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Asynchronous Web-Worker Model Using RabbitMQ in Java

As explained in the Worker Dynos, Background Jobs and Queueing article, web requests should be completed as fast as possible. If an operation may take a long time, it is best to send it to a worker dyno to be processed in the background. This article demostrates this with an example application using Spring MVC and AMPQ with the Heroku RabbitMQ add-on.

Clone the Reference Application

To get started, clone the example reference application. This will automatically create your own copy of the app pre-configured with the RabbitMQ add-on. Follow instructions in the cloned app to see a demostration of the model.

The source code of the reference application is also available for browsing or cloning.

Code Walkthrough

The application is comprised of two processes: web and worker. The web process is a simple Spring MVC app that receives requests from users on the web and fowards them as messages to RabbitMQ for background processing. The worker process is a simple Java app using Spring AMPQ that listens for new messages from RabbitMQ and processes them. The web and worker processes can be scaled independently depending on application needs.

The application is structured as a Maven multi-module project with web and worker modules for each of the two processes as well as a shared common module. The common module contains the common BigOperation model class and the RabbitConfiguration class that reads the RABBITMQ_URL environment variable provided by the RabbitMQ add-on and makes it available to the rest of the application:

 public ConnectionFactory connectionFactory() {
     final URI rabbitMqUrl;
     try {
         rabbitMqUrl = new URI(getEnvOrThrow("RABBITMQ_URL"));
     } catch (URISyntaxException e) {
         throw new RuntimeException(e);

     final CachingConnectionFactory factory = new CachingConnectionFactory();

     return factory;

Web Process

The web process has this configuration @autowired by Spring in BigOperationWebController:

@Autowired private AmqpTemplate amqpTemplate;
@Autowired private Queue rabbitQueue;

When web requests are received by the controller, they are coverted to AMPQ messages and sent to RabbitMQ. The AmqpTemplate makes this easy with the following one-liner:

amqpTemplate.convertAndSend(rabbitQueue.getName(), bigOp);

The web process then immediately returns a confirmation page to the user.

Worker Process

Because the worker process is running in a sepatate dyno and is outside an application context, the configuration must be manually wired from RabbitConfiguration in BigOperationWorker:

ApplicationContext rabbitConfig = new AnnotationConfigApplicationContext(RabbitConfiguration.class);
ConnectionFactory rabbitConnectionFactory = rabbitConfig.getBean(ConnectionFactory.class);
Queue rabbitQueue = rabbitConfig.getBean(Queue.class);
MessageConverter messageConverter = new SimpleMessageConverter();

To avoid polling for new messages the worker process sets up a SimpleMessageListenerContainer, which asynchronously consumes messages by blocking until a message is delivered. First connection information must be provided:

SimpleMessageListenerContainer listenerContainer = new SimpleMessageListenerContainer();

Next, the listener is defined by implementing the MessageListener interface. This is where the actual message processing happens:

 listenerContainer.setMessageListener(new MessageListener() {
         public void onMessage(Message message) {
             // message is converted back into model object
             final BigOperation bigOp = (BigOperation) messageConverter.fromMessage(message);

             // simply printing out the operation, but expensive computation could happen here
             System.out.println("Received from RabbitMQ: " + bigOp);

The example application also configures an error handler and shutdown hook for completeness.

Finally the listener container is starter, which will stay alive until the JVM is shutdown:

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