoapplication:0.1

Upon running a GET request on /hello you are greeted with the default message.

curl http://localhost:8081/hello ; echo
{"greeting":"Default message in"}

You just need to specify the VM arguments using an environment variable as well as mount a volume including your

docker run -it --rm -p 8081:8080 \
  -e JAVA_TOOL_OPTIONS='-Dspring.config.location=/hello/' \
  -v $PWD/k8s/:/hello/  \

You should see Jake in the greeting now.

curl http://localhost:8081/hello ; echo
{"greeting":"Hello my name is Jake"}

Now you can update k8s/ to verify that the properties update live.

message=Hello my name is Enzo
curl http://localhost:8081/hello ; echo
{"greeting":"Hello my name is Enzo"}

You’re doing great! The application works in docker and the properties update without restarting the application.

Now with Kubernetes

Now for some fun with kubernetes!

Kubernetes setup

These steps should work with any recent version of Kubernetes. Minikube is a great resource if you need a local environment. In order to make your docker images available to Kubernetes, you will need access to a container registry. With Minikube, you can skip over the registry effort by attaching your docker client to the docker service in Minikube

eval $(minikube docker-env)

Then use docker as you normally would. More info here.

Otherwise, you can use minikube image load to copy the image from your docker environment to Minikube. More info here.

As a first step, create a namespace for the work you will do. The big benefit of this is that you will be able to start from a clean slate very easily by deleting the namespace.

kubectl create namespace hello-ns

Then, set hello-ns to the default namespace in your kubectl context so that you don’t have to add -n hello-ns to all your commands.

kubectl config set-context --current --namespace=hello-ns

Now the work you do going forward will apply to the hello-ns namespace only.


As a first step, create the configmap from the file in your k8s folder. The following command generates the configmap manifest and installs it in the hello-ns namespace.

kubectl create configmap hello-config --from-file=k8s/

You can see what was created with describe:

kubectl describe configmap hello-config
Name:         hello-config
Namespace:    hello-ns
Labels:       <none>
Annotations:  <none>

message=Hello my name is Jake


Events:  <none>

Or to view or save a yaml version of the configmap, use get:

kubectl get configmap hello-config -o yaml

You can see, a contains the data from your properties file. You can edit the manifest with kubectl edit configmap hello-config or use kubectl apply -f manifest.yml to make changes.

Next to get our application running in kubernetes, make sure your image is either in an accessible container registry or available locally.

Now, create a deployment with your demoapplication:0.1 image.

kubectl create deployment helloapp --image=demoapplication:0.1

And then expose the deployment with a load balancer.

kubectl expose deployment helloapp --type=LoadBalancer --port 8080

If you’re running minikube, you’ll want to start a tunnel. This command blocks so open a new terminal window.

minikube tunnel

Now, when you access http://localhost:8080/hello you should see the default response from your application.

{"greeting":"This is the default message."}

You don’t yet see the value from the configmap because you haven’t wired up the config map with your deploy yet. That’s next!

To make available to your helloapp pods, you must add a volume and a volumeMount to the deployment spec. Below are the parts to add to your manifest using kubectl edit deployment helloapp.

        - image: demoapplication:0.1
            - name: config-vol
              mountPath: "/hello/"
      - name: config-vol
          name: hello-config

At this point you can kubectl exec -it podname -- /bin/bash to see the /hello/ directory in your pod.

What remains is to configure the application to look at /hello/ for the configuration override. Edit the deployment one last time and set the JAVA_TOOL_OPTIONS variable.

    - image: demoapplication:0.1
        - name: JAVA_TOOL_OPTIONS
          value: "-Dspring.config.location=/hello/"

After you edit this time, Kubernetes cycles in a new version of your pod. Now, the greeting on your endpoint reflects the values in /hello/! Congrats!

Now, when you access http://localhost:8080/hello you should see the default response from your application.

{"greeting":"Hello my name is Jake"}

Now, when you edit the configmap, the file in your pods will reflect the changes after 1 minute by default 2. Spring will detect the changes and reload the properties file.

There are infinite options for application configuration and this is just one more way to do it! If you have an interest in using spring boot with configmaps, this is a good place to start. However, is this right for your production environment?

Here are some example criteria to consider:

  • You’re already running Kubernetes.
  • There is a business benefit to updating configuration without restarting your application.
  • The time to deploy a configuration update is much faster than simply deploying a new container image.
  • You prefer not to run a dedicated configuation server in addition to your application 3.
  • Your application configuration is contextual to the Kubernetes namespace in which it runs and you operate many namespaces with different configurations deployed.
  • Multiple applications running in the same namespace share configuration values.
  • Configuration is committed to your source control system.
  • Configuration is delivered to Kubernetes from source control via deployment automation.

You may have additional criteria for your environment. It’s good to think it through.


Hope this helps you on your journey with Spring Boot and Kuberenetes. Please reach out if you’d like to hear more about these topics.

  1. The configuration classes demonstrated here were adapted from a Baeldung article with a few critical changes. ↩︎

  2. --sync-frequency is a kubelet config option - it defaults to 1m. ↩︎

  3. The spring-cloud-kubernetes package provides additional systems that reduce the time to update properties from configmaps without having to adjust the kubelet sync frequency. ↩︎

See also