Failure Modes In Event-Based Systems

Dave Copeland has an interesting article on understanding how message- and event-based systems can fail:

The system trigger (1) initiates everything. Common failures here are timeouts inside Application. This is particularly insidious because when this happens, the System Trigger may retry the operation. Think about a user on a webpage getting a 500 error. They will likely retry what they were doing until it succeeds.

This means that the entire workflow could be triggered multiple times, and it could be done in a way that is not programmatically obvious. Imagine our Merchandise buyer marking down an item’s price, and the entire operation succeeds but at the last minute their Internet connection dies and they get an error. They will repeat the markdown action and now there will be two messages about the inventory price being sent.

This is an interesting read.  Also, definitely check out Dave’s earlier post on how there is no happy path; it seems that most developers only code for a chimera, as there is so much code that assumes everything will work perfectly.

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