Spring Boot, MongoDB and raw JSON

Sometimes you want to store and retrieve raw JSON in MongoDB. With Spring Boot storing the JSON isn’t very hard, but retrieving can be a bit more challenging.

Setting up

To start using MongoDB from Spring Boot, you add the dependency to spring-boot-starter-data-mongodb


And then you inject MongoTemplate into your class

private MongoTemplate mongoTemplate;

Inserting into MongoDB

Inserting JSON is just a matter of converting the JSON into a Document, and inserting that document into the right collection

String json = getJson();
Document doc = Document.parse(json);
mongoTemplate.insert(doc, "CollectionName");

Retrieving JSON

Retrieving JSON is a bit more complicated. First you need to get a cursor for the collection. This allows you to iterate over all the documents within that collection. Then you’ll retrieve each document from the collection, and cast it to a BasicDBObject. Once you have that, you can retrieve the raw JSON.

DBCursor cursor = mongoTemplate.getCollection("CollectionName").find();
Iterator iterator = cursor.iterator();
while (iterator.hasNext()){
   BasicDBObject next = (BasicDBObject) iterator.next();
   String json = next.toJson();
   // do stuff with json

Transforming raw JSON to Object

With Jackson you can transform the retrieved JSON to an object. However, your object might miss a few fields, since MongoDB adds some to keep track of the stored documents. To get around this problem, you need to configure the ObjectMapper to ignore those extra fields.

ObjectMapper mapper = new ObjectMapper().configure(DeserializationFeature.FAIL_ON_UNKNOWN_PROPERTIES, false)
MyObject object = mapper.readValue(json, MyObject.class);

Lessons learned

Pressure makes diamonds, as the saying goes. I worked on a high-pressure project for a couple of weeks (as in, it needed to be done before we even started), and these are some of the lessons we learned as a team. The lessons are mostly tips and tricks, as we learned a lot on the job.

General lessons learned

Way of working

Bring (at least) two developers to the project. One will focus on the algorithm, the other will focus on the code quality and support as much as possible. Notice the choice of words: “focus”. This means that all developers do all the things, but their main task is different.
Don’t underestimate the impact of code quality. Code should be as clear as possible, so that it doesn’t get in the way of solving the business problem. When you’re constantly thinking about what the code does, you’re not thinking about how to solve the business problem. On that note, the first versions were set up as procedural. Refactor to object oriented. OO has advantages over procedural, and it would be a waste to not have access to those advantages. This refactoring was well worth the effort, as we had our codebase audited. No major flaws were encountered during the audit.

Version control

Get a version control tool in place, and choose the one that is easiest to use. You can share code by emailing .zip files, but that’s too cumbersome. Besides, errors get made. Use git, ask around how to do that, and ignore project managers who tell you not to do this. Even a paid github repository is better than nothing.


Manually include dependencies

It is possible to add dependencies to the build, without the need for those dependencies to be available in a repository. You’ll include them from a /lib folder or something like that:


Create complete jar

To build the resulting jar with dependencies, use the following command:

mvn assembly:assembly -DdescriptorId=jar-with-dependencies

Version tracking

Resource filtering, to update variables in your resources with maven properties. But only variables in certain files, all other files should not be filtered because that might corrupt them:


Contents of project-version.properties:

version = ${build.version}

where ${build.version} is a property in the pom file, along with the format for this timestamp:


Download sources

To download all sources from the dependencies (when available), type

 mvn dependency:sources

This will allow you to inspect the actual source code when you’re in a debugging session.

Skip tests

There are two ways of skipping unit tests:

mvn -DskipTests <task>

Only skips _executing_ the tests. The unit tests will still be compiled

mvn -Dmaven.test.skip=true

Does not compile the tests, and therefore the tests are not executed.

One piece of software

For testing purposes, we made our program so it ran locally. The same program could run, without modifications, on the server. We used hard-coded paths and keys for the server version, with fallbacks for the local standalone version. This allowed us to focus on the algorithms, and find/fix environments issues quite fast.

Patching jars

We had to patch the Mendelson jars a few times, before we decided to create a maven build script for the source code.

javac -classpath <jar to be patched>;<jars containing non-local classes used by the class to be compiled> path\to\modified\file.java

Then open the jar with a zip-tool (7zip, for example), and replace the old class with the newly compiled version.


Add as much logging as useful. This is probably more than you think. In our case, logging wasn’t showing up. So we wrote a LoggingFacade which wrote its output to the default logging framework, AND to System.out or System.err if needed.


Debugging will provide more information than logging, but is not always possible.
Make one version that run standalone, so you can attach a debugger while developing.
Make sure you can remotely debug the server. Start the server with debug enabled, with the following command-line parameter:


This starts the program in debug mode, listening to debuggers on TCP port 4000. You can choose any port that is convenient for you.

You might need to open an SSH tunnel to your server, listening locally to port 4000, and forwarding it to localhost:4000. Notice that localhost is the localhost of the server, not the localhost from which you make the connection to the server.

Then configure your IDE to connect to a remote application.


One of the avenues we’ve explored was to build a standalone program to intercept and process the messages in a more controllable way. Spring-Boot was introduced for this, but not continued. It is worth exploring these kinds of avenues when you’re stuck, because they might give some insight in how to continue.
Spring-Boot offers quite a lot of extras that we can use for our project, such as a standalone server (run with mvn spring-boot:run). Any application can still be run from within the IDE, because the applications still have a main() function.

About the producing service: https://spring.io/guides/gs/producing-web-service/
About the consuming service: https://spring.io/guides/gs/consuming-web-service/
Switching from application: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/23217002/how-do-i-tell-spring-boot-which-main-class-to-use-for-the-executable-jar

To test the producing service, use Postman (https://www.getpostman.com/apps)
The service can be reached with a POST request on http://localhost:8080
Headers: content-type: text/xml
Body type: raw
Body contents can be found on the producing link, file is called “request.xml”

Project specific

Decrypting XML

The XML might have been encrypted with a cipher that isn’t available to you. Find the correct cipher in the following section:

	<xenc:EncryptionMethod Algorithm="http://www.w3.org/2009/xmlenc11#rsa-oaep">
		<ds:DigestMethod xmlns:ds="http://www.w3.org/2000/09/xmldsig#" Algorithm="http://www.w3.org/2001/04/xmlenc#sha256"/>
		<xenc11:MGF xmlns:xenc11="http://www.w3.org/2009/xmlenc11#" Algorithm="http://www.w3.org/2009/xmlenc11#mgf1sha256"/>

Take special note of the Digest Method and the Mask Generation Function, as these might not be available to you. You need to use a third party library that implements the exact cipher that is used. In our case that is Apache Santuario.

Initializing Santuario

Santuario must be initialized before it’s used. However, before initializing the main cryptography engine, the Internationalization framework needs to be initialized. Normally this is initialized with the locale en-US, but only the en (without the _US_ part) properties file is available. This should not be a problem, since this properties file is part of a fallback mechanism. However, in our case, this fallback mechanism doesn’t work.
First initialize Santuario with an empty resource bundle, then initialize the cryptography engine.

Binary data

In one instance of our project, the binary file had a repeating sequence EF BF BD. This is caused by creating a String from the binary data, and requesting the bytes from that String. Strings and binary aren’t the best of friends, keep them separated!

Java 8

On 18 march 2014, Oracle launched Java 8. I’ve had a little time to play with it. Here are my first experiences.


Eclipse 4.4 (Luna) will get support for Java 8. However, Eclipse 4.3.2 (Kepler) can support Java 8 by installing a feature patch. This page shows how to install the patch.

Once installed, you’ll need to tell your projects to use java 8. First add the JDK to eclipse:

  • Go to Window -> Preferences
  • Go to Java -> Installed JREs
  • Add Standard VM, and point to the location of the JRE
  • Then go to Compiler
  • Set Compiler compliance level to 1.8

Then tell the project to use JDK 1.8:

  • Go to Project -> preferences
  • Go to Java Compiler
  •  Enable project specific settings
  •  Set Compiler compliance level to 1.8

Now you should be able to develop your applications using Java 8.


To enable Java 8 in Maven, two things need to be done:

  1. Maven must use JDK 1.8
  2. Your project must be Java 8 compliant.

To tell maven to use JDK 1.8, point the JAVA_HOME variable to the correct location.
For the second point, make the project Java 8 compliant, add the following snippet to you pom.xml file:


Feature: streams

Streams can be used to iterate over collections, possibly in a parallel way. This has the advantage of making use of the multi-core architecture in modern computers. But more importantly, it makes the code shorter and more readable.

Case in point, consider the following code, for getting the minimum and maximum number in an array:

   public void minMax(int[] array){
      int min = array[0], max = array[0];
      for (int i : array) {
         if (i < min) {
            min = i;
         } else {
            if (i > max)
               max = i;
      System.out.println("Max is :" + max);
      System.out.println("Min is :" + min);

Nothing too shocking. But with Java 8 this could be done shorter and easier:

   public void java8(int[] array){
      IntSummaryStatistics stats = 

      System.out.println("Max is :" + stats.getMax());
      System.out.println("Min is :" + stats.getMin());

This method converts the array to an IntStream, and then collects the statistics of all numbers in that stream into an IntSummaryStatistics object. When testing this with an array of 10.000.000 items, spanning the range of 1.000.000 numbers, the performance is more than 5 times better with the first method though. The first running in 12 ms, the second in 69 ms.

Feature: lambda expressions

The biggest new feature of Java 8 is Lambda Expressions. These are sort of inline methods, and are mostly used in combination with streams. To explain this, let’s take a look at the following pieces of code. This will get all the files ending in “.csv” from a directory.

First, using a FilenameFilter:

      File sourceDir = new File("D:\\Tools");
      List<String> filteredList = Arrays.asList(sourceDir.list(new FilenameFilter(){

         public boolean accept(File dir, String name)
            return name.toLowerCase().endsWith(".csv");

Now, using a Lambda:

      File sourceDir = new File("D:\\Tools");
      List<String> filteredList = Arrays.asList(sourceDir.list())
            .filter(s -> s.toLowerCase().endsWith(".csv"))

Notice line 4, with the filter command. This replaces the accept method in the FilenameFilter. What it effectively does is the following:

For each String in the stream:
 - assign the String to s
 - Call s.toLowerCase().endsWith(".csv"), this will return a boolean
 - If the result is true, the String is passed to the next method in the stream
 - If the result is false, the next String is evaluated