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BehavioralPerformanceCloud distributedAbout 3 min


Transparently retry certain operations that involve communication with external resources,
particularly over the network, isolating calling code from the retry implementation details.


Retry pattern consists retrying operations on remote resources over the network a set number of
times. It closely depends on both business and technical requirements: How much time will the
business allow the end user to wait while the operation finishes? What are the performance
characteristics of the remote resource during peak loads as well as our application as more threads
are waiting for the remote resource's availability? Among the errors returned by the remote service,
which can be safely ignored in order to retry? Is the operation
idempotentopen in new window?

Another concern is the impact on the calling code by implementing the retry mechanism. The retry
mechanics should ideally be completely transparent to the calling code (service interface remains
unaltered). There are two general approaches to this problem: From an enterprise architecture
standpoint (strategic), and a shared library standpoint (tactical).

From a strategic point of view, this would be solved by having requests redirected to a separate
intermediary system, traditionally an ESBopen in new window,
but more recently a Service Meshopen in new window.

From a tactical point of view, this would be solved by reusing shared libraries like
Hystrixopen in new window (please note that Hystrix is a complete implementation
of the Circuit Breakeropen in new window pattern, of
which the Retry pattern can be considered a subset of). This is the type of solution showcased in
the simple example that accompanies this

Real world example

Our application uses a service providing customer information. Once in a while the service seems
to be flaky and can return errors or sometimes it just times out. To circumvent these problems we
apply the retry pattern.

In plain words

Retry pattern transparently retries failed operations over network.

Microsoft documentationopen in new window says

Enable an application to handle transient failures when it tries to connect to a service or
network resource, by transparently retrying a failed operation. This can improve the stability of
the application.

Programmatic Example

In our hypothetical application, we have a generic interface for all operations on remote

public interface BusinessOperation<T> {
  T perform() throws BusinessException;

And we have an implementation of this interface that finds our customers by looking up a database.

public final class FindCustomer implements BusinessOperation<String> {
  public String perform() throws BusinessException {

Our FindCustomer implementation can be configured to throw BusinessExceptions before returning
the customer's ID, thereby simulating a flaky service that intermittently fails. Some exceptions,
like the CustomerNotFoundException, are deemed to be recoverable after some hypothetical analysis
because the root cause of the error stems from "some database locking issue". However, the
DatabaseNotAvailableException is considered to be a definite showstopper - the application should
not attempt to recover from this error.

We can model a recoverable scenario by instantiating FindCustomer like this:

final var op = new FindCustomer(
    new CustomerNotFoundException("not found"),
    new CustomerNotFoundException("still not found"),
    new CustomerNotFoundException("don't give up yet!")

In this configuration, FindCustomer will throw CustomerNotFoundException three times, after
which it will consistently return the customer's ID (12345).

In our hypothetical scenario, our analysts indicate that this operation typically fails 2-4 times
for a given input during peak hours, and that each worker thread in the database subsystem typically
needs 50ms to "recover from an error". Applying these policies would yield something like this:

final var op = new Retry<>(
    new FindCustomer(
        new CustomerNotFoundException("not found"),
        new CustomerNotFoundException("still not found"),
        new CustomerNotFoundException("don't give up yet!")
    e -> CustomerNotFoundException.class.isAssignableFrom(e.getClass())

Executing op once would automatically trigger at most 5 retry attempts, with a 100 millisecond
delay between attempts, ignoring any CustomerNotFoundException thrown while trying. In this
particular scenario, due to the configuration for FindCustomer, there will be 1 initial attempt
and 3 additional retries before finally returning the desired result 12345.

If our FindCustomer operation were instead to throw a fatal DatabaseNotFoundException, which we
were instructed not to ignore, but more importantly we did not instruct our Retry to ignore, then
the operation would have failed immediately upon receiving the error, not matter how many attempts
were left.

Class diagram

alt text


Whenever an application needs to communicate with an external resource, particularly in a cloud
environment, and if the business requirements allow it.



  • Resiliency
  • Provides hard data on external failures


  • Complexity
  • Operations maintenance