Optional dependencies in Spring

I’m a regular Spring framework user and I think I know the framework pretty well, but it seems I’m always stumbling upon something useful I didn’t know about. At Devoxx, I learned that you could express conditional dependencies using Java 8’s new Optional<T> type. Note that before Java 8, optional dependencies could be auto-wired using @Autowired(required = false), but then you had to check for null.

How good is that? Well, I can think about a million use-cases, but here are some that come out of my mind:

  • Prevent usage of infrastructure dependencies, depending on the context. For example, in a development environment, one wouldn’t need to send metrics to a MetricRegistry
  • Provide defaults when required infrastructure dependencies are not provided e.g. a h2 datasource
  • The same could be done in a testing environment.
  • etc.

The implementation is very straightforward:

@ContextConfiguration(classes = OptionalConfiguration.class)
public class DependencyPresentTest extends AbstractTestNGSpringContextTests {

    private Optional<HelloService> myServiceOptional;

    public void should_return_hello() {
        String sayHello = null;
        if (myServiceOptional.isPresent()) {
            sayHello = myServiceOptional.get().sayHello();

        assertEquals(sayHello, "Hello!");

At this point, not only does the code compile fine, but the dependency is evaluated at compile time. Either the OptionalConfiguration contains the HelloService bean - and the above test succeeds, or it doesn’t - and the test fails.

This pattern is very elegant and I suggest you list it into your bag of available tools.

Nicolas Fränkel

Nicolas Fränkel

Developer Advocate with 15+ years experience consulting for many different customers, in a wide range of contexts (such as telecoms, banking, insurances, large retail and public sector). Usually working on Java/Java EE and Spring technologies, but with focused interests like Rich Internet Applications, Testing, CI/CD and DevOps. Also double as a trainer and triples as a book author.

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Optional dependencies in Spring
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