Entrevista com Arjen Poutsma, commiter do Spring!

Eu estava esperando ansiosamente para escrever este post, ele contém uma rápida entrevista com um dos principais commiters do Spring, Arjen! Ele respondeu algumas perguntas que fiz sobre o mundo que nos espera com a nova versão do framework, com o suporte integral ao conceito de Reactive Programming. Já vou deixar aqui a versão em inglês, depois posto a tradução.

Alberto: Just to introduce to our readers, could you talk a little bit about you and your role in the Spring Framework?

Arjen:  My name is Arjen Poutsma. I have been working on Spring for over ten years. I started out with Spring Web Services, then worked on Spring MVC – specifically the REST features, then Spring Scala, and for the last two years I have been working on Spring Reactive, together with Brian Clozel, Sebastien Deleuze, Stephane Maldini, abd Rossen Stoyanchev.

In this project, our team has been creating a new reactive foundation for Spring. We have essentially looked at the Spring MVC module, evaluated the code therein, and rewrote those pieces we need over to a non-blocking, event-driven style. We used Reactor as a foundation for this. The resulting code lives in the new spring-web-reactive module, next to the existing spring-webmvc module. The two modules share many concepts, but do not share any code. This is because Spring Web Reactive runs on a Reactive Streams HTTP adapter layer that’s fully non-blocking and reactive all the way down to the HTTP runtime. So while Spring MVC is built for and runs on Servlet containers, Spring Web Reactive runs also on non-Servlet runtimes such as Netty.

On top of the Spring Web Reactive module, we have two programming models. One is the existing annotation-based model, with @Controller, @RequestMapping and so on. These are the exact same annotations you use in Spring Web MVC. The other model is a recently introduced functional model, with RouterFunctions and HandlerFunctions.

I’ve attached a picture which hopefully makes this clearer.


Alberto: So, we are all excited about the new version of Spring, with the Reactive support. Could you tell us how this update will affect our way of programming?

Arjen: Just to be clear: upgrading to Spring 5 alone will not require any changes any changes to your code. As with previous major version upgrades, we have made sure that Spring 5 is backward compatible with Spring 4. So if you have a Spring 4 MVC application running on a Servlet engine, you will not have to change anything.

However, if you choose to use the new Reactive features, you will have to reconsider your architecture, as there any many differences. For instance, the guarantee that a HTTP request will be handled in a single thread is no longer the case: request will be handled by many threads, each doing a piece of the work when there is need for it (i.e. backpressure). Essentially, you are switching from a model a big thread pool, where most threads are waiting (either for incoming HTTP request, or waiting on a blocking datastore) to a model with a smaller thread pool, where each thread switches between requests many times and is effectively . Fortunately, you will not have to deal with these threads yourself, as this is where Reactor comes in. Reactor allows you to define your request handling pipeline in a functional, high-level abstraction through Flux and Mono. So rather than returning a List<Person> from your controller, for instance, you would return a Flux<Person>. However, this does also mean that relying on ThreadLocals will no longer work, and there are quite a number of frameworks and libraries (including Spring) that rely on these for some of their functionality.

Alberto: A lot of frameworks and libraries do not support this style of programming, Hibernate is an example. How can we combine our most used frameworks and Reactive Programming? The stack will evolve to support? I really like Spring Data JPA and I was thinking about that.

Arjen: Indeed, another difference between a traditional architecture and a reactive one is data stores. Obviously, in Reactive environments, there is a strong preference for non-blocking, asynchronous data stores. For some data stores, this is a great fit; for others it is not. There are a couple of NoSQL data stores that do reactive support: Couchbase, and MongoDB come to mind. For other, more traditional data access APIs, such as JDBC and JPA, there is no reactive support yet, so if you rely on them, there is no other choice than to wrap these synchronous, blocking APIs, and give them access to their own thread pool. Oracle is actually working on a non-blocking version of JDBC, but details are very sparse at this point. For JPA, the question is whether a session-based model actually makes sense in a reactive world.

Alberto: Could you explain how the Reactive Programming will help our applications to scale? Is there this relation between Reactive Programming and scalibility?

Arjen: I like to compare the two programming styles with an analogy. Imagine you are eating in a restaurant, and want to order food. The moment you make your order with the waiter, he goes off to the kitchen and prepare it. When the food is done, he will come back from the kitchen to serve it to you. After that, he will look around to see if there are any other customers in need of his attention. Now imagine the owner of the restaurant wants to have more tables, i.e. he wants to scale up. If he wants to make sure every table does not have to wait for too long, he would have to hire as many waiters as he added tables, adding a lot of cost. This is the traditional, one-thread-per-request Servlet model, where the customers are HTTP clients, and the waiters represent threads.

A reactive model would operate more like a real-life restaurant, where the waiters just relay the orders to kitchen staff, and many people (i.e. threads) are working on your order before it is served to you. Looking at it this way, it becomes quite obvious why the reactive model scales better: you are using the resources available more efficiently.

That said, the reactive model does come with a certain cost. It is harder to write asynchronous code, and it is harder to debug. So Reactive Programming will definitely help *certain* application to scale; for others I would simply say that the effort is simply not worth it. There will always be many cases where imperative is just fine for the task at hand and others where reactive and non-blocking are a must. And with Spring 5, you can do both.

Espero que você tenha gostado da entrevista! Arjen foi muito solícito e acho que nos forneceu boas respostas.


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