Hibernate Envers with Grails 2.1.0

Our client requires that every entity in his Grails application has to be audited with detailed information: who and when did exactly what? It is a perfect opportunity to use Hibernate Envers! It turned out not as straightforward as I thought, so I want to share my experience with you.

Introduction

I use latest release of Grails with version 2.1.0. I've created a sample application on github for you as an example - SpOOnman/enversdemo. All files and techniques mentioned here can be found inside it. If you have other experiences with Grails and Envers working together, please share in comments.

Grails Envers plugin

First I've searched for a Grails plugin. I've found one outdated on google code and a (more modern) on github. This plugin is created by Lucas Ward and it has great introductionary blog post by author. This is a great place to start.

Unfortunately Lucas Ward's plugin supports Grails up 1.3.7 and it comes with outdated Envers version. I've searched through forks and I've found most up-to-date fork by Matija Folnovic: https://github.com/mfolnovic/grails-envers-plugin. It supports Grails 2.1 out of the box. Edit: Matija pointed out that credit should go to Jay Hogan and Damir Murat for their work on upgrading Envers plugin to Grails 2.

Matija's plugin is not packaged nor published so you have to package it by yourself:

Copy grails-envers-0.3-SNAPSHOT.zip (and rename to envers-0.3-SNAPSHOT.zip) to your application's lib diretory or publish to your company maven repository if you have one. Last step is to include a plugin in your BuildConfig.groovy:

Audit with Envers!

It's really easy to audit all entities with Envers. All you have to do is to use @Audit annotation on entities. SpOOnman/enversdemo audits Hotels and Bookings:

Envers plugin comes with some handy methods. For example Hotel.findAllRevisions() returns list of previous revisions. Once again I recommend a great blog post by Lucas Ward with many examples.

Grails and transactions

Grails has some glitches working with Envers. Envers is closely tied to database transactions. This means that it runs its listeners at the transaction end, when session is flushed. This is not always the case in Grails and it's the cause of some problems. You need to make some small modifications to your application to be sure that Envers works fine.

  • controllers - you need to annotate your controllers (or separate controller methods) with @Transactional and for every save you need to flush a session manually, e.g. save(flush: true). Otherwise Envers may not be notified.
  • services in Grails are transactional by default. However you mey explicitily set them with static transactional = true to be sure that this is not altered. I recommend to use session flushing on every save as well.
  • BootStrap.groovy script is not transactional. If you want Envers to audit your changes in this script you need to wrap your inserts with transactions. You can achieve it by using withTransaction closure. You need session flushing too. Take a look at SpOOnman/enversdemo BootStrap.groovy for an example.
  • integration tests wrap every test in a separate transaction that is rolled back at the end of a test, hence Envers won't work here. You need to disable wrapped transactions with static transactional = false. Remember that your changes are commited to database. To fulfill a contract of an empty database for every test you need to take care of cleaning up a database manually. Here is my sample integration test.

Add User to revision entities

By default Envers comes with a DefaultRevisionEntity class and creates its instance for every change on audited instance. It keeps information about entity revision, date and modification type. It lacks information about a user that made a change. I want to extend it.

There is already a code inside a plugin (here and here) but it's not packaged with a plugin itself. I guess it's because it adds dependency to Spring Security. This not a problem for me since I already use Spring Security plugin already in my application. I decided to add missing classes inside my application.

First I need a domain class - UserRevisionEntity. New instance of this class is created for every revision saved by Envers. It is a simple domain class with some extra annotations:

Notice that I've made currentUser field nullable. There may be some actions that doesn't require user to be logged in. Also, there is no user while executing BootStrap.groovy script.

Annotations @RevisionNumber and @RevisionTimestamp are required by Envers as described in documentation. @RevisionEntity annotation configures Envers to use non-default listener - SpringSecurityRevisionListener. It looks simple:

SpringSecurityRevisionListener's newRevision method fills each UserRevisionEntity instances with currently logged User.

Configuration

Envers offers some configuration options listed on documentation page. Options can be set in persistence.xml. However in Grails there is no persistence.xml. You can add it (and Grails supports it), but I've found other way to configure properties. I use System.setProperties to configure Envers and I place it in grails-app/conf/spring/resources.groovy. This is an example to change Envers tables' prefix and suffix:

Testing

Testing Envers makes sense only with Grails integration tests. As I've mentioned earlier you must disable transactions that wrap your tests in order for Envers listeners to work. Also make sure you use withTransaction, session flushing and you've marked your controllers as @Transactional. There rules all stand in integration tests too. Example integration test can look like this:

Summary

Hibernate Envers does a great job auditing my application. It is easy to use, despite all the small glitches I've mentioned here. Special thanks to plugin authors that package Envers library in a plugin that can be used out of the box. I really recommend it! It would be great to hear all your thoughts on Envers and Grails working together so I can improve this post for others too.

Update 12.04.2013

Lucas Ward has posted updaate entry on Grails Hibernate Envers plugin here: http://www.lucasward.net/2013/04/grails-envers-plugin-update.html. Thanks!