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Reactor Californium-M1, this summer's Milestone release train

On behalf of the Reactor team, I have the pleasure of announcing the newest Reactor milestone, Californium-M1 🚢 🚂

The team has been busy working on Californium, the third major installment of Reactor 3. We are now ready for your feedback on a few select issues, and we have a lot of enhancements and bug fixes ready for your consumption as well.

Californium-M1 BOM

For its third release train, we continue on the theme of alphabetically increasing names on the periodic table of elements. Californium is an element first synthesized in California.

The milestone’s BOM contains:

  • reactor-core 3.2.0.M3
  • reactor-extra 3.2.0.M1 (with a few API alignment changes)
  • reactor-netty 0.8.0.M1

Early this year (M1), there was an early preview of reactor-core that was solely focused on the “error mode continue” feature, and core also had an off-train milestone release (M2) in June. This blog post covers changes from the latter in addition to those in the brand new M3.

Reactor Netty 0.8.0.M1

The heavyweight here is reactor-netty. Expect a fuller blog post that details the rationale behind the API changes and new features, which include:

API revamp

The team has introduced a large revamp of the API that is more guiding when building clients and servers, avoiding unforgiving configuration errors that were too easy to make in the 0.7.x line.

The lifecycle is also more clearly outlined by the new API.

HTTP2 support

Yes, HTTP2 support 👍 For now it is mainly upgrading to HTTP2 transparently, but we are working on adding HTTP2 individual streams as first-class citizens in the near future.

Reactor Core 3.2.0

Altogether, M2 and M3 bring in over 70 changes compared to the previous Bismuth iteration.

There are fewer API changes in reactor-core than in reactor-netty, and the update considerations are mainly about differences between the milestones themselves. See the “update considerations” section of M2 and M3 for more details.

We most need your feedback for the following features:

Metrics

Micrometer and .metrics() support (#1183, #1123) has been added. The new .metrics() operator does something only if Micrometer is on the classpath.

It records metrics on onNext timings, subscription-to-completion timings, signal count, and others – all from the perspective of what signals the immediate upstream operator produces.

It was introduced in M2 but has seen improvements in M3, as well as a (breaking) change in some of the tags names (#1245).

Note that an important goal was to avoid exposing Micrometer stuff in the public Reactor API. We didn’t want to have a mandatory dependency to Micrometer, and we strove to contain its usage to internal classes loaded only if we detect it on the classpath.

Up next:
Before GA, there should also be basic instrumentation support for Schedulers (or rather the ExecutorServices that back some of the Schedulers). We are also looking at a way to choose a specific MeterRegistry globally for Reactor, again without exposing a public API that refers to the MeterRegistry interface.

Advanced Retry

We added a preconfigured alternative to retryWhen with exponential backoff and jitter (retryBackoff(). See #1122).

This version of retry reflects what we think is the industry best practice in terms of retries. It is a good middle ground between the too simple retry(n), the complex retryWhen(Function) and the more configurable RetryFunction from reactor-addons.

Resource-based reactive closures

To help you build reactive transactional blocks, we added usingWhen. Like using, it wraps a resource, generates a Flux out of it, and ensures that the resource is properly cleaned up when the Flux terminates.

The major differences are:

  • The resource is provided asynchronously through a Publisher.
  • Cleanups are asynchronous as well (Function<Resource, Publisher>) and delay only the propagation of the terminal signals, NOT the onNext signals.
  • The operator can have separate async “cleanups” for complete, error, and cancel terminations.

This was introduced in M2 but slightly changed in M3 to fix Context propagation and to support cancellation of the Publisher<Resource>. By cancelling the main Flux<T> returned by this operator before the Resource is even emitted, your cancel instruction is propagated to the Publisher<Resource>.

onDiscard hook

This global hook, which takes the form of a Consumer<Object>, is intended as the last missing piece for advanced users that deal with off-heap objects that need special cleanup.

Typically, Netty’s ByteBuf or Spring 5’s DataBuffer fall into this category: They are pooled, off-heap, and need a release() call once they’re not used, lest there be a memory leak.

Such elements could fall between the cracks of reactive sequences and never reach user code in three broad situations:

  1. the operator’s source is malformed and doesn’t respect RS specification (for example, it emits a ByteBuf after having signalled onComplete).
  2. the operator filters some elements as part of its semantics (for example filter).
  3. the operator prefetches for backpressure optimization purposes and is cancelled, discarding its prefetch queue.

Case (1) was already covered by the onNextDropped hook, but case (3) was definitely not.
Case (2) (filter semantics) was a bit in the middle, with the possibility of doing the cleanup inside the filtering Predicate, for example. But that was cumbersome and prone to be forgotten.

So we added the onDiscard to our repertoire of Hooks to cover (2) and (3). Note that, unlike the “continue on error” feature, for now, there is no public API to setup the hook on a specific Flux instance. There is an unsupported workaround with the Context, and an official API is likely to make an appearance in the GA or a later maintenance release.

The onDiscard hook has the following characteristics and requirements:

  • It is additive, meaning that invoking Hooks.onDiscard(Consumer) twice will combine the two consumers using Consumer#andThen.
  • It is not keyed, meaning that while multiple calls are additive, it can only be reset in full (not on a per-Consumer basis).
  • The Consumer MUST perform instanceof checks before casting, as it WILL be used with different types of objects.
  • The Consumer MUST NOT throw exceptions and should contain try catch blocks as needed.
  • The Consumer MUST be idempotent, as it might be invoked on the same instance multiple times (for example, in the case of overlapping buffers).

On a side note, errorStrategyContinue() has been renamed in M3 to onErrorContinue().

Reactor Extra 3.2.0.M1

Finally, reactor-extra has a more minor API change in the retry/repeat utils side of things. It aligns with the core operators, using the same default values and Long rather than Integer indexes.

Next Steps

The next step for reactor-core is a rework of how the Processor objects are exposed. The current FluxProcessor<IN, OUT> is a bit bloated, because it extends and exposes the whole Flux API.

Additionally, the FluxProcessor#sink() and associated FluxSink are too easily misused, especially when one seeks to both subscribe a Processor to a Publisher source AND manually push data to it through the sink(), which isn’t really supported currently.
The fact that sink() should be called once and the returned FluxSink<T> instance should be reused is also not crystal clear.

So we are looking at a facade over Processor<T, T> that directly implements FluxSink (instead of Flux), works when both are used as a subscriber and a sink, and has an asFlux() view method to optionally build a chain of Flux operators on top of it.

MonoProcessor will likely follow in these steps by becoming a (simpler) interface, with the concrete implementation being renamed to MonoNextProcessor. We are also looking at offering a stand-alone implementation of a MonoSink that users can directly manipulate without the need to use Mono.create().

Conclusion

Cool people don’t wait for the GA release! Go kick the tires on that shiny milestone, and, as always, feedback is welcome. :)

Happy reactive coding!

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