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10.9. The BarrierController Service

Expressing dependencies between services using the <depends> tag is a convenient way to make the lifecycle of one service depend on the lifecycle of another. For example, when serviceA depends on serviceB JBoss will ensure the serviceB.create() is called before serviceA.create() and serviceB.start() is called before serviceA.start().

However, there are cases where services do not conform to the JBoss lifecycle model, i.e. they don't expose create/start/stop/destroy lifecycle methods). This is the case for jboss.system:type=Server MBean, which represents the JBoss server itself. No lifecycle operations are exposed so you cannot simply express a dependency like: if JBoss is fully started then start my own service.

Or, even if they do conform to the JBoss lifecycle model, the completion of a lifecycle method (e.g. the start method) may not be sufficient to describe a dependency. For example the jboss.web:service=WebServer MBean that wraps the embedded Tomcat server in JBoss does not start the Tomcat connectors until after the server is fully started. So putting a dependency on this MBean, if we want to hit a webpage through Tomcat, will do no good.

Resolving such non-trivial dependencies is currently performed using JMX notifications. For example the jboss.system:type=Server MBean emits a notification of type org.jboss.system.server.started when it has completed startup, and a notification of type org.jboss.system.server.stopped when it shuts down. Similarly, jboss.web:service=WebServer emits a notification of type jboss.tomcat.connectors.started when it starts up. Services can subscribe to those notifications in order to implement more complex dependencies. This technique has been generalized with the barrier controller service.

The barrier controller is a relatively simple MBean service that extends ListenerServiceMBeanSupport and thus can subscribe to any notification in the system. It uses the received notifications to control the lifecycle of a dynamically created MBean called the barrier.

The barrier is instantiated, registered and brought to the create state when the barrier controller is deployed. After that, the barrier is started and stopped when matching notifications are received. Thus, other services need only depend on the barrier MBean using the usual <depends> tag, without having to worry about complex lifecycle issues. They will be started and stopped in tandem with the Barrier. When the barrier controller is undeployed the barrier is destroyed.

The notifications of interest are configured in the barrier controller using the SubscriptionList attribute. In order to identify the starting and stopping notifications we associate with each subscription a handback string object. Handback objects, if specified, are passed back along with the delivered notifications at reception time (i.e. when handleNotification() is called) to qualify the received notifications, so that you can identify quickly from which subscription a notification is originating (because your listener can have many active subscriptions).

So we tag the subscriptions that produce the starting/stopping notifications of interest using any handback strings, and we configure this same string to the StartBarrierHandback (and StopBarrierHandback correspondingly) attribute of the barrier controller. Thus we can have more than one notifications triggering the starting or stopping of the barrier.

The following example shows a service that depends on the Tomcat connectors. In fact, this is a very common pattern for services that want to hit a servlet inside tomcat. The service that depends on the Barrier in the example, is a simple memory monitor that creates a background thread and monitors the memory usage, emitting notifications when thresholds get crossed, but it could be anything. We've used this because it prints out to the console starting and stopping messages, so we know when the service gets activated/deactivated.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
    In this example we have the BarrierController controlling a Barrier
    that is started when we receive the "jboss.tomcat.connectors.started"
    notification from the Tomcat mbean, and stopped when we receive the
    "org.jboss.system.server.stopped" notification from the server mbean.
    The dependent services need only define a dependency on the Barrier mbean!
  <mbean code="org.jboss.system.BarrierController"
    <!-- Whether to have the Barrier initially started or not -->
    <attribute name="BarrierEnabledOnStartup">false</attribute>
    <!-- Whether to subscribe for notifications after startup -->
    <attribute name="DynamicSubscriptions">true</attribute>
    <!-- Dependent services will depend on this mbean -->
    <attribute name="BarrierObjectName">jboss:name=TomcatConnector,type=Barrier</attribute>
    <!-- The notification subscription handback that starts the barrier -->
    <attribute name="StartBarrierHandback">start</attribute>
    <!-- The notification subscription handback that stops the barrier -->
    <attribute name="StopBarrierHandback">stop</attribute>
    <!-- The notifications to subscribe for, along with their handbacks -->
    <attribute name="SubscriptionList">
        <mbean name="jboss.web:service=WebServer" handback="start">
          <filter factory="NotificationFilterSupportFactory">
            <enable type="jboss.tomcat.connectors.started"/>
        <mbean name="jboss.system:type=Server" handback="stop">
          <filter factory="NotificationFilterSupportFactory">
            <enable type="org.jboss.system.server.stopped"/>

    An example service that depends on the Barrier we declared above.
    This services creates a background thread and monitors the memory
    usage. When it exceeds the defined thresholds it emits notifications
  <mbean code="org.jboss.monitor.services.MemoryMonitor"

    <attribute name="FreeMemoryWarningThreshold">20m</attribute>
    <attribute name="FreeMemoryCriticalThreshold">15m</attribute>
    <!-- The BarrierObjectName configured in the BarrierController -->

If you hot-deploy this on a running server the Barrier will be stopped because by the time the barrier controller is deployed the starting notification is already seen. (There are ways to overcome this.) However, if you re-start the server, the barrier will be started just after the Tomcat connectors get activated. You can also manually start or stop the barrier by using the startBarrier() and stopBarrier() operations on the barrier controller. The attribute BarrierStateString indicates the status of the barrier.