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Retrying on Failure


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When you start handling things asynchronously, thinking about what happens when code fails is even more important! Why? Well, when you handle things synchronously, if something fails, typically, the whole process fails, not just half of it. Or, at least, you can make the whole process fail if you need to.

For example: pretend all our code is still synchronous: we save the ImagePost to the database, but then, down here, adding Ponka to the image fails... because she's napping. Right now, that would result in half of the work being done... which, depending on how sensitive your app is, may or may not be a huge deal. If it is, you can solve it by wrapping all of this in a database transaction.

Thinking about how things will fail - and coding defensively when you need to - is just a healthy programming practice.

The Difficulty of Async Failures

But this all changes when some code is async! Think about it: we save the ImagePost to the database, AddPonkaToImage is sent to the transport and the response is successfully returned. Then, a few seconds later, our worker processes that message and, due to a temporary network problem, the handler throws an exception!

That's... not a great situation. The user thinks everything was ok because they didn't see an error. And now we have an ImagePost in the database... but Ponka will never be added to it. Ponka is furious.

The point is: when you send a message to a transport, we really need to make sure that the message is eventually processed. If it's not, it could lead to some weird conditions in our system.

Watching Failures

So let's start making our code fail to see what happens! Inside AddPonkaToImageHandler, right before the real code runs, say if rand(0, 10) < 7, then throw a new \Exception() with:

I failed randomly!!!!

// ... lines 1 - 13
class AddPonkaToImageHandler implements MessageHandlerInterface, LoggerAwareInterface
// ... lines 16 - 30
public function __invoke(AddPonkaToImage $addPonkaToImage)
// ... lines 33 - 46
if (rand(0, 10) < 7) {
throw new \Exception('I failed randomly!!!!');
// ... lines 50 - 56

Let's see what happens! First, go restart the worker:

php bin/console messenger:consume -vv

Then I'll clear the screen and... let's upload! How about five photos? Go back over to see what's happening! Whoa! A lot is happening. Let's pull this apart.

The first message was received and handled. The second message was received and also handled successfully. The third message was received but an exception occurred while handling it: "I failed randomly!". Then it says: "Retrying - retry #1" followed by "Sending message". Yea, because it failed, Messenger automatically "retries" it... which literally means that it sends that message back to the queue to be processed later! One of these "Received message" logs down here is actually that message being received for a second time, thanks to the retry. The cool thing is... eventually... all the messages were handled successfully! That's why retries rock. We can see this when we refresh: everyone has a Ponka photo... even though some of these failed at first.

Hitting the 3 Retry Max

But... let's try this again... because that example didn't show the most interesting case. I'll select all the photos this time... oh, but first, let's clear the screen on our worker terminal. Ok, upload, then... move over.

Here we go: this time... thanks to randomness, we're seeing a lot more failures. We see that a couple of messages failed and were sent for retry #1. Then, some of those messages failed again and were sent for retry #2! And... yea! They failed yet again and were sent for retry #3. Finally... oh yes, perfect: after being attempted once and retried again 3 more times, one of the messages still failed. This time, instead of sending for retry #4, it says:

Rejecting AddPonkaToImage (removing from transport)

Here's what's going on: by default, Messenger will retry a message three times. If it still fails, it's finally removed from the transport and the message is lost permanently. Well... that's not totally true... and there's a bit more going on here than it seems at first.

Next, if you look closely... these retries are delayed at an increasing level. Let's learn why and how to take complete control over how your messages are retried.