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Subject: Re: [sca-j] Java Callback Simplification Proposal


Thanks for this detailed proposal.

I've got a few concerns, that I can summarize simply as "the baby being thrown out with the bathwater"
- ie some capabilities that are actually quite important seem to get chopped in the name of simplicity.
I'm left feeling that callbacks in particular are no longer of any use once the proposals are accepted.

Let me try to express what I see as the problems in inline comments as <mje>...</mje>

Yours,  Mike.

Strategist - Emerging Technologies, SCA & SDO.
Co Chair OASIS SCA Assembly TC.
IBM Hursley Park, Mail Point 146, Winchester, SO21 2JN, Great Britain.
Phone & FAX: +44-1962-818014    Mobile: +44-7802-467431  
Email:  mike_edwards@uk.ibm.com

Jim Marino <jmarino@bea.com>

12/02/2008 18:23

OASIS Java <sca-j@lists.oasis-open.org>
[sca-j] Java Callback Simplification Proposal


Bellow is a proposal from BEA to simplify callback mechanisms in the  
Java C&I specifications. I will work on the appropriate steps of  
getting this into a JIRA so that it can be tracked.


This proposal aims to simplify using asynchronous communication in  
the SCA Java programming model by:

1. Eliminating callback objects.
   - Removing ServiceReference.get/setCallback()

<mje>So this implies the client MUST implement the callback I/F</mje>

2. Removing the ability for service providers to get callback IDs.
   - Moving CallableReference getCallbackID() to ServiceReference)

<mje>.+1 </mje>

<mje>There is one interesting argument to follow from this.  It is possible to
take the view that callbackID is only of interest to the client, while conversationID
is only really of use to the provider.  Each is being used to pick out state of
some kind, but at opposite ends of the communication. So perhaps we can
eliminate the client having access to the conversation ID?

It would be nice to coalesce the 2 IDs,  The problem is that they have completely
different lifecycles.  The conversationID has some fixed span dictated by the
form of the forward call interface, with specific starting and ending operations.

The callback ID has an indeterminate span, always starting with one forward
call, but with an undetermined number and type of callback operations
being included in its span. Logically it needs to change for each subsequent
forward call.

I'm now really heading off into the weeds, but it occurs to me that there is a
relationship of the callback ID to the concept of "Future" that is used in the Java
concurrency packages.  There, the Future represents the asychronous operation
that is taking place, and can be used to feed back results. The Future is handed
back to the "client" application on the invocation of the forward "service" invocation.

Today, Futures only handle one-shot pieces of asychronous work, with a single
"response" message.  However, you could conceive of stretching this, to permit
something you might call a "CallbackFuture" - which would represent an asynchronous
process with a continuing life and an arbitrary number of "response" messages.
The nasty thing about this is that with our current callback design there is no
obvious end to the life of a CallbackFuture - in other words, the callback interface
does not define the equivalent of an "endsConversation" which indicates completion
of the work of the asynchronous service.  Today, the "end" of the callbacks must
be defined in metadata outside the interface.  Perhaps we need to fix that,
but it will not be easy.</mje>

3. Saying callback IDs are irrelevant in conversations.
   - Making ServiceReference.setCallbackID(Object id) illegal and
     ServiceReference.getCallbackID() (assuming #2) return null for
     conversational interactions.

<mje>Why does having a conversation enable this to be done?
The callback ID I thought allowed a client to mark a service invocation in
a way that callbacks made to the client carried the same ID and that
this enables the client to establish which original request caused a
given response.  

Conversation ID does not do this at all, unless I am mistaken, since
while callback ID can change from one invocation to the next, conversation ID
stays the same for the whole of a conversation.  Thus conversation ID is
useless for distinguishing one callback from another.</mje>

4. Removing the distinction between stateless and conversational
   callback interfaces.
    - Removing the ability to specify conversational on callback


By simplification, we mean as a primarily reducing the number of  
concepts and APIs a developer must understand to program  
asynchronous  services. This will entail some reduction in  
capability. However,  this reduction, we argue, affects edge-cases  
that can be accommodated through alternative techniques. A secondary  
aspect of simplification concerns implementation. By removing the  
requirement for runtimes to provide infrastructure for  handling edge  
cases that can be accommodated through relatively simple application  
programming techniques,implementing callback capabilities becomes  
fairly straightforward.

<mje>Unfortunately, unless I'm mistaken, some rather central use cases have been
trashed too.</mje>


The rational for proposed items is dealt with individually in this  

1. ServiceReference.setCallback(Object object) and  

This API exists as a mechanism to route callbacks to instances other  
than an instance of the client component making a forward invocation.  
This provides two capabilities.  Clients do not have to implement a  
callback interface. The API also allows clients to instruct the  
runtime to perform callback dispatching for stateless interactions  
that execute concurrently. A common example of this is inventory  
check. A client component needs to perform an inventory check for  
multiple line items. As an efficiency, it written to invoke the same
inventory service using a non-blocking call multiple times. For each  
invocation, it wishes to dispatch the associated callback to a  
different handler instance it creates.  For example:

ServiceReference<InventoryService> serviceReference = ..

for (LineItem item: purchaseOrder.getLineItems()) {
    CallbackService handler = new CallbackServiceImpl();

This can be done using the CallableReference.getCallbackID():

// code that conducts the forward invoke:

ServiceReference<InventoryService> serviceReference = ..

for (LineItem item: purchaseOrder.getLineItems()) {
    String id = // generate or assign the callback ID
    // store the callback id and whatever information the callback  
    cache.put(id, handler);

Callback processing can either be done directly by a component  
implementation instance or delegated to CallbackServiceImpl as shown  

// code in the same class that handles the callback:
public void onCallback(InventoryStatus status) {
    String id = requestContext.getServiceReference().getCallbackID();
    CallbackInfo info = .. // retrieve the stored callback
information by using the callback id
    CallbackService handler = new CallbackServiceImpl(info);

Some advantages to eliminating get/set/Callback() are:

a. Reduces the number of concepts and APIs a developer will be  
presented with without affecting common functionality. In other  
words, this API is primarily used for edge-cases and removing it  
simplifies the common case.

b. Application migrations and versioning are easier using the  
alternative approach. By using an object instance, runtime  
implementations would be responsible for handling class versioning
for in-process interactions. By avoiding serialization and the use of  
a specific classes, and instead storing callback data,  
CallbackServiceImpl can be versioned and substituted for callbacks  
that have not yet occurred.

c. Runtime performance characteristics are likely to improve. For  
cases where the client is stateless, routing to the specific instance  
set through setCallback() requires that the callback be routed to the  
specific JVM where the instance is hosted. Eliminating routing to a  
particular instance allows the callback to potentially be sent to any  
JVM where the client component is hosted.

d. Eliminates the need for runtime implementations to manage garbage  
collection of callback objects. For example, if a callback is never  
made, the runtime at some point will need to remove the object from  
storage or memory.

2. Moving CallableReference.getCallbackID() to ServiceReference

We propose removing getCallbackID() from access by service providers  
as it is cannot be used for correlation in third-party components  
except when the third-party is configured with a callback to the same  
client component. For example in the stateless case:


The only way C can callback to A is either by calling back B or  
having B pass a CallableReference to C.  The callback ID is not  
sufficient, in itself, to be used by arbitrary code to send a message  
that qualifies as a callback in this bidirectional exchange.  For  
example, if B has clients other than A, the callback ID doesn’t have  
the information to tell which client it is for.

Moving CallableReference.getCallbackID() to ServiceReference  
simplifies the Java programming model by:

a. Eliminating an API that can only be used in very particular  
b. Removing the need for a runtime implementation to create and  
maintain a distributed domain-wide mapping of callback ids to  
callback endpoints. Note that routing information cannot be encoded  
in the callback id as it can be set by the application.

3. Making ServiceReference.setCallbackID(Object id) illegal and  
ServiceReference.getCallbackID() (assuming #2) return null for  
conversational interactions.
Having both callback ids and conversation ids for bi-directional  
conversational wires is confusing and not needed as the conversation  
id will be used for correlation.

<mje>This is what I challenge - it isn't true if you need to correlate callback responses
to individual requests.  Conversation ID is necessarily the same for all the forward
invocations in a conversation.  This then is useless for distinguishing between
callback messages resulting from different forward invocations.

In fact, I argue that conversationID is almost useless for the client - it's really a
provider-defined thing useful for the provider to access its state data.</mje>

Sometimes a client may wish to  
correlate callback invocations using the callback id. For  
conversational callbacks, correlation using the callback id is  
limited. Since conversations are serial between a particular client  
instance and a provider instance, the additional correlation that may  
be needed is between different invocations to the provider within the  
same conversation. In other words, conversations by nature correlate  
invocations between a client and provider instance. If finer-grained  
correlation is needed such as between multiple invocations in the  
same conversation, correlation data can be included as part of the  
service operation data (e.g. “line item number” can be passed as a  
parameter in the example above).

<mje>THIS is where I hear the baby screaming as it flies out with the bathwater.

IF you really believe that, then there is no need for a callback ID ever.  All you
do is use correlation data in the messages themselves.  I suggested this to
Michael Rowley not so long ago, with the model of BPEL correlation in mind.  He
was of the opinion that the BPEL correlation approach was a failure and not
to be used as a model for SCA.

There is a good argument to be made for a system managed correlation
mechanism in that it simplifies the life of the programmer.  Forcing the use of
correlation data in the message may well have the consequence of distorting
the form of the messages, since they now *HAVE* to contain data fields that
are "uniquely identifying" - and this must be done for all callback messages.

This simplifies the Java programming model by clarifying the  
relationship between callback and conversation ids.

4. Removing the ability to specify stateless or conversational  
callback service contracts


We propose wires be either conversational or stateless in both  
directions and that it be specified as part of the forward service  
contract. In other words, @Conversational cannot be specified on the  
callback interface definition.  We don't believe having a stateless  
callback for a stateful forward invocation and vice versa makes much  

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