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Chris helps clients around the world adopt the microservice architecture through consulting engagements, and training classes and workshops.

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Pattern: Health Check API

Context

You have applied the Microservice architecture pattern. Sometimes a service instance can be incapable of handling requests yet still be running. For example, it might have ran out of database connections. When this occurs, the monitoring system should generate a alert. Also, the load balancer or service registry should not route requests to the failed service instance.

Problem

How to detect that a running service instance is unable to handle requests?

Forces

  • An alert should be generated when a service instance fails
  • Requests should be routed to working service instances

Solution

A service has an health check API endpoint (e.g. HTTP /health) that returns the health of the service. The API endpoint handler performs various checks, such as

  • the status of the connections to the infrastructure services used by the service instance
  • the status of the host, e.g. disk space
  • application specific logic

A health check client - a monitoring service, service registry or load balancer - periodically invokes the endpoint to check the health of the service instance.

Examples

The Microservices Example application is an example on an application implements a health check API. It is written in Scala and uses Spring Boot and Spring Cloud as the Microservice chassis. They provide various capabilities including a health check endpoint. The endpoint is implemented by the Spring Boot Actuator module. It configures a /health HTTP endpoint that invokes extensible health check logic.

To enable a /health endpoint, first define actuator as a dependency:

dependencies {
  compile "org.springframework.boot:spring-boot-starter-actuator"

Second, enable Spring Boot autoconfiguration:

@SpringBootApplication
class UserRegistrationConfiguration {

At this point, your application will have a health check endpoint with default behavior.

You can customize this behavior by defining one or more Spring beans that implement the HealthIndicator interface:

class UserRegistrationConfiguration {
  @Bean
  def discoveryHealthIndicator(discoveryClient : EurekaClient ) : HealthIndicator = new DiscoveryHealthIndicator(discoveryClient)

A HealthIndicator must implement a health() method, which returns a Health value.

Resulting Context

This pattern has the following benefits:

  • The health check endpoint enables the health of a service instance to be periodically tested

This pattern has the following drawbacks:

  • The health check might not sufficiently comprehensive or the service instance might fail between health checks and so requests might still be routed to a failed service instance

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