TSConfig / Lua

Traffic Server has committed to moving configuration files to be Lua based. While conversion of existing files to Lua isn’t required, the current view based on mailing list discussions is that new configuration files are required to be in Lua. This project is about providing that technology in a generic way to make it easier to add configuration for new features.

Current Practice

The primary example current is the custom logging configuration file logging.config which is processed as a Lua file. The interface to the Traffic Server core is done by creating Lua types in the core and exposing them to the Lua interpretor (see LogBindings.cc). Data is transfered by the Lua interpretor executing calls to the extended Lua types and then invoking the Traffic Server core. The provided instances from the core are invoked with arguments passed by the interpretor, which are then stored in logging configuration data structures. This works but the downside that every subsystem that needs a configuration file will need to write specialized Lua types to get its data.


An alternative is to provide a more generic facility that has the Lua file construct a forest of data and then copy that forest over to a C++ container. In order to provide appropriate feedback for configurations a description of expected values is needed, in the flavor of the current RecordsConfig.cc. Because the data is more complex this takes the form of a schema to describe the data. The schema is a data object written in Lua, modeled on the standard JSON schema <http://json-schema.org>. [1]

The schema drives the rest of the implementation. A C++ structure to hold the configuration values is generated which contains both the configuration and schema based metadata. This makes schema information available for validation and error reporting.

To use this configuration a schema is written to describe the expected configuration data. During build time a C++ container, a “configuration class”, is generated from the schema. At run time an instance of the configuation class is created and the passed the path to the Lua configuration file. The file is read and the data loaded into the configuration class instance. Any errors of the configuration data is returned for logging. The calling code needs to do very little validation because most or all of that is done by the configuration loading, based on the schema.


The schema is processed to generate the configuration class. Its structure parallels that of the configuration data, as descibed by the schema. TsConfigBase is the abstract base class for the configuration class. it provides a base uniform interface for operating on elements of the configuration class. Each configuration data element in the base configuration class it also a subclass of TsConfigBase and as the client calls the TsConfigBase::loader() method to load the overall configuration, that class calls the same method on each of its elements, and so recursively on down until primitives are reached which load themselves.

This style requires that each element have access to data from the schema for validation and error reporting. To avoid the expense of constructing this data repeatedly it is split off into classes based on TsConfigDescriptor. Instances of subclasses of this are intended to be declared staticly and the elements of the configuration class are initialized with references to these static instances. The TsConfigBase class hierarchy is for dynamic, per configuration data and the TsConfigDescriptor class hierarchy is for static schema data.

All of this is description and operations. The actual configuration data is stored directly as members of the configuration class for easier access. Consider a schema that is a single integer.

   description="Number of items to track."

This creates a container class.

class CounterConfig : public TsConfigBase {
   CounterConfig() : TsConfigbase{_DESCRIPTOR},
                     _meta_counter{counter, COUNTER_DESCRIPTOR}

   /// Load from the file at @a path.
   ts::Errata load(std::string const& path);

   /// Data loader method.
   ts::Errata loader(lua_State * s) override;

   /// Number of items to track.
   int counter;

   /// Descriptor for schema / CounterConfig
   static TsConfigSchemaDescriptor _DESCRIPTOR;
   /// Static schema data for @a counter.
   static TsConfigDescriptor COUNTER_DESCRIPTOR;
   /// Dynamic data for @a counter.
   TsConfigInt _meta_counter;

The schema static data is defined as

static TsConfigSchemaDescriptor CounterConfig::_DESCRIPTOR {

static TsConfigDescriptor CounterConfig::COUNT_DESCRIPTOR {

Loading the configuration is done by

CounterConfig config;
// ...
tracker.resize(config.counter); // Use loaded value.

A valid configuration example

ItemCounter = 17;


Being able to contrain primitive values to a specific set of values is critical to providing good feedback for configurations. Data for an enumeration is stored in a static instance of TsConfigEnumDescriptor. This contains two mappings, from string keys to numeric values and from numeric values to string keys. These values should be available in C++ and in Lua.

For Lua enumerations are stored as tables attached to predefined global variables. The schema supports defining such enumerations and specifying the global variable. Note this can be a nested path so that a schema could have a single top level global for its enumerations with each enumeration an entry in the global table. The presumption is the enumeration values are integers and these are the values passed to the configuration loader, specified by the global value. This is intended to minimize undetected typographic errors in the configuration file.

Enumerations are defined in a top level key of the schema named definitions. Enumerations are restricted to mappings between strings (“keys”) and integers (“values”). The mapping can be defined in multiple ways.

Lua array of strings
The keys are the strings in the array and the corresponding values the index of the string in the array.
Lua table
This must be a map between strings and integers, in either direction. A mapping from integers to strings is flipped to its dual. Duplicated keys or values are an error.

The schema data for an enumeration is stored in a static instance of TsConfigEnumDescriptor. The internal maps are initialized by the constructor.


class TsConfigBase

Default constructor. The configuration is populated with defaults, if specified.

ts::Errata loader(std::string const &path)

Load data from the Lua config specified by path.

enum Source

Which type of source of configuration data.


No explicit source, data is default constructed.


Data was taken from defaults in the schema.


Data was read from the configuration file. This value has priority - if the source is CONFIG for a non-primitive that means at least one nested primitive value was read from the configuration file.

Source source

The source for the configuration data associated with this instance.

TsConfigDescriptor const &descriptor

Static schema data for the configuration value.

class TsConfigDescriptor

Base class for schema element descriptions.

class TsConfigEnumDescriptor : public TsConfigDescriptor

Schema data for an enumeration type.

ts::string_view operator[](int value) const

Find the key for the value. An std::out_of_range exception is thrown if value is not valid.

int operator[](ts::string_view key) const

Find the value for the key. An std:out_of_range exception is thrown if key is not valid.

bool is_valid(int value) const

Check if value is valid.

bool is_valid(ts::string_view key) const

Check if key is vald.


A Lua configuration schema has its own schema.

   "$scheme"= "http://trafficsever.apache.org/config/schema",
   name= "Lua Configuration Schema",
   type= "array",
   items= {
      type= "object",
      properties= {
         ["$schema"]= {
            type= "string",
            description= "Schema identifier."
         cname= {
            type= "string",
            description= "Schema name, used as container class name.",
            enum={'null', 'boolean', 'object', 'array', 'number', 'string'}
         description= {
            description="Description for configuration value."


An example project using TsLuaConfig is SNI remap. An example configuration looks like

sni_config = {
   { fqdn="one.com", action=TLS.ACTION.TUNNEL, upstream_cert_verification:TLS.VERIFY.REQUIRED}

The schema to describe this configuration is

   ["$schema"]= "http://trafficserver.apache.org/config/sni-remap",
   name= "SNIConfig",
   global= "sni_config",
   properties= {
      items= {
         type= "object",
         properties= {
            fqdn= {
               type= "string",
               validators= { "fqdn-check" }
               description='Level of verification for client certificate.'
         kv={NONE, WARN, REQUIRE}

This generates a config class.

struct LuaSNIConfig : public TsConfigBase {
   using self = LuaSNIConfig;
   enum class Action { CLOSE, TUNNEL };

   static TsConfigArrayDescriptor DESCRIPTOR;

   struct Item : public TsConfigBase {
      Item() : TsConfigBase(DESCRIPTOR),
         FQDN_CONFIG(FQDN_DESCRIPTOR, &self::fqdn),
         LEVEL_CONFIG(LEVEL_DESCRIPTOR, &self::level),
         ACTION_CONFIG(ACTION_DESCRIPTOR, &self::action)
         { }
      Errata loader(lua_State* s) override;

      std::string fqdn;
      int level;
      Action action;

      // These need to be initialized statically.
      static TsConfigObjectDescriptor DESCRIPTOR;
      static TsConfigBaseDescriptor FQDN_DESCRIPTOR;
      static TsConfigString<Item> FQDN_CONFIG;
      static TsConfigBaseDescriptor LEVEL_DESCRIPTOR;
      static TsConfigInt<Item> LEVEL_CONFIG;
      static TsConfigEnumDescriptor ACTION_DESCRIPTOR;
      static TsConfigEnum<Item, ACTION> ACTION_CONFIG;
   std::vector<Item> items;
   ts::Errata loader(lua_State* s) override;

Future Work

In the long run it would desirable to have a single Lua configuration file for all configurations.

There is a difficult question on how traffic_ctl interacts with Lua based configuration. That is not specific to this configuration system but is a more general problem.

Some consideration must be given to whether variants should be supported. This would allow a configuration value to be listed as multiple types and any of the types would be acceptable. It’s unclear how useful this would be. The most common case I can think of is enabling singletons vs. arrays, but it would be easier to just do that directly in the validation stage. That is, if a type is described as “array of T” and the value is a single T, convert it to an array of size 1. This seems obvious and non confusing and I’m not sure there are any other good use cases.


Originally this work was intended to be based on the existing TsConfig library. This was eventually abandoned due to concerns about configuration error feedback. TsConfig provides detailed reporting for errors but can do that only because it also does the parsing. With the loss of control text parsing providing useful feedback becomes effectively impossible. Related to this was the ability to detect “excess” configuration that didn’t match what was expected. This is most commonly the result of typographic errors and the operator should be informed of this rather the configuration silently using defaults. This is something possible with the current system - it can at least warn of ignored configuration variables. Once there is a mechanismm for describing which values are expected there are many things that can be added to it at low marginal cost. The eventual result is the schema system described here.


[1]While some consideration was given to using the JSON schema directly, over all it was considered overall better to use Lua for consistency so all of the configuration related data is in the same language.