Reactive Manifesto

I ran across the Reactive Manifesto while I was doing some reading on Scala. I touched on this idea back in the Virtual Conference post with the presentation What does it mean to be Reactive? by Erik Meijer. His 45 minute presentation tried to explain the nuances of this concept. The manifesto is all about taking the basic concept of what reactive programming is and making the big ideas accessible.

The four aspects of reactive applications – responsive, resilient, elastic, and message-driven – all come together to reinforce one another. Responsive is straightforward: the application should return results quickly. Resilient is that the system is designed to resist faults and remain responsive. Elastic means the system can react to the changing input rate and add or remove resources to keep up with demand. Message-driven is that the system operates in an asynchronous manner. These four aspects work together to build a cohesive style of application.

The message-driven nature of a reactive application allows the system to utilize the concept of back pressure. Back pressure allows the system to control the flow of requests to ensure that the system remains responsive while the elastic aspect kicks in and applies additional resources. The message-driven nature also means that the resiliency has additional options since the services are decoupled further.

The reactive name may be new but the concepts are old. HTTP could be described as reactive. It is responsive since you can guarantee the timeout settings. The HTTP server is designed to be resilient and able to fail fast, with descriptive error codes that indicate how to react. A 404 is different from a 503 and the caller can react differently to the two of them. The system is elastic since you have ways available to scale horizontally. HTTP is clearly message-driven with the request and response paradigm.

This ties into the Scala ecosystem via Scala.react and other libraries to enable reactive programming on the platform. Scala is a good fit for reactive programming because the functional paradigm makes it easier to work in a reactive manner. Martin Odersky, the designer of Scala, also was an early proponent of reactive programming so that created a fertile breeding ground for working on reactive concepts.

Using this paradigm at a smaller scale seems like a great way to create modular systems. This pattern also compliments the microservices architecture. I’m looking forward to working with these concepts as I get more experience with Scala.


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