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Asynchronous Request-Response Pattern

ragrag profile image Raggi ・3 min read

The Asynchronous Request-Response Pattern lets you decouple backend services processing from a frontend client, where the backend processing needs to be asynchronous, while the frontend client needs a clear/near-immediate response.

Imagine a scenario of a web application that compresses video files. As you can imagine the process of compressing a video file can take time from seconds to minutes or even hours in some cases!. In that case, it is not really an option for the server to wait for this long running operation to finish before sending out the response.

Synchronous Request-Response Pattern

To address this problem, backend engineers typically achieve backend asynchronous processing by adding a queue (achieved by using a message broker) that will isolate the backend processing (video compression in our case) from the request/response stages.

Asynchronous Backend processing

Problem

You can see how this approach can decouple the client which needs an almost immediate and clear response from the backend processing which needs to be done asynchronously which allows the client and the backend API to scale independently.
However, this approach adds another complexity, specifically when the clients needs to know when the job is done? (i.e video finished compressing) how can this be achieved in an asynchronous way?

Solution

This problem can be solved with 2 methods. HTTP Polling and WebSockets

HTTP Polling

HTTP Polling is where the client repeatedly sends a request to the server to get updated information, this information can be about a resource, a simple query or even updating or creating records in the database.
In our case, polling is used to check if the video has completed processing or not.

Asynchrous Request-Response Pattern With HTTP Polling

With this method the flow is as follows:

  • The client sends a request to the server to compress a video
  • The server adds the compression job to the queue (by emitting an event) and immediately responds to the client with a Job ID
  • The client can now start polling the server with the Job ID it received, for example, the server would provide an endpoint for checking the job status (GET /jobs/{id})
  • Now when the client polls the server, there are three possible scenarios, either the job is still processing, the job completed or the job failed. The server can response to either of these with different HTTP status codes. (202 Accepted, 200 OK, 400 Bad Request respectivly)

Note that instead of responding to the client with a Job ID, the server can also respond with a location url to poll the job status as well as the polling retrial interval (which can be an estimate of how long the processing might take to complete)

WebSockets

WebSockets can also be used to solve this problem, which is more suitable for when the client must receive the job status in real time.
The way it works is instead of polling for the job status, a WebSockets connection is established between the client and the server which keeps the client updated of the status of the job.

Asynchrous Request-Response Pattern With Web Sockets

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