Manage your application with zend-config-aggregator

With the rise of PHP middleware, many developers are creating custom application architectures, and running into an issue many frameworks already solve: how to allow runtime configuration of the application.

configuration is often necessary, even in custom applications:

  • Some configuration, such as API keys, may vary between environments.
  • You may want to substitute services between development and production.
  • Some code may be developed by other teams, and pulled into your application separately (perhaps via Composer), and require configuration.
  • You may be writing code in your application that you will later want to share with another team, and recognize it should provide service wiring information or allow for dynamic configuration itself.

Faced with this reality, you then have a new problem: how can you configure your application, as well as aggregate configuration from other sources?

As part of the Expressive initiative, we now offer a standalone solution for you: zend-config-aggregator


First, you will need to install zend-config-aggregator:

$ composer require zendframework/zend-config-aggregator

One feature of zend-config-aggregator is the ability to consume multiple configuration formats via zend-config. If you wish to use that feature, you will also need to install that package:

$ composer require zendframework/zend-config

Finally, if you are using the above, and want to parse YAML files, you will need to install the YAML PECL extension.

Configuration providers

zend-config-aggregator allows you to aggregate configuration from configuration providers. A configuration provider is any PHP callable that will return an associative array of configuration.

By default, the component provides the following providers out of the box:

  • Zend\ConfigAggregator\ArrayProvider, which accepts an array of configuration and simply returns it. This is primarily useful for providing global defaults for your application.
  • Zend\ConfigAggregator\PhpFileProvider, which accepts a glob pattern describing PHP files that each return an associative array. When invoked, it will loop through each file, and merge the results with what it has previously stored.
  • Zend\ConfigAggregator\ZendConfigProvider, which acts similarly to the PhpFileProvider, but which can aggregate any format zend-config supports, including INI, XML, JSON, and YAML.

More interestingly, however, is the fact that you can write providers as simple invokable objects:

namespace Acme;

class ConfigProvider
    public function __invoke()
        return [
            // associative array of configuration

This feature allows you to write configuration for specific application features, and then seed your application with it. In other words, this feature can be used as the foundation for a modular architecture, which is exactly what we did with Expressive!


You may also use invokable classes or PHP callables that define generators as configuration providers! As an example, the PhpFileProvider could potentially be rewritten as follows:

use Zend\Stdlib\Glob;

function () {
    foreach (Glob::glob('config/*.php', Glob::GLOB_BRACE) as $file) {
        yield include $file;

Aggregating configuration

Now that you have configuration providers, you can aggregate them.

For the purposes of this example, we'll assume the following:

  • We will have a single configuration file, config.php, at the root of our application which will aggregate all other configuration.
  • We have a number of configuration files under config/, including YAML, JSON, and PHP files.
  • We have a third-party "module" that exposes the class Umbrella\ConfigProvider.
  • We have developed our own "module" for re-distribution that exposes the class Blanket\ConfigProvider.

Typically, you will want aggregate configuration such that third-party configuration is loaded first, with application-specific configuration merged last, in order to override settings.

Let's aggregate and return our configuration.

// in config.php:
use Zend\ConfigAggregator\ConfigAggregator;
use Zend\ConfigAggregator\ZendConfigProvider;

$aggregator = new ConfigAggregator([
    new ZendConfigProvider('config/*.{json,yaml,php}'),

return $aggregator->getMergedConfig();

This file aggregates the third-party configuration provider, the one we expose in our own application, and then aggregates a variety of different configuration files in order to, in the end, return an associative array representing the merged configuration!

Valid config profider entries

You'll note that the ConfigAggregator expects an array of providers as the first argument to the constructor. This array may consist of any of the following:

  • Any PHP callable (functions, invokable objects, closures, etc.) returning an array.
  • A class name of a class that defines __invoke(), and which requires no constructor arguments.

This latter is useful, as it helps reduce operational overhead once you introduce caching, which we discuss below. The above example demonstrates this usage.

zend-config and PHP configuration

The above example uses only the ZendConfigProvider, and not the PhpFileProvider. This is due to the fact that zend-config can also consume PHP configuration.

If you are only using PHP-based configuration files, you can use the PhpFileProvider instead, as it does not require additionally installing the zendframework/zend-config package.

Globbing and precedence

Globbing works as it does on most *nix systems. As such, you need to pay particular attention to when you use patterns that define alternatives, such as the {json,yaml,php} pattern above. In such cases, all JSON files will be aggregated, followed by YAML files, and finally PHP files. If you need them to aggregate in a different order, you will need to change the pattern.


You likely do not want to aggregate configuration on each and every application request, particularly if doing so would result in many filesystem hits. Fortunately, zend-config-aggregator also has built-in caching features.

To enable these features, you will need to do two things:

  • First, you need to provide a second argument to the ConfigAggregator constructor, specifying the path to the cache file to create and/or use.
  • Second, you need to enable caching in your configuration, by specifying a boolean true value for the key ConfigAggregator::ENABLE_CACHE.

One common strategy is to enable caching by default, and then disable it via environment-specific configuration.

We'll update the above example now to enable caching to the file cache/config.php:

use Zend\ConfigAggregator\ArrayProvider;
use Zend\ConfigAggregator\ConfigAggregator;
use Zend\ConfigAggregator\PhpFileProvider;
use Zend\ConfigAggregator\ZendConfigProvider;

$aggregator = new ConfigAggregator(
        new ArrayProvider([ConfigAggregator::ENABLE_CACHE => true]),
        new ZendConfigProvider('config/{,*.}global.{json,yaml,php}'),
        new PhpFileProvider('config/{,*.}local.php'),

return $aggregator->getMergedConfig();

The above adds an initial setting that enables the cache, and tells it to cache it to cache/config.php.

Notice also that this example changes the ZendConfigProvider, and adds a PhpFileProvider entry. Let's examine these.

The ZendConfigProvider glob pattern now looks for files named global with one of the accepted extensions, or those named *.global with one of the accepted extensions. This allows us to segregate configuration that should always be present from environment-specific configuration.

We then add a PhpFileProvider that aggregates local.php and/or *.local.php files specifically. An interesting side-note about the shipped providers is that if no matching files are found, the provider will return an empty array; this means that we can have this additional provider that is looking for separate configurations for the "local" environment! Because this provider is aggregated last, the settings it exposes will override any others.

As such, if we want to disable caching, we can create a file such as config/local.php with the following contents:

use Zend\ConfigAggregator\ConfigAggregator;

return [ConfigAggregator::ENABLE_CACHE => false];

and the application will no longer cache aggregated configuration!

Clear the cache!

The setting outlined above is used to determine whether the configuration cache file should be created if it does not already exist. zend-config-aggregator, when provided the location of a configuration cache file, will load directly from it if the file is present.

As such, if you make the above configuration change, you will first need to remove any cached configuration:

$ rm cache/config.php

This can even be made into a Composer script:

"scripts": {
    "clear-config-cache": "rm cache/config.php"

Allowing you to do this:

$ composer clear-config-cache

Which allows you to change the location of the cache file without needing to re-learn the location every time you need to clear the cache.

Auto-enabling third-party providers

Being able to aggregate providers from third-parties is pretty stellar; it means that you can be assured that configuration the third-party code expects is generally present — with the exception of values that must be provided by the consumer, that is!

However, there's one minor problem: you need to remember to register these configuration providers with your application, by manually editing your config.php file and adding the appropriate entries.

Zend Framework solves this via the zf-component-installer Composer plugin. If your package is installable via Composer, you can add an entry to your package definition as follows:

"extra": {
    "zf": {
        "config-provider": [

If the end-user:

  • Has required zendframework/zend-component-installer in their application (as either a production or development dependency), AND
  • has the config aggregation script in config/config.php

then the plugin will prompt you, asking if you would like to add each of the config-provider entries found in the installed package into the configuration script.

As such, for our example to work, we would need to move our configuration script to config/config.php, and likely move our other configuration files into a sub-directory:


This approach is essentially that taken by Expressive.

When those changes are made, any package you add to your application that exposes configuration providers will prompt you to add them to your configuration aggregation, and, if you confirm, will add them to the top of the script!

Final notes

First, we would like to thank Mateusz Tymek, whose prototype 'expressive-config-manager' project became zend-config-aggregator. This is a stellar example of a community project getting adopted into the framework!

Second, this approach has some affinity to a proposal from the folks who brought us PSR-11, which defines the ContainerInterface used within Expressive for allowing usage of different dependency injection containers. That same group is now working on a service provider proposal that would standardize how standalone libraries expose services to containers; we recommend looking at that project as well.

We hope that this post helps spawn ideas for configuring your next project!

Save the date!

Want to learn more about Expressive and Zend Framework? What better location than ZendCon 2017! ZendCon will be hosted 23-26 October 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Visit the ZendCon website for more information.



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