Asynchronous Messaging with Callbacks

Asynchronous messaging consists of sending a message and then continuing with processing. The sender doesn’t block and wait for an immediate response. This allows the sender to continue with other tasks. Even so, it’s often necessary to allow the listener to respond to the sender. This can be achieved using a call-back. The sender implements a call-back by stuffing the message with a destination key that lets the listener know where to send its response. You can think of this as a return address of sorts. This tutorial illustrates asynchronous messaging with call-backs by showing you how to implement it between one sending and two listening portlets in a plugin project. You can find the code for this example plugin project here: Tasks Portlet.

Imagine the following scenario. A rock concert requires many things to be done before the show can go on. The amplifiers, sound system, lighting, and any other stage effects have to be set up properly for the show to be successful. Naturally, the tour manager has chosen Liferay Portal for managing all these tasks. The manager has a Tasks portlet for submitting items that need to be set up. The tasks then need to go to the roadies’ Setup portlet and the inventory manager’s Inventory portlet. The manager also wants a response from these portlets. However, the manager is very busy. It wouldn’t be practical to put everything else on hold while waiting for responses from each setup task. Asynchronous messaging with call-backs is an ideal solution. In this example, the messages sent by the Tasks portlet to the Setup and Inventory portlets are sent in series instead of in parallel. Now it’s time to hop on the Message Bus!

Figure 1: Asynchronous messaging with serial dispatching

Figure 1: Asynchronous messaging with *serial* dispatching

Deciding on Destination Keys

You first need to figure out what your destination keys will be. Destination keys are the locations where messages are sent. You can think of them as the mailing addresses of the Message Bus system. The destination keys need to be included with the message and registered as destinations in WEB-INF/src/META-INF/messaging-spring.xml. In this example, the destination keys are chosen to reflect the package names of the two portlets.

The following table shows the destination keys, senders, and listeners for the Tasks, Setup, and Inventory portlets described above:

Destination KeySenderListeners
tour/roadie/setupTasksSetup, Inventory
tour/manager/taskSetup, InventoryTasks

Now that you know what your destination keys are, you can use them when writing the code for sending and receiving messages. You’ll start with the message sender in the Tasks portlet first.

Implementing the Message Sender

To get the wheels on the Message Bus rolling, you need to start with the initial message sender. In this example, the initial sender is inside the method of the Tasks portlet that is responsible for adding new setup tasks. This is because the messages need to be sent each time the tour manager adds a new setup task. You can find this code here:

A sender for an asynchronous message with a call-back does the following things:

  1. Creates a JSONObject to serve as the message:

     JSONObject jsonObject = JSONFactoryUtil.createJSONObject();
  2. Uses the put method to stuff the message with key/value pairs. In this example, some key/value pairs of a Task entity are added:

     jsonObject.put("name", name);
     jsonObject.put("description", description);
     jsonObject.put("status", status);
  3. Adds the call-back destination key:

     jsonObject.put("responseDestinationName", "tour/manager/task");
  4. Sends the message to the destination:

     MessageBusUtil.sendMessage("tour/roadie/setup", jsonObject.toString());

You also need to be sure that you add the following import:

import com.liferay.portal.kernel.messaging.MessageBusUtil;

Now that you’ve implemented your initial sender, you can implement your listeners.

Implementing the Message Listeners

You need to have one or more message listeners implemented to receive messages from your sender. Each listener is a class that implements Liferay’s MessageListener interface. In this example there are three listeners, one for each portlet. You can find the example listeners here: Listeners.

Asynchronous listeners with call-backs do the following things:

  1. Implements the receive(Message message) method of the com.liferay.portal.kernel.messaging.MessageListener interface.

  2. Gets the message payload and cast it to a String.

     String payload = (String)message.getPayload();
  3. Creates a JSONObject from the payload string.

     JSONObject jsonObject = JSONFactoryUtil.createJSONObject(payload);
  4. Gets values from the JSONObject using its getter methods. This example gets the values that were added by the sender. Also note that the destination key from the sender is retrieved for use in the call-back.

     String name = (String) jsonObject.getString("name");
     String description = (String) jsonObject.getString("description");
     String status = (String) jsonObject.getString("status");
     String responseDestinationName = jsonObject.getString("responseDestinationName");
  5. Creates a JSONObject to use as the response message.

     jsonObject = JSONFactoryUtil.createJSONObject();
  6. Stuffs the response message with key/value pairs.

     jsonObject.put("roadieResponse", "Yes");
  7. Sends the message back to the sender.

     MessageBusUtil.sendMessage(responseDestinationName, jsonObject.toString());

Make sure that you add the following imports to your listener classes:

import com.liferay.portal.kernel.messaging.Message;
import com.liferay.portal.kernel.messaging.MessageBusUtil;
import com.liferay.portal.kernel.messaging.MessageListener;

Any other listeners you need can be implemented using the same steps. Next, you’ll configure your listeners and destinations for use with the Message Bus.

Configuring the Message Bus

Now that you’ve implemented your message senders and listeners, you need to configure them in your plugin’s WEB-INF/src/META-INF/messaging-spring.xml file. Create this file if it doesn’t yet exist.

For example, here’s the configuration file for the Tasks, Setup, and Inventory portlets:

<?xml version="1.0"?>


    <!-- Listeners -->

    <bean id="messageListener.setup_listener" class="com.tour.portlet.tasks.messaging.impl.SetupMessagingImpl" />
    <bean id="messageListener.inventory_listener" class="com.tour.portlet.tasks.messaging.impl.InventoryMessagingImpl" />
    <bean id="messageListener.tasks_listener" class="com.tour.portlet.tasks.messaging.impl.TasksMessagingImpl" />

    <!-- Destinations -->

    <bean id="tour.roadie.setup" class="com.liferay.portal.kernel.messaging.SerialDestination">
        <property name="name" value="tour/roadie/setup" />

    <bean id="tour.manager.task" class="com.liferay.portal.kernel.messaging.SerialDestination">
        <property name="name" value="tour/manager/task" />

    <!-- Configurator -->

    <bean id="messagingConfigurator" class="com.liferay.portal.kernel.messaging.config.PluginMessagingConfigurator">
        <property name="messageListeners">
            <map key-type="java.lang.String" value-type="java.util.List">
                <entry key="tour/roadie/setup">
                    <list value-type="com.liferay.portal.kernel.messaging.MessageListener">
                            <ref bean="messageListener.setup_listener" />
                            <ref bean="messageListener.inventory_listener" />
                <entry key="tour/manager/task">
                    <list value-type="com.liferay.portal.kernel.messaging.MessageListener">
                            <ref bean="messageListener.tasks_listener" />
        <property name="destinations">
                <ref bean="tour.roadie.setup"/>
                <ref bean="tour.manager.task"/>

This configuration specifies the following beans:

  • Listener beans: Specify the listener classes to handle messages.
  • Destination beans: Specify the class type and key names of the destinations.
  • Configurator bean: Maps listeners to their destinations.

Now you just need to register this messaging-spring.xml file in your docroot/WEB-INF/web.xml file. To do so, place the following code just above the closing </web-app> tag in the web.xml file:



Save and redeploy your portlet. Your plugin should now send and receive messages the way you’ve configured it. In the case of the tour manager, the Tasks portlet now shows replies from the Setup and Inventory portlets.

Figure 2: Responses from the Setup and Inventory portlets show in the Tasks portlet.

Figure 2: Responses from the Setup and Inventory portlets show in the Tasks portlet.

Great! Now you know how to use Message Bus to send asynchronous messages with call-backs.

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