What's a FactoryBean?

Engineering | Josh Long | August 09, 2011 | ...

In this post, I'll look at Spring's org.springframework.beans.factory.FactoryBean<T> interface. The definition of this interface is:

public interface FactoryBean<T> {
  T getObject() throws Exception;
  Class<T> getObjectType();
  boolean isSingleton();

A FactoryBean is a pattern to encapsulate interesting object construction logic in a class. It might be used, for example, to encode the construction of a complex object graph in a reusable way. Often this is used to construct complex objects that have many dependencies. It might also be used when the construction logic itself is highly volatile and depends on the configuration. A FactoryBean is also useful to help Spring construct objects that it couldn't easily construct itself. For example, in order to inject a reference to a bean that was obtained from JNDI, the reference must first be obtained. You can use the JndiFactoryBean to obtain this reference in a consistent way. You may inject the result of a FactoryBean's getObject() method into any other property.

Suppose you have a Person class whose definition is thus:

public class Person { 
 private Car car ;
 private void setCar(Car car){ this.car = car;  }	

and a FactoryBean whose definition is thus:

public class MyCarFactoryBean implements FactoryBean<Car>{
  private String make; 
  private int year ;

  public void setMake(String m){ this.make =m ; }

  public void setYear(int y){ this.year = y; }

  public Car getObject(){ 
    // wouldn't be a very useful FactoryBean 
    // if we could simply instantiate the object!
    CarBuilder cb = CarBuilder.car();
    if(year!=0) cb.setYear(this.year);
    if(StringUtils.hasText(this.make)) cb.setMake( this.make ); 
    return cb.factory(); 

  public Class<Car> getObjectType() { return Car.class ; } 

  public boolean isSingleton() { return false; }

You could wire up a Car instance using a hypothetical CarFactoryBean like this:

<bean class = "a.b.c.MyCarFactoryBean" id = "car">
	<property name = "make" value ="Honda"/>
	<property name = "year" value ="1984"/>
<bean class = "a.b.c.Person" id = "josh">
	<property name = "car" ref = "car"/>

In this example, the result of the FactoryBean's getObject method will be passed, not the actual FactoryBean itself. Spring knows that the result can be injected into the target property because it'll consult the FactoryBean's getObjectType() return value to determine the type of the factoried object, and then it will check whether that type can be injected into the injection site. Spring reserves - but in practice doesn't always exercise - the right to cache the returned bean if the FactoryBean's isSingleton() method returns true.

If you are using Spring's newer (and far more elegant, in my humble opinion) Java based configuration, then you will find this doesn't work quite as you'd expect. It can still be made to work, but you must dereference the FactoryBean explicitly in Java configuration and call getObject() yourself, like this:

// identical configuration in Java to the XML above			
public class CarConfiguration { 

  public MyCarFactoryBean carFactoryBean(){ 
	MyCarFactoryBean cfb = new MyCarFactoryBean();
	return cfb;

  public Person aPerson(){ 
	Person person = new Person();
	person.setCar( carFactoryBean().getObject());
	return person; 

Note that, essentially, all beans configured in Spring end up in the same place at runtime. You may define a FactoryBean in Java configuration (as above) but then use the factory bean in XML, like you would a FactoryBean defined in XML.

Spring FactoryBeans have all the other characteristics of any other Spring bean, including the lifecycle hooks and services (like AOP) that all beans in the Spring container enjoy.

So, if you'd like a chance to perform construction logic after the properties on the FactoryBean have been set, but before the getObject() method has been called, then you can tell the Spring container give your FactoryBean a callback. One way to do this is to implement the InitializingBean interface. This will be called no matter what. A far more POJO-centric alternative is to annotate a method with @PostConstruct. This method will be called, in this case, after both the code>make and the year properties have been set. You might use this callback to do sanity checks before the object construction's finished, but after the configuration by the container has finished.

 public void setup() throws Throwable { 
   // these methods throw an exception that 
   // will arrest construction if the assertions aren't met
   Assert.notNull(this.make, "the 'make' must not be null")	;
   Assert.isTrue(this.year > 0, "the 'year' must be a valid value"); 

One important takeaway here is that it is the FactoryBean, not the factoried object itself, that lives in the Spring container and enjoys the lifecycle hooks and container services. The returned instance is transient - Spring knows nothing about what you've returned from getObject() , and will make no attempt to exercise any lifecycle hooks or anything else on it.

Get the Spring newsletter

Thank you!

Get ahead

VMware offers training and certification to turbo-charge your progress.

Learn more

Get support

Spring Runtime offers support and binaries for OpenJDK™, Spring, and Apache Tomcat® in one simple subscription.

Learn more

Upcoming events

Check out all the upcoming events in the Spring community.

View all