Pattern: Idempotent Consumer

Context

In an enterprise application, it’s usually a good idea to use a message broker that guarantees at-least once delivery. At-least once delivery guarantees that a message broker will deliver a message to a consumer even if errors occur. One side-effect, however, is that the consumer can be invoked repeatedly for the same message. Consequently, a consumer must be idempotent: the outcome of processing the same message repeatedly must be the same as processing the message once. If a consumer is not idempotent, multiple invocations can cause bugs. For example, a consumer of an AccountDebited message that subtracts the debit amount from the current balance would calculate the incorrect balance.

Problem

How does a message consumer handle duplicate messages correctly?

Solution

Implement an idempotent consumer, which is a message consumer that can handle duplicate messages correctly. Some consumers are naturally idempotent. Others must track the messages that they have processed in order to detect and discard duplicates.

You can make a consumer idempotent by recording in the database the IDs of the messages that it has processed successfully. When processing a message, a consumer can detect and discard duplicates by querying the database. There are a couple of different places to store the message IDs. One option is for the consumer to use a separate PROCESSED_MESSAGES table. The other option is for the consumer to store the IDs in the business entities that it creates or updates.

See also

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