Backstage Weekly 29 - Search V1 release & easier plugin maintenance

Published on June 14th, 2021 by David Tuite

There were some important milestones reached over the last 2 weeks so we’re going to skip past the pre-amble and get straight into the new features.

Merged in the last 2 weeks

99 pull requests were merged in the past 2 weeks. Here are the highlights…

Search V1 Alpha released

A new version of Backstage search was merged last week. Here’s how the new search page looks in a Backstage example app:

a searchbar and a list of services that can be searched

This release is the culmination of a lot of hard work by the search team in Spotify and includes the following features:

  • A highly extensible search backend, responsible for document indexing and query handling. Previously, all search happened within the browser.
  • An out-of-the-box server-side search engine (Lunr), with an API in place to support other search engines in the future. ElasticSearch support is planned.
  • Support for indexing the contents of the software catalog, with an API in place to index other types of content. Theoretically any Backstage plugin should now be able to send documents for indexing.
  • A highly composable frontend for tailoring the search experience for your organization’s needs.

The docs have already been updated, so you can try this out immediately. The upcoming Beta and GA releases will include ElasticSearch support and support for searching within TechDocs.

Don’t miss this weeks Backstage Community Session where the search team will talk through the new features and how to use them.

@backstage/core breakup

Pull request #5825 splits the core package up into three new @backstage packages. This change should make life much easier for plugin authors.

Previously, plugins depending on different versions of @backstage/core would struggle to co-exist within the same Backstage application. If you and all other plugin authors didn’t frequently update plugin dependencies in lock-step, Backstage plugins could crash, sometimes taking out the whole application.

These new packages include a slimmed down core-plugin-api package which can run alongside other versions of itself, preventing the issue mentioned above. All the glorious technical details you could ever want are in RFC #4872.

The new packages are called core-components, core-plugin-api and core-app-api.

  • The core-components package contains all of the visual components you see when you click around in a Backstage app.
  • The core-app-api package has the bits you need to create a new Backstage app and set up the context from which plugins consume.
  • The core-plugin-api is the part that plugins consume, and is the part that is most frequently duplicated.

Stay tuned for migration details. Some of that is still being worked out. The new @backstage/codemods package is being prepped in order to keep tedious manual work to a minimum.

We are prolific plugin authors here at Roadie and we really appreciate this change from the core Backstage team. Here’s to improved stability 🍾.

Conditional scaffolder steps

Oliver Sand from SDA SE added the ability to include conditional steps in your scaffolder templates - #5849. Code like the example below will add a checkbox to the scaffolder UI. Check the box and the step runs, leave it empty and it is skipped.

- id: register
  if: '{{ not parameters.dryRun }}'
  name: Register
  action: catalog:register
  input:
    repoContentsUrl: '{{ steps.publish.output.repoContentsUrl }}'
    catalogInfoPath: '/catalog-info.yaml'

And here’s how it looks when the UI skips steps based on conditionals (see the “Skipped” steps in the card on the left).

Backstage scaffolder run with skipped steps

That’s all for this week folks. Get upgrading! 🚀

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