Was thinking a bit about jBPM today. One thought crossed my mind: How can you guarantee that a specific state transition happens in jBPM? We’ll talk about guaranteed state transition in this blog, but first of all, before we even think of jBPM, how could you guarantee that *any* event happens in a general application? There are few things you have to think about here:

  • You want to be guaranteed that the event is scheduled to be processed
  • You only want the event to be scheduled if your business logic succeeds
  • You want to be guaranteed that somebody processes the event

Being as stupid and slow as I am, took me a few minutes to realize that JMS provides guaranteed delivery of messages. This is obvious to many people, but let’s walk through what you would have to do in JBoss to have the guaranteed processing of an event.

First things first is to write the sender code. Let’s do this in an EJB 3.0 stateless session bean. I know this is basic stuff, but you may not be familiar with a) EJB 3.0 or b) the JBoss specifics:

public class BusinessLogicBean implements BusinessLogic {
   @Resource(mappedName="java:/JmsXA") ConnectionFactory factory;
   @Resource(mappedName="queue/mylogic") Destination destination;

   public void doSomething() {
      ... do some logic ...
      Connection con = factroy.createConnection();
      ... do all the JMS sugar ...

The doSomething() method is a transactional unit of work. We want every piece of business logic to have succeeded when we deliver the message. In other words, we want the message delivered as part of a transaction. To use a transactionally aware sender, we injected the “java:/JmsXA” connection factory into our SLSB. We also set the delivery mode of the producer to be PERSISTENT. So, we both guaranteed that the message would only be sent if the business logic succeeded and that the message has been scheduled for processing. On to the server:

@MessageDriven(activationConfig= {
      ActivationConfigProperty(propertyName="destinationType", propertyValue="javax.jms.Queue"),
      ActivationConfigProperty(propertyName="destination", propertyValue="queue/mylogic"),
      ActivationConfigProperty(propertyName="DLQMaxResent", propertyValue="5")
public class MyMessageConsuomer implements MessageListener {
   public void onMessage(Message msg) {
      ... do the work ...

Typical message driven bean in EJB 3.0. Since this bean is using the container to manage transactions and being invoked inside of a transaction, the receipt of the message will not be sent back to the JMS provider if the business logic is rolled back. So, if there is a system failure, or some other reason for abort, the message will be redelivered, thus guaranteeing its processing. The “DLQMaxResent” property is JBoss specific and tells the JMS adapter how many times the message should be resent before it is sent to a “dead letter queue” and put to death. There’s other configuration items around dead-letter queues. Go read our documentation for additional DLQ settings.

Guaranteed State Transitions in jBPM

Guaranteed state transitions with jbpm is all about using asynchronous continuations and the Enterprise Archive. In jBPM if you mark a node as asynch then jBPM will use its configured messaging system to transition to that state in another thread and transaction. If you have deployed jBPM through the Enterprise Archive, JMS is used to do the transition. Here’s example .jpdl

     <transition to='guarantee'/>
   <state name='guarantee' asynch='true'>

So, starting a process instance of this definition will generate a JMS message that transitions to the ‘guarantee’ state. By default, jBPM is configured to use transactional connection factory, “java:/JmsXA”, describe earlier in this blog. So, when the start-state transitions, it will create a persistent JMS message and deliver it to the queue transactionally. Now, the ‘guarantee’ node will be triggered by an MDB that receives the message sent by the jBPM message layer. This MDB uses container managed transactions. This means that if there is a failure within the execution of the state, the message will be redelivered until the transaction completes successfully. This MDB is configured to use JBoss’s old EJB 2.1 container which does not use JCA message inflow. The default message redelivery count is 10. Chapter 5 in the JBoss AS documentation shows how you can define the max redelivery as well as dead letter queue configurations. You’ll need to open up the Enterprise Archive, jbpm-enterprise.ear, to get to the file, jbpm-enterprise.jar. This file contains the ejb-jar.xml and jboss.xml files you need to modify to change the jbpm configuration of the message driven bean.

The only thing missing with this JMS transitioning in jBPM is that the node receiving the transition does not have knowledge on whether the message was redelivered or not. Future versions might incorporate this knowledge. I have pinged the jBPM team and there is some discussion on the jbpm forum.

That’s about it! Yeah, I know a lot of this stuff is basic, hope I didn’t bore you too much. I just wanted to set down some foundation for other topics I want to discuss that may use these JMS and jBPM features.