This topic discusses using data with Spring Session for VMware GemFire.

One of the most important tasks during development is ensuring your Spring Boot application handles data correctly. To verify the accuracy, integrity, and availability of your data, your application needs data with which to work.

For those of you already familiar with Spring Boot’s support for SQL database initialization, the approach when using VMware GemFire should be easy to understand.

VMware GemFire provides built-in support, similar in function to Spring Boot’s SQL database initialization, by using:

For example, by enabling persistence with disk storage, you could backup and restore persistent DiskStore files from one cluster to another.

Alternatively, using VMware GemFire’s Snapshot Service, you can export data contained in targeted Regions from one cluster during shutdown and import the data into another cluster on startup. The Snapshot Service lets you filter data while it is being imported and exported.

Finally, you can use VMware GemFire shell (Gfsh) commands to export data and import data.

In all cases, the files generated by persistence, the Snapshot Service and Gfsh’s export command are in a proprietary binary format.

Furthermore, none of these approaches are as convenient as Spring Boot’s database initialization automation. Therefore, Spring Boot for VMware GemFire offers support to import data from JSON into VMware GemFire as PDX.

Spring Boot for VMware GemFire offers support to export data as well. By default, data is imported and exported in JSON format.

Spring Boot for VMware GemFire does not provide an equivalent to Spring Boot’s schema.sql file. The best way to define the data structures (the Region instances) that manage your data is with Spring Data for VMware GemFire’s annotation-based configuration support for defining cache Region instances from your application’s entity classes or indirectly from Spring and JSR-107 or JCache caching annotations.

Warning: While this feature works and many edge cases were thought through and tested thoroughly, there are still some limitations. The Spring team strongly recommends that this feature be used only for development and testing purposes.

Importing Data

You can import data into a Region by defining a JSON file that contain the JSON objects you wish to load. The JSON file must follow a predefined naming convention and be placed in the root of your application classpath:


Note: <regionName> refers to the lowercase "name" of the Region, as defined by Region.getName().

For example, if you have a Region named “Orders”, you would create a JSON file called data-orders.json and place it in the root of your application classpath (for example, in src/test/resources).

Create JSON files for each Region that is implicitly defined (for example, by using @EnableEntityDefinedRegions) or explicitly defined (with ClientRegionFactoryBean in Java configuration) in your Spring Boot application configuration that you want to load with data.

The JSON file that contains JSON data for the “Orders” Region might appear as follows:

Example 1. data-orders.json

  "@type": "",
  "id": 1,
  "lineItems": [
      "@type": "",
      "product": {
        "@type": "",
        "name": "Apple iPad Pro",
        "price": 1499.00,
        "category": "SHOPPING"
      "quantity": 1
      "@type": "",
      "product": {
        "@type": "",
        "name": "Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max",
        "price": 1249.00,
        "category": "SHOPPING"
      "quantity": 2
}, {
  "@type": "",
  "id": 2,
  "lineItems": [
      "@type": "",
      "product": {
        "@type": "",
        "name": "Starbucks Vente Carmel Macchiato",
        "price": 5.49,
        "category": "SHOPPING"
      "quantity": 1

The application entity classes that matches the JSON data from the JSON file might look something like the following listing:

Example 2. Point-of-Sale (POS) Application Domain Model Classes

class PurchaseOrder {

    Long id;

    List<LineItem> lineItems;


class LineItem {

    Product product;
    Integer quantity;


class Product {

    String name;
    Category category;
    BigDecimal price;


As the preceding listings show, the object model and corresponding JSON can be arbitrarily complex with a hierarchy of objects that have complex types.

JSON metadata

We want to draw your attention to a few other details contained in the object model and JSON.

The @type metadata field

First, we declared a @type JSON metadata field. This field does not map to any specific field or property of the application domain model class (such as PurchaseOrder). Rather, it tells the framework and VMware GemFire’s JSON/PDX converter the type of object the JSON data would map to if you were to request an object (by calling PdxInstance.getObject()).

Consider the following example:

Example 3. Deserializing PDX as an Object

class OrdersRepository {

    @Resource(name = "Orders")
    Region<Long, PurchaseOrder> orders;

    PurchaseOrder findBy(Long id) {

        Object value = this.orders.get(id);

        return value instanceof PurchaseOrder ? (PurchaseOrder) value
            : value instanceof PdxInstance ? (PurchaseOrder) ((PdxInstance) value).getObject()
            : null;

Basically, the @type JSON metadata field informs the PdxInstance.getObject() method about the type of Java object to which the JSON object maps. Otherwise, the PdxInstance.getObject() method would silently return a PdxInstance.

It is possible for VMware GemFire’s PDX serialization framework to return a PurchaseOrder from Region.get(key) as well, but it depends on the value of PDX’s read-serialized, cache-level configuration setting, among other factors.

Note: When JSON is imported into a Region as PDX, the PdxInstance.getClassName() does not refer to a valid Java class. It is JSONFormatter.JSON_CLASSNAME. As a result, Region data access operations, such as Region.get(key), return a PdxInstance and not a Java object.

Tip You may need to proxy Region read data access operations (such as Region.get(key)) by setting the Spring Boot for VMware GemFire property to true. When this property is set, Region instances are proxied to wrap a PdxInstance in a PdxInstanceWrapper to appropriately handle the PdxInstance.getObject() call in your application code.
The id field and the @identifier metadata field

Top-level objects in your JSON must have an identifier, such as an id field. This identifier is used as the identity and key of the object (or PdxInstance) when stored in the Region (for example, Region.put(key, object)).

You may have noticed that the JSON for the “Orders” Region shown earlier declared an id field as the identifier:

Example 4. PurchaseOrder identifier (“id”)

  "@type": "",
  "id": 1,

This follows the same convention used in Spring Data. Typically, Spring Data mapping infrastructure looks for a POJO field or property annotated with @Id. If no field or property is annotated with @Id, the framework falls back to searching for a field or property named id.

In Spring Data for VMware GemFire, this @Id-annotated or id-named field or property is used as the identifier and as the key for the object when storing it into a Region.

However, what happens when an object or entity does not have a surrogate ID defined? Perhaps the application domain model class is appropriately using natural identifiers, which is quite common in practice.

Consider a Book class defined as follows:

Example 5. Book class

class Book {

    Author author;

    ISBN isbn;

    LocalDate publishedDate;

    String title;


As declared in the Book class, the identifier for Book is its ISBN, since the isbn field was annotated with Spring Data’s @Id mapping annotation. However, we cannot know this by searching for an @Id annotation in JSON.

You might be tempted to argue that if the @type metadata field is set, we would know the class type and could load the class definition to learn about the identifier. That is all fine until the class is not actually on the application classpath in the first place. This is one of the reasons why Spring Boot for VMware GemFire’s JSON support serializes JSON to VMware GemFire’s PDX format. There might not be a class definition, which would lead to a NoClassDefFoundError or ClassNotFoundException.

So, what then?

In this case, Spring Boot for VMware GemFire lets you declare the @identifier JSON metadata field to inform the framework what to use as the identifier for the object.

Consider the following example:

Example 6. Using “@identifer”

  "@type": "",
  "@identifier": "isbn",
  "author": {
    "id": 1,
    "name": "Josh Long"
  "isbn": "978-1-449-374640-8",
  "publishedDate": "2017-08-01",
  "title": "Cloud Native Java"

The @identifier JSON metadata field informs the framework that the isbn field is the identifier for a Book.

Conditionally Importing Data

While the Spring team recommends that users should only use this feature when developing and testing their Spring Boot applications with VMware GemFire, you may still occasionally use this feature in production.

You might use this feature in production to preload a (REPLICATE) Region with reference data. Reference data is largely static, infrequently changing, and non-transactional. Preloading reference data is particularly useful when you want to warm the cache.

When you use this feature for development and testing purposes, you can put your Region-specific JSON files in src/test/resources. This ensures that the files are not included in your application artifact (such as a JAR or WAR) when built and deployed to production.

However, if you must use this feature to preload data in your production environment, you can still conditionally load data from JSON. To do so, configure the property set to the Spring profiles that must be active for the import to take effect.

Consider the following example:

Example 7. Conditional Importing JSON

# Spring Boot, QA

For import to have an effect in this example, you must specifically set the property to one of the valid, active-profiles listed in the import property (such as QA). Only one needs to match.

Note: There are many ways to conditionally build application artifacts. You might prefer to handle this concern in your Gradle or Maven build.

Exporting Data

Certain data stored in your application’s Regions may be sensitive or confidential, and keeping the data secure is of the utmost concern and priority. Therefore, exporting data is disabled by default.

However, if you use this feature for development and testing purposes, enabling the export capability may be useful to move data from one environment to another. For example, if your QA team finds a bug in the application that uses a particular data set, they can export the data and pass it back to the development team to import in their local development environment to help debug the issue.

To enable export, set the property to true:

Example 8. Enable Export

# Spring Boot

Spring Boot for VMware GemFire is careful to export data to JSON in a format that VMware GemFire expects on import and includes things such as @type metadata fields.

Warning: The @identifier metadata field is not generated automatically. While it is possible for POJOs stored in a Region to include an @identifier metadata field when exported to JSON, it is not possible when the Region value is a PdxInstance that did not originate from JSON. In this case, you must manually ensure that the PdxInstance includes an @identifier metadata field before it is exported to JSON if necessary (for example, Book.isbn). This is only necessary if your entity classes do not declare an explicit identifier field, such as with the @Id mapping annotation, or do not have an id field. This scenario can also occur when interoperating with native clients that model the application domain objects differently and then serialize the objects by using PDX, storing them in Regions on the server that are then later consumed by your Java-based, Spring Boot application.

Warning: You may need to set the -Dgemfire.disableShutdownHook JVM System property to true before your Spring Boot application starts up when using export. Unfortunately, this Java runtime shutdown hook is registered and enabled in VMware GemFire by default, which results in the cache and the Regions being closed before the Spring Boot for VMware GemFire Export functionality can export the data, thereby resulting in a CacheClosedException. Spring Boot for VMware GemFire makes a best effort to disable the VMware GemFire JVM shutdown hook when export is enabled, but it is at the mercy of the JVM ClassLoader, since VMware GemFire's JVM shutdown hook registration is declared in a static initializer.

Import/Export API Extensions

The API in Spring Boot for VMware GemFire for import and export functionality is separated into the following concerns:

  • Data Format

  • Resource Resolving

  • Resource Reading

  • Resource Writing

By breaking each of these functions apart into separate concerns, a developer can customize each aspect of the import and export functions.

For example, you could import XML from the filesystem and then export JSON to a REST-based Web Service. By default, Spring Boot for VMware GemFire imports JSON from the classpath and exports JSON to the filesystem.

However, not all environments expose a filesystem, such as cloud environments like TAS. Therefore, giving users control over each aspect of the import and export processes is essential for performing the functions in any environment.

Data Format

The primary interface to import data into a Region is CacheDataImporter.

CacheDataImporter is a @FunctionalInterface that extends Spring’s BeanPostProcessor interface to trigger the import of data after the Region has been initialized.

The interface is defined as follows:

Example 9. CacheDataImporter

interface CacheDataImporter extends BeanPostProcessor {

    Region importInto(Region region);


You can code the importInto(:Region) method to handle any data format (JSON, XML, and others) you prefer. Register a bean that implements the CacheDataImporter interface in the Spring container, and the importer does its job.

On the flip side, the primary interface to export data from a Region is the CacheDataExporter.

CacheDataExporter is a @FunctionalInterface that extends Spring’s DestructionAwareBeanPostProcessor interface to trigger the export of data before the Region is destroyed.

The interface is defined as follows:

Example 10. CacheDataExporter

interface CacheDataExporter extends DestructionAwareBeanPostProcessor {

    Region exportFrom(Region region);

You can code the exportFrom(:Region) method to handle any data format (JSON, XML, and others) you prefer. Register a bean implementing the CacheDataExporter interface in the Spring container, and the exporter does its job.

For convenience, when you want to implement both import and export functionality, Spring Boot for VMware GemFire provides the CacheDataImporterExporter interface, which extends both CacheDataImporter and CacheDataExporter:

Example 11. CacheDataImporterExporter

interface CacheDataImporterExporter extends CacheDataExporter, CacheDataImporter { }

For added support, Spring Boot for VMware GemFire also provides the AbstractCacheDataImporterExporter abstract base class to simplify the implementation of your importer/exporter.

Lifecycle Management

Sometimes, it is necessary to precisely control when data is imported or exported.

This is especially true on import, since different Region instances may be collocated or tied together through a cache callback, such as a CacheListener. In these cases, the other Region may need to exist before the import on the dependent Region proceeds, particularly if the dependencies were loosely defined.

Controlling the import is also important when you use Spring Boot for VMware GemFire’s @EnableClusterAware annotation to push configuration metadata from the client to the cluster in order to define server-side Region instances that match the client-side Region instances, especially client Region instances targeted for import. The matching Region instances on the server side must exist before data is imported into client (PROXY) Region instances.

In all cases, Spring Boot for VMware GemFire provides the LifecycleAwareCacheDataImporterExporter class to wrap your CacheDataImporterExporter implementation. This class implements Spring’s SmartLifecycle interface.

By implementing the SmartLifecycle interface, you can control in which phase of the Spring container the import occurs. Spring Boot for VMware GemFire also exposes two more properties to control the lifecycle:

Example 12. Lifecycle Management Properties

# Spring Boot[EAGER|LAZY]

EAGER acts immediately, after the Region is initialized (the default behavior). LAZY delays the import until the start() method is called, which is invoked according to the phase, thereby ordering the import relative to the other lifecycle-aware components that are registered in the Spring container.

The following example shows how to make your CacheDataImporterExporter lifecycle-aware:

class MyApplicationConfiguration {

    CacheDataImporterExporter importerExporter() {
        return new LifecycleAwareCacheDataImporterExporter(new MyCacheDataImporterExporter());

Resource Resolution

Resolving resources used for import and export results in the creation of a Spring Resource handle.

Resource resolution is a vital step to qualifying a resource, especially if the resource requires special logic or permissions to access it. In this case, specific Resource handles can be returned and used by the reader and writer of the Resource as appropriate for import or export operation.

Spring Boot for VMware GemFire encapsulates the algorithm for resolving Resources in the ResourceResolver (Strategy) interface:

Example 13. ResourceResolver

interface ResourceResolver {

    Optional<Resource> resolve(String location);

    default Resource required(String location) {
        // ...

Additionally, Spring Boot for VMware GemFire provides the ImportResourceResolver and ExportResourceResolver marker interfaces and the AbstractImportResourceResolver and AbstractExportResourceResolver abstract base classes for implementing the resource resolution logic used by both import and export operations.

If you wish to customize the resolution of Resources used for import or export, your CacheDataImporterExporter implementation can extend the ResourceCapableCacheDataImporterExporter abstract base class, which provides the aforementioned interfaces and base classes.

As stated earlier, Spring Boot for VMware GemFire resolves resources on import from the classpath and resources on export to the filesystem.

You can customize this behavior by providing an implementation of ImportResourceResolver, ExportResourceResolver, or both interfaces and declare instances as beans in the Spring context:

Example 14. Import and Export ResourceResolver beans

class MyApplicationConfiguration {

    ImportResourceResolver importResourceResolver() {
        return new MyImportResourceResolver();

    ExportResourceResolver exportResourceResolver() {
        return new MyExportResourceResolver();
Tip If you need to customize the resource resolution process for each location (or Region) on import or export, you can use the Composite software design pattern.
Customize Default Resource Resolution

If you are content with the provided defaults but want to target specific locations on the classpath or filesystem used by the import or export, Spring Boot for VMware GemFire additionally provides the following properties:

Example 15. Import/Export Resource Location Properties

# Spring Boot

The properties accept any valid resource string, as specified in the Spring documentation (see Table 10. Resource strings).

This means that, even though import defaults from the classpath, you can change the location from classpath to filesystem, or even network (for example, https://) by changing the prefix (or protocol).

Import/export resource location properties can refer to other properties through property placeholders, but Spring Boot for VMware GemFire further lets you use SpEL inside the property values.

Consider the following example:

Example 16. Using SpEL

# Spring Boot\

In this case, the import resource location refers to a rather sophisticated resource string by using a complex SpEL expression.

Spring Boot for VMware GemFire populates the SpEL EvaluationContext with three sources of information:

  • Access to the Spring BeanFactory

  • Access to the Spring Environment

  • Access to the current Region

Simple Java System properties or environment variables can be accessed with the following expression:


You can access more complex property names (including properties that use dot notation, such as the user.home Java System property), directly from the Environment by using map style syntax as follows:


The #env variable is set in the SpEL EvaluationContext to the Spring Environment.

Because the SpEL EvaluationContext is evaluated with the Spring ApplicationContext as the root object, you also have access to the beans declared and registered in the Spring container and can invoke methods on them, as shown earlier with someBean.lookupPassword(..). someBean must be the name of the bean as declared and registered in the Spring container.

Note: Be careful when accessing beans declared in the Spring container with SpEL, particularly when using EAGER import, as it may force those beans to be eagerly (or even prematurely) initialized.

Spring Boot for VMware GemFire also sets the #regionName variable in the EvaluationContext to the name of the Region, as determined by Region.getName(), targeted for import and export.

This lets you not only change the location of the resource but also change the resource name (such as a filename).

Consider the following example:

Example 17. Using #regionName

# Spring Boot\

Note: By default, the exported file is stored in the working directory (System.getProperty("user.dir")) of the Spring Boot application process.

Tip See the Spring Framework documentation for more information about SpEL.

Reading and Writing Resources

The Spring Resource handle specifies tion of a resource, not how the resource is read or written. Even the Spring ResourceLoader, which is an interface for loading Resources, does not specifically read or write any content to the Resource.

Spring Boot for VMware GemFire separates these concerns into two interfaces: ResourceReader and ResourceWriter, respectively. The design follows the same pattern used by Java’s InputStream/OutputStream and Reader/Writer classes in the package.

The ResourceReader interfaces is defined as:

Example 18. ResourceReader

interface ResourceReader {

    byte[] read(Resource resource);


The ResourceWriter interfaces is defined as:

Example 19. ResourceWriter

interface ResourceWriter {

    void write(Resource resource, byte[] data);


Both interfaces provide additional methods to compose readers and writers, much like Java’s Consumer and Function interfaces in the java.util.function package. If a particular reader or writer is used in a composition and is unable to handle the given Resource, it should throw a UnhandledResourceException to let the next reader or writer in the composition try to read from or write to the Resource.

The reader or writer are free to throw a ResourceReadException or ResourceWriteException to break the chain of reader and writer invocations in the composition.

To override the default export/import reader and writer used by Spring Boot for VMware GemFire, you can implement the ResourceReader or ResourceWriter interfaces as appropriate and declare instances of these classes as beans in the Spring container:

Example 20. Custom ResourceReader and ResourceWriter beans

class MyApplicationConfiguration {

    ResourceReader myResourceReader() {
        return new MyResourceReader()
            .thenReadFrom(new MyOtherResourceReader());

    ResourceWriter myResourceWriter() {
        return new MyResourceWriter();
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