3. Command Handling

A state change within an application starts with a Command. A Command is a combination of expressed intent (which describes what you want done) as well as the information required to undertake action based on that intent. A Command Handler is responsible for handling commands of a certain type and taking action based on the information contained inside it.

The use of an explicit command dispatching mechanism has a number of advantages. First of all, there is a single object that clearly describes the intent of the client. By logging the command, you store both the intent and related data for future reference. Command handling also makes it easy to expose your command processing components to remote clients, via web services for example. Testing also becomes a lot easier, you could define test scripts by just defining the starting situation (given), command to execute (when) and expected results (then) by listing a number of events and commands (see Chapter 8, Testing). The last major advantage is that it is very easy to switch between synchronous and asynchronous command processing.

This doesn't mean Command dispatching using explicit command object is the only right way to do it. The goal of Axon is not to prescribe a specific way of working, but to support you doing it your way. It is still possible to use a Service layer that you can invoke to execute commands. The method will just need to start a unit of work (see Section 3.4, “Unit of Work”) and perform a commit or rollback on it when the method is finished.

The next sections provide an overview of the tasks related to creating a Command Handling infrastructure with the Axon Framework.

3.1. The Command Gateway

The Command Gateway is a convenient interface towards the Command dispatching mechanism. While you are not required to use a Gateway to dispatch Commands, it is generally the easiest option to do so.

There are two ways to use a Command Gateway. The first is to use the CommandGateway interface and DefaultCommandGateway implementation provided by Axon. The command gateway provides a number of methods that allow you to send a command and wait for a result either synchronously, with a timeout or asynchronously.

The other option is perhaps the most flexible of all. You can turn almost any interface into a Command Gateway using the GatewayProxyFactory. This allows you to define your application's interface using strong typing and declaring your own (checked) business exceptions. Axon will automatically generate an implementation for that interface at runtime.

3.1.1. Configuring the Command Gateway

Both your custom gateway and the one provided by Axon need to be configured with at least access to the Command Bus. In addition, the Command Gateway can be configured with a RetryScheduler and any number of CommandDispatchInterceptors.

The RetryScheduler is capable of scheduling retries when command execution has failed. The IntervalRetryScheduler is an implementation that will retry a given command at set intervals until it succeeds, or a maximum number of retries is done. When a command fails due to an exception that is explicitly non-transient, no retries are done at all. Note that the retry scheduler is only invoked when a command fails due to a RuntimeException. Checked exceptions are regarded "business exception" and will never trigger a retry.

CommandDispatchInterceptors allow modification of CommandMessages prior to dispatching them to the Command Bus. In contrast to CommandDispatchInterceptors configured on the CommandBus, these interceptors are only invoked when messages are sent through this gateway. The interceptors can be used to attach meta data to a command or do validation, for example.

3.1.2. Creating a Custom Command Gateway

The GatewayProxyFactory creates an instance of a Command Gateway based on an interface class. The behavior of each method is based on the parameter types, return type and declared exception. Using this gateway is not only convenient, it makes testing a lot easier by allowing you to mock your interface where needed.

This is how parameter affect the behavior of the CommandGateway:

  • The first parameter is expected to be the actual command object to dispatch.

  • Parameters annotated with @MetaData will have their value assigned to the meta data field with the identifier passed as annotation parameter

  • Parameters of type CommandCallback will have their onSuccess or onFailure invoked after the Command is handled. You may pass in more than one callback, and it may be combined with a return value. In that case, the invocations of the callback will always match with the return value (or exception).

  • The last two parameters may be of types long (or int) and TimeUnit. In that case the method will block at most as long as these parameters indicate. How the method reacts on a timeout depends on the exceptions declared on the method (see below). Note that if other properties of the method prevent blocking altogether, a timeout will never occur.

The declared return value of a method will also affect its behavior:

  • A void return type will cause the method to return immediately, unless there are other indications on the method that one would want to wait, such as a timeout or declared exceptions.

  • A Future return type will cause the method to return immediately. You can access the result of the Command Handler using the Future instance returned from the method. Exceptions and timeouts declared on the method are ignored.

  • Any other return type will cause the method to block until a result is available. The result is cast to the return type (causing a ClassCastException if the types don't match).

Exceptions have the following effect:

  • Any declared checked exception will be thrown if the Command Handler (or an interceptor) threw an exceptions of that type. If a checked exception is thrown that has not been declared, it is wrapped in a CommandExecutionException, which is a RuntimeException.

  • When a timeout occurs, the default behavior is to return null from the method. This can be changed by declaring a TimeoutException. If this exception is declared, a TimeoutException is thrown instead.

  • When a Thread is interrupted while waiting for a result, the default behavior is to return null. In that case, the interrupted flag is set back on the Thread. By declaring an InterruptedException on the method, this behavior is changed to throw that exception instead. The interrupt flag is removed when the exception is thrown, consistent with the java specification.

  • Other Runtime Exceptions may be declared on the method, but will not have any effect other than clarification to the API user.

Finaly, there is the possiblity to use annotations:

  • As specified in the parameter section, the @MetaData annotation on a parameter will have the value of that parameter added as meta data value. The key of the meta data entry is provided as parameter to the annotation.

  • Methods annotated with @Timeout will block at most the indicated amount of time. This annotation is ignored if the method declares timeout parameters.

  • Classes annotated with @Timeout will cause all methods declared in that class to block at most the indicated amount of time, unless they are annotated with their own @Timeout annotation or specify timeout parameters.

public interface MyGateway {
    // fire and forget
    void sendCommand(MyPayloadType command);

    // method that attaches meta data and will wait for a result for 10 seconds
    @Timeout(value = 10, unit = TimeUnit.SECONDS)
    ReturnValue sendCommandAndWaitForAResult(MyPayloadType command, 
                                             @MetaData("userId") String userId);

    // alternative that throws exceptions on timeout
    @Timeout(value = 20, unit = TimeUnit.SECONDS)
    ReturnValue sendCommandAndWaitForAResult(MyPayloadType command) 
                         throws TimeoutException, InterruptedException;

    // this method will also wait, caller decides how long
    void sendCommandAndWait(MyPayloadType command, long timeout, TimeUnit unit) 
                         throws TimeoutException, InterruptedException;

// To create an instance:
GatewayProxyFactory factory = new GatewayProxyFactory(commandBus);
MyGateway myGateway = factory.createInstance(MyGateway.class);

Configuring a custom Command Gateway in Spring

When using Spring, the easiest way to create a custom Command Gateway is by using the CommandGatewayFactoryBean. It uses setter injection, making it easier to configure. Only the "commandBus" property is mandatory.

<bean id="myGateway" class="org.axonframework.commandhandling.gateway.CommandGatewayFactoryBean">
    <property name="commandBus" ref="commandBus"/>
    <property name="gatewayInterface" value="package.to.MyGateway"/>

3.2. The Command Bus

The Command Bus is the mechanism that dispatches commands to their respective Command Handler. Commands are always sent to only one (and exactly one) command handler. If no command handler is available for a dispatched command, an exception (NoHandlerForCommandException) is thrown. Subscribing multiple command handlers to the same command type will result in subscriptions replacing each other. In that case, the last subscription wins.

3.2.1. Dispatching commands

The CommandBus provides two methods to dispatch commands to their respective handler: dispatch(commandMessage, callback) and dispatch(commandMessage). The first parameter is a message containing the actual command to dispatch. The optional second parameter takes a callback that allows the dispatching component to be notified when command handling is completed. This callback has two methods: onSuccess() and onFailure(), which are called when command handling returned normally, or when it threw an exception, respectively.

The calling component may not assume that the callback is invoked in the same thread that dispatched the command. If the calling thread depends on the result before continuing, you can use the FutureCallback. It is a combination of a Future (as defined in the java.concurrent package) and Axon's CommandCallback. Alternatively, consider using a Command Gateway.

Best scalability is achieved when your application is not interested in the result of a dispatched command at all. In that case, you should use the single-parameter version of the dispatch method. If the CommandBus is fully asynchronous, it will return immediately after the command has been successfully dispatched. Your application will just have to guarantee that the command is processed and with "positive outcome", sooner or later...

3.2.2. SimpleCommandBus

The SimpleCommandBus is, as the name suggests, the simplest implementation. It does straightforward processing of commands in the thread that dispatches them. After a command is processed, the modified aggregate(s) are saved and generated events are published in that same thread. In most scenario's, such as web applications, this implementation will suit your needs.

The SimpleCommandBus allows interceptors to be configured. CommandDispatchInterceptors are invoked when a command is dispatched on the Command Bus. The CommandHandlerInterceptors are invoked before the actual command handler method is, allowing you to do modify or block the command. See Section 3.5, “Command Interceptors” for more information.

The SimpleCommandBus maintains a Unit of Work for each command published. This Unit of Work is created by a factory: the UnitOfWorkFactory. To suit any specifc needs your application might have, you can supply your own factory to change the Unit of Work implementation used.

Since all command processing is done in the same thread, this implementation is limited to the JVM's boundaries. The performance of this implementation is good, but not extraordinary. To cross JVM boundaries, or to get the most out of your CPU cycles, check out the other CommandBus implementations.

3.2.3. DisruptorCommandBus

The SimpleCommandBus has reasonable performance characteristics, especially when you've gone through the performance tips in Chapter 10, Performance Tuning. The fact that the SimpleCommandBus needs locking to prevent multiple threads from concurrently accessing the same aggregate causes processing overhead and lock contention.

The DisruptorCommandBus takes a different approach to multithreaded processing. Instead of having multiple threads each doing the same process, there are multiple threads, each taking care of a piece of the process. The DisruptorCommandBus uses the Disruptor (http://lmax-exchange.github.io/disruptor/), a small framework for concurrent programming, to achieve much better performance, by just taking a different approach to multithreading. Instead of doing the processing in the calling thread, the tasks are handed of to two groups of threads, that each take care of a part of the processing. The first group of threads will execute the command handler, changing an aggregate's state. The second group will store and publish the events to the Event Store and Event Bus.

While the DisruptorCommandBus easily outperforms the SimpleCommandBus by a factor 4(!), there are a few limitations:

  • The DisruptorCommandBus only supports Event Sourced Aggregates. This Command Bus also acts as a Repository for the aggreates processed by the Disruptor. To get a reference to the Repository, use createRepository(AggregateFactory).

  • A Command can only result in a state change in a single aggregate instance.

  • When using a Cache, it allows only a single aggregate for a given identifier. This means it is not possible to have two aggregates of different types with the same identifier.

  • Commands should generally not cause a failure that requires a rollback of the Unit of Work. When a rollback occurs, the DisruptorCommandBus cannot guarantee that Commands are processed in the order they were dispatched. Furthermore, it requires a retry of a number of other commands, causing unnecessary computations.

  • When creating a new Aggregate Instance, commands updating that created instance may not all happen in the exact order as provided. Once the aggregate is created, all commands will be executed exactly in the order they were dispatched. To ensure the order, use a callback on the creating command to wait for the aggregate being created. It shouldn't take more than a few milliseconds.

Configuring the DisruptorCommandBus

To construct a DisruptorCommandBus instance, you need an AggregateFactory, an EventBus and EventStore. These components are explained in Chapter 5, Repositories and Event Stores and Section 6.1, “Event Bus”. Finally, you also need a CommandTargetResolver. This is a mechanism that tells the disruptor which aggregate is the target of a specific Command. There are two implementations provided by Axon: the AnnotationCommandTargetResolver, which uses annotations to describe the target, or the MetaDataCommandTargetResolver, which uses the Command's Meta Data fields.

Optionally, you can provide a DisruptorConfiguration instance, which allows you to tweak the configuration to optimize performance for your specific environment. Spring users can use the <axon:disruptor-command-bus> element for easier configuration of the DisruptorCommandBus.

  • Buffer size: The number of slots on the ring buffer to register incoming commands. Higer values may increase throughput, but also cause higher latency. Must always be a power of 2. Defaults to 4096.

  • ProducerType: Indicates whether the entries are produced by a single thread, or multiple. Defaults to multiple.

  • WaitStrategy: The strategy to use when the processor threads (the three threads taking care of the actual processing) need to wait for eachother. The best WaitStrategy depends on the number of cores available in the machine, and the number of other processes running. If low latency is crucial, and the DisruptorCommandBus may claim cores for itself, you can use the BusySpinWaitStrategy. To make the Command Bus claim less of the CPU and allow other threads to do processing, use the YieldingWaitStrategy. Finally, you can use the SleepingWaitStrategy and BlockingWaitStrategy to allow other processes a fair share of CPU. The latter is suitable if the Command Bus is not expected to be processing full-time. Defaults to the BlockingWaitStrategy.

  • Executor: Sets the Executor that provides the Threads for the DisruptorCommandBus. This executor must be able to provide at least 4 threads. 3 threads are claimed by the processing components of the DisruptorCommandBus. Extra threads are used to invoke callbacks and to schedule retries in case an Aggregate's state is detected to be corrupt. Defaults to a CachedThreadPool that provides threads from a thread group called "DisruptorCommandBus".

  • TransactionManager: Defines the Transaction Manager that should ensure the storage of events and their publication are executed transactionally.

  • InvokerInterceptors: Defines the CommandHandlerInterceptors that are to be used in the invocation process. This is the process that calls the actual Command Handler method.

  • PublisherInterceptors: Defines the CommandHandlerInterceptors that are to be used in the publication process. This is the process that stores and publishes the generated events.

  • RollbackConfiguration: Defines on which Exceptions a Unit of Work should be rolled back. Defaults to a configuration that rolls back on unchecked exceptions.

  • RescheduleCommandsOnCorruptState: Indicates whether Commands that have been executed against an Aggregate that has been corrupted (e.g. because a Unit of Work was rolled back) should be rescheduled. If false the callback's onFailure() method will be invoked. If true (the default), the command will be rescheduled instead.

  • CoolingDownPeriod: Sets the number of seconds to wait to make sure all commands are processed. During the cooling down period, no new commands are accepted, but existing commands are processed, and rescheduled when necessary. The cooling down period ensures that threads are available for rescheduling the commands and calling callbacks. Defaults to 1000 (1 second).

  • Cache: Sets the cache that stores aggregate instances that have been reconstructed from the Event Store. The cache is used to store aggregate instances that are not in active use by the disruptor.

  • InvokerThreadCount: The number of threads to assign to the invocation of command handlers. A good starting point is half the number of cores in the machine.

  • PublisherThreadCount: The number of threads to use to publish events. A good starting point is half the number of cores, and could be increased if a lot of time is spent on IO.

  • SerializerThreadCount: The number of threads to use to pre-serialize events. This defaults to 1, but is ignored if no serializer is configured.

  • Serializer: The serializer to perform pre-serialization with. When a serializer is configured, the DisruptorCommandBus will wrap all generated events in a SerializationAware message. The serialized form of the payload and meta data is attached before they are published to the Event Store or Event Bus. This can drastically improve performance when the same serializer is used to store and publish events to a remote destination.

3.3. Command Handlers

The Command Handler is the object that receives a Command of a pre-defined type and takes action based on its contents. In Axon, a Command may be any object. There is no predefined type that needs to be implemented.

3.3.1. Creating a Command Handler

A Command Handler must implement the CommandHandler interface. This interface declares only a single method: Object handle(CommandMessage<T> command, UnitOfWork uow), where T is the type of Command this Handler can process. The concept of the UnitOfWork is explained in Section 3.4, “Unit of Work”. Be weary when using return values. Typically, it is a bad idea to use return values to return server-generated identifiers. Consider using client-generated (random) identifiers, such as UUIDs. They allow for a "fire and forget" style of command handlers, where a client does not have to wait for a response. As return value in such a case, you are recommended to simply return null.

3.3.2. Subscribing to a Command Bus

You can subscribe and unsubscribe command handlers using the subscribe and unsubscribe methods on CommandBus, respectively. They both take two parameters: the type of command to (un)subscribe the handler to, and the handler to (un)subscribe. An unsubscription will only be successful if the handler passed as the second parameter was currently assigned to handle that type of command. If another command was subscribed to that type of command, nothing happens.

CommandBus commandBus = new SimpleCommandBus();

// to subscribe a handler:
commandBus.subscribe(MyPayloadType.class.getName(), myCommandHandler);

// we can subscribe the same handler to different command types
commandBus.subscribe(MyOtherPayload.class.getName(), myCommandHandler);

// we can also unsubscribe the handler from one of these types:
commandBus.unsubscribe(MyOtherPayload.class.getName(), myCommandHandler);

// we don't have to use the payload to identifier the command type (but it's a good default)
commandBus.subscribe("MyCustomCommand", myCommandHandler);

3.3.3. Annotation based handlers

More often than not, a command handler will need to process several types of closely related commands. With Axon's annotation support you can use any POJO as command handler. Just add the @CommandHandler annotation to your methods to turn them into a command handler. These methods should declare the command to process as the first parameter. They may take optional extra parameters, such as the UnitOfWork for that command (see Section 3.4, “Unit of Work”). Note that for each command type, there may only be one handler! This restriction counts for all handlers registered to the same command bus.

[Note]Using Spring

If you use Spring, you can add the <axon:annotation-config/> element to your application context. It will turn any bean with @CommandHandler annotated methods into a command handler. They will also be automatically subscribed to the CommandBus. In combination with Spring's classpath scanning (@Component), this will automatically subscribe any command handler in your application.

[Caution]Detecting ParameterResolverFactories in an OSGi container

At this moment, OSGi support is limited to the fact that the required headers are mentioned in the manifest file. The automatic detection of ParameterResolverFactory instances works in OSGi, but due to classloader limitations, it might be necessary to copy the contents of the /META-INF/service/org.axonframework.common.annotation.ParameterResolverFactory file to the OSGi bundle containing the classes to resolve parameters for (i.e. the event handler).


It is not unlikely that most command handler operations have an identical structure: they load an Aggregate from a repository and call a method on the returned aggregate using values from the command as parameter. If that is the case, you might benefit from a generic command handler: the AggregateAnnotationCommandHandler. This command handler uses @CommandHandler annotations on the aggregate's methods to identify which methods need to be invoked for an incoming command. If the @CommandHandler annotation is placed on a constructor, that command will cause a new Aggregate instance to be created.

The AggregateAnnotationCommandHandler still needs to know which aggregate instance (identified by it's unique Aggregate Identifier) to load and which version to expect. By default, the AggregateAnnotationCommandHandler uses annotations on the command object to find this information. The @TargetAggregateIdentifier annotation must be put on a field or getter method to indicate where the identifier of the target Aggregate can be found. Similarly, the @TargetAggregateVersion may be used to indicate the expected version.

The @TargetAggregateIdentifier annotation can be placed on a field or a method. The latter case will use the return value of a method invocation (without parameters) as the value to use.

If you prefer not to use annotations, the behavior can be overridden by supplying a custom CommandTargetResolver. This class should return the Aggregate Identifier and expected version (if any) based on a given command.

[Note]Creating new Aggregate Instances

When the @CommandHandler annotation is placed on an Aggregate's constructor, the respective command will create a new instance of that aggregte and add it to the repository. Those commands do not require to target a specific aggregate instance. That wouldn't make sense, since the instance is yet to be created. Therefore, those commands do not require any @TargetAggregateIdentifier or @TargetAggregateVersion annotations, nor will a custom CommandTargetResolver be invoked for these commands.

public class MyAggregate extends AbstractAnnotatedAggregateRoot {
    private String id;

    public MyAggregate(CreateMyAggregateCommand command) {
        apply(new MyAggregateCreatedEvent(IdentifierFactory.getInstance().generateIdentifier()));

    // no-arg constructor for Axon
    MyAggregate() {

    public void doSomething(DoSomethingCommand command) {
        // do something...

    // code omitted for brevity. The event handler for MyAggregateCreatedEvent must set the id field

public class DoSomethingCommand {

    private String aggregateId;

    // code omitted for brevity


// to generate the command handlers for this aggregate:
AggregateAnnotationCommandHandler handler = AggregateAnnotationCommandHandler.subscribe(MyAggregate.class, repository);
// or when using another type of CommandTargetResolver:
AggregateAnnotationCommandHandler handler = AggregateAnnotationCommandHandler.subscribe(MyAggregate.class, repository, myOwnCommandTargetResolver);

// to subscribe:
for (String supportedCommand : handler.supportedCommands()) {
    commandBus.subscribe(supportedCommand, handler);

// to unsubscribe:
for (String supportedCommand : handler.supportedCommands()) {
    commandBus.unsubscribe(supportedCommand, handler);
[Note]Using Spring

If you use Spring, you can use the <axon:aggregate-command-handler/> element in your application context to create a Command Handler that delegates commands to an aggregate instance. It will also be automatically subscribed to the CommandBus.

Since version 2.2, @CommandHandler annotatations are not limited to the aggregate root. Placing all command handlers in the root will sometimes lead to a large number of methods on the aggregate root, while many of them simply forward the invocation to one of the underlying entities. If that is the case, you may place the @CommandHandler annotation on one of the underlying entities' methods. For Axon to find these annotated methods, the field declaring the entity in the aggregate root must be marked with @CommandHandlingMember. Note that only the declared type of the annotated field is inspected for Command Handlers. If a field value is null at the time an incoming command arrives for that entity, an exception is thrown.

public class MyAggregate extends AbstractAnnotatedAggregateRoot {
    private String id;

    private MyEntity entity;

    public MyAggregate(CreateMyAggregateCommand command) {
        apply(new MyAggregateCreatedEvent(IdentifierFactory.getInstance().generateIdentifier()));

    // no-arg constructor for Axon
    MyAggregate() {

    public void doSomething(DoSomethingCommand command) {
        // do something...

    // code omitted for brevity. The event handler for MyAggregateCreatedEvent must set the id field
    // and somewhere in the lifecycle, a value for "entity" must be assigned to be able to accept
    // DoSomethingInEntityCommand commands.

public class MyEntity extends AbstractAnnotatedEntity { // extends not strictly required for @CommandHandler

    public void handleSomeCommand(DoSomethingInEntityCommand command) {
        // do something

Note that each command must have exactly one handler in the aggregate. This means that you cannot annotated multiple entities (either root nor not) with @CommandHandler, when they handle the same command type. This also means that it is not possible to annotate fields containing collections with @CommandHandlingMember. In case you need to conditionally route a command to an entity, the parent of these entities should handle the command, and forward it based on the conditions that apply.

The runtime type of the field does not have to be exactly the declared type. However, only the declared type of the @CommandHandlingMember annotated field is inspected for @CommandHandler methods.

3.4. Unit of Work

The Unit of Work is an important concept in the Axon Framework. The processing of a command can be seen as a single unit. Each time a command handler performs an action, it is tracked in the current Unit of Work. When command handling is finished, the Unit of Work is committed and all actions are finalized. This means that any repositores are notified of state changes in their aggregates and events scheduled for publication are sent to the Event Bus.

The Unit of Work serves two purposes. First, it makes the interface towards repositories a lot easier, since you do not have to explicitly save your changes. Secondly, it is an important hook-point for interceptors to find out what a command handler has done.

In most cases, you are unlikely to need access to the Unit of Work. It is mainly used by the building blocks that Axon provides. If you do need access to it, for whatever reason, there are a few ways to obtain it. The Command Handler receives the Unit Of Work through a parameter in the handle method. If you use annotation support, you may add a parameter of type UnitOfWork to your annotated method. In other locations, you can retrieve the Unit of Work bound to the current thread by calling CurrentUnitOfWork.get(). Note that this method will throw an exception if there is no Unit of Work bound to the current thread. Use CurrentUnitOfWork.isStarted() to find out if one is available.

One reason to require access to the current Unit of Work is to dispatch Events as part of a transaction, but those Events do not originate from an Aggregate. For example, you might want to publish an Event from a Command Handler, but don't require that Event to be stored as state in an Event Store. In such case, you can call CurrentUnitOfWork.get().publishEvent(event, eventBus), where event is the Event (Message) to publish and EventBus the Bus to publish it on. The actual publication of the message is postponed unit the Unit of Work is committed, respecting the order in which Events have been registered.


Note that the Unit of Work is merely a buffer of changes, not a replacement for Transactions. Although all staged changes are only committed when the Unit of Work is committed, its commit is not atomic. That means that when a commit fails, some changes might have been persisted, while other are not. Best practices dictate that a Command should never contain more than one action. If you stick to that practice, a Unit of Work will contain a single action, making it safe to use as-is. If you have more actions in your Unit of Work, then you could consider attaching a transaction to the Unit of Work's commit. See the section called “Binding the Unit of Work to a Transaction”.

UnitOfWork and Exceptions

Your command handlers may throw an Exception as a result of command processing. By default, unchecked exceptions will cause the UnitOfWork to roll back all changes. As a result, no Events are stored or published. In some cases, however, you might want to commit the Unif of Work and still notify the dispatcher of the command of an exception through the callback. The SimpleCommandBus allows you to provide a RollbackConfiguration. The RollbackConfiguration instance indicates whether an exception should perform a rollback on the Unit of Work, or a commit. Axon provides two implementation, which should cover most of the cases.

The RollbackOnAllExceptionsConfiguration will cause a rollback on any exception (or error). The default configuration, the RollbackOnUncheckedExceptionConfiguration, will commit the Unit of Work on checked exceptions (those not extending RuntimeException) while still performing a rollback on Errors and Runtime Exceptions.

Programatically managing a Unit of Work

When using a Command Bus, the lifeycle of the Unit of Work will be automatically managed for you. If you choose not to use explicit command objects and a Command Bus, but a Service Layer instead, you will need to programatically start and commit (or roll back) a Unit of Work instead.

In most cases, the DefaultUnitOfWork will provide you with the functionality you need. It expects Command processing to happen within a single thread. To start a new Unit Of Work, simply call DefaultUnitOfWork.startAndGet();. This will start a Unit of Work, bind it to the current thread (making it accessible via CurrentUnitOfWork.get()), and return it. When processing is done, either invoke unitOfWork.commit(); or unitOfWork.rollback(optionalException).

Typical usage is as follows:

UnitOfWork uow = DefaultUnitOfWork.startAndGet();
try {
    // business logic comes here
} catch (Exception e) {
    // maybe rethrow...

Unit of Work phases

A Unit of Work knows several phases. Each time it progresses to another phase, the UnitOfWork Listeners are notified.

  • Active phase: this is where the Unit of Work starts. Each time an event is registered with the Unit of Work, the onEventRegistered method is called. This method may alter the event message, for example to attach meta data to it. The return value of the method is the new EventMessage instance to use.

  • Commit phase: before a Unit of Work is committed, the listeners' onPrepareCommit methods are invoked. This method is provided with the set of aggregates and list of Event Messages being stored. If a Unit of Work is bound to a transaction, the onPrepareTransactionCommit method is invoked. When the commit succeeded, the afterCommit method is invoked. If a commit failed, the onRollback is used. This method has a parameter which defines the cause of the failure, if available.

  • Cleanup phase: This is the phase where any of the resources held by this Unit of Work (such as locks) are to be released. If multiple Units Of Work are nested, the cleanup phase is postponed until the outer unit of work is ready to clean up.

Binding the Unit of Work to a Transaction

The command handling process can be considered an atomic procedure; it should either be processed entirely, or not at all. Axon Framework uses the Unit Of Work to track actions performed by the command handlers. After the command handler completed, Axon will try to commit the actions registered with the Unit Of Work. This involves storing modified aggregates (see Chapter 4, Domain Modeling) in their respective repository (see Chapter 5, Repositories and Event Stores) and publishing events on the Event Bus (see Chapter 6, Event Processing).

The Unit Of Work, however, it is not a replacement for a transaction. The Unit Of Work only ensures that changes made to aggregates are stored upon successful execution of a command handler. If an error occurs while storing an aggregate, any aggregates already stored are not rolled back.

It is posssible to bind a transaction to a Unit of Work. Many CommandBus implementations, like the SimpleCommandBus and DisruptorCommandBus, allow you to configure a Transaction Manager. This Transaction Manager will then be used to create the transactions to bind to the Unit of Work that is used to manage the process of a Command. When a Unit of Work is bound to a transaction, it will ensure the bound transaction is committed at the right point in time. It also allows you to perform actions just before the transaction is committed, through the UnitOfWorkListener's onPrepareTransactionCommit method.

When creating Unit of Work programmatically, you can use the DefaultUnitOfWork.startAndGet(TransactionManager) method to create a Unit of Work that is bound to a transaction. Alternatively, you can initialize the DefaultUnitOfWorkFactory with a TransactionManager to allow it to create Transaction-bound Unit of Work.

Attaching resources to a Unit of Work

When application components need resources at different stages of Command processing, such as a Database Connection or an EntityManager, these resources can be attached to the Unit of Work. By using the attachResource(String name, Object resource) method, you attach a resource to the Unit of Work, which can be retrieved using the getResource(String name) method. You can also attach a resource that is also used by any nested Unit of Work using the attachResource(String name, Object resource, boolean inherited), by providing inherited as true.

3.5. Command Interceptors

One of the advantages of using a command bus is the ability to undertake action based on all incoming commands. Examples are logging or authentication, which you might want to do regardless of the type of command. This is done using Interceptors.

There are two types of interceptors: Command Dispatch Interceptors and Command Handler Interceptors. The former are invoked before a command is dispatched to a Command Handler. At that point, it may not even be sure that any handler exists for that command. The latter are invoked just before the Command Handler is invoked.

3.5.1. Command Dispatch Interceptors

Command Dispatch Interceptors are invoked when a command is dispatched on a Command Bus. They have the ability to alter the Command Message, by adding Meta Data, for example, or block the command by throwing an Exception. These interceptors are always invoked on the thread that dispatches the Command. Structural validation

There is no point in processing a command if it does not contain all required information in the correct format. In fact, a command that lacks information should be blocked as early as possible, preferably even before any transaction is started. Therefore, an interceptor should check all incoming commands for the availability of such information. This is called structural validation.

Axon Framework has support for JSR 303 Bean Validation based validation. This allows you to annotate the fields on commands with annotations like @NotEmpty and @Pattern. You need to include a JSR 303 implementation (such as Hibernate-Validator) on your classpath. Then, configure a BeanValidationInterceptor on your Command Bus, and it will automatically find and configure your validator implementation. While it uses sensible defaults, you can fine-tune it to your specific needs.


You want to spend as less resources on an invalid command as possible. Therefore, this interceptor is generally placed in the very front of the interceptor chain. In some cases, a Logging or Auditing interceptor might need to be placed in front, with the validating interceptor immediately following it.

The BeanValidationInterceptor also implements CommandHandlerInterceptor, allowing you to configure it as a Handler Interceptor as well.

3.5.2. Command Handler Interceptors

Command Handler Interceptors can take action both before and after command processing. Interceptors can even block command processing altogether, for example for security reasons.

Interceptors must implement the CommandHandlerInterceptor interface. This interface declares one method, handle, that takes three parameters: the command message, the current UnitOfWork and an InterceptorChain. The InterceptorChain is used to continue the dispatching process. Auditing

Well designed events will give clear insight in what has happened, when and why. To use the event store as an Audit Trail, which provides insight in the exact history of changes in the system, this information might not be enough. In some cases, you might want to know which user caused the change, using what command, from which machine, etc.

The AuditingInterceptor is an interceptor that allows you to attach arbitrary information to events just before they are stored or published. The AuditingInterceptor uses an AuditingDataProvider to retrieve the information to attach to these events. You need to provide the implementation of the AuditingDataProvider yourself.

An Audit Logger may be configured to write to an audit log. To do so, you can implement the AuditLogger interface and configure it in the AuditingInterceptor. The audit logger is notified both on succesful execution of the command, as well as when execution fails. If you use event sourcing, you should be aware that the event log already contains the exact details of each event. In that case, it could suffice to just log the event identifier or aggregate identifier and sequence number combination.


Note that the log method is called in the same thread as the command processing. This means that logging to slow sources may result in higher response times for the client. When important, make sure logging is done asynchronously from the command handling thread.

Event Messages are immutable. The Unit of Work listeners allow you to alter information in an Event Message in the onEventRegistered() method. However, in some cases, you need to attach information to Events after all events have been registered with the Unit of Work. Axon provides the abstract MetaDataMutatingUnitOfWorkListenerAdapter, which allows you to assign meta-data to Events just before the Unit of Work is committed. Simply extend the MetaDataMutatingUnitOfWorkListenerAdapter class and implement the abstract assignMetaData(EventMessage event, List<EventMessage> events, int index) method. The first parameter is the EventMessage to provide the Meta Data for. The List<EventMessage> and the index are respectively the complete list of events part of this commit and the index at which the first parameter can be found in the list.

3.6. Distributing the Command Bus

The CommandBus implementations described in Section 3.2, “The Command Bus” only allow Command Messages to be dispatched within a single JVM. Sometimes, you want multiple instances of Command Buses in different JVM's to act as one. Commands dispatched on one JVM's Command Bus should be seamlessly transported to a Command Handler in another JVM while sending back any results.

That's where the DistributedCommandBus comes in. Unlike the other CommandBus implementations, the DistributedCommandBus does not invoke any handlers at all. All it does is form a "bridge" between Command Bus implementations on different JVM's. Each instance of the DistributedCommandBus on each JVM is called a "Segment".

Structure of the Distributed Command Bus

Figure 3.1. Structure of the Distributed Command Bus


The distributed command bus is not part of the Axon Framework Core module, but in the axon-distributed-commandbus module. If you use Maven, make sure you have the appropriate dependencies set. The groupId and version are identical to those of the Core module.

The DistributedCommandBus relies on two components: a CommandBusConnector, which implements the communication protocol between the JVM's, and the RoutingStrategy, which provides a Routing Key for each incoming Command. This Routing Key defines which segment of the Distributed Command Bus should be given a Command. Two commands with the same routing key will always be routed to the same segment, as long as there is no change in the number and configuration of the segments. Generally, the identifier of the targeted aggregate is used as a routing key.

Two implementations of the RoutingStrategy are provided: the MetaDataRoutingStrategy, which uses a Meta Data property in the Command Message to find the routing key, and the AnnotationRoutingStrategy, which uses the @TargetAggregateIdentifier annotation on the Command Messages payload to extract the Routing Key. Obviously, you can also provide your own implementation.

By default, the RoutingStrategy implementations will throw an exception when no key can be resolved from a Command Message. This behavior can be altered by providing a UnresolvedRoutingKeyPolicy in the constructor of the MetaDataRoutingStrategy or AnnotationRoutingStrategy. There are three possible policies:

  • ERROR: This is the default, and will cause an exception to be thrown when a Routing Key is not available

  • RANDOM_KEY: Will return a random value when a Routing Key cannot be resolved from the Command Message. This effectively means that those commands will be routed to a random segment of the Command Bus.

  • STATIC_KEY: Will return a static key (being "unresolved") for unresolved Routing Keys. This effectively means that all those commands will be routed to the same segment, as long as the configuration of segments does not change.

3.6.1. JGroupsConnector

The JGroupsConnector uses (as the name already gives away) JGroups as the underlying discovery and dispatching mechanism. Describing the feature set of JGroups is a bit too much for this reference guide, so please refer to the JGroups User Guide for more details.

The JGroupsConnector has four mandatory configuration elements:

  • The first is a JChannel, which defines the JGroups protocol stack. Generally, a JChannel is constructed with a reference to a JGroups configuration file. JGroups comes with a number of default confgurations which can be used as a basis for your own configuration. Do keep in mind that IP Multicast generally doesn't work in Cloud Services, like Amazon. TCP Gossip is generally a good start in such type of environment.

  • The Cluster Name defines the name of the Cluster that each segment should register to. Segments with the same Cluster Name will eventually detect eachother and dispatch Command among eachother.

  • A "local segment" is the Command Bus implementation that dispatches Commands destined for the local JVM. These commands may have been dispatched by instances on other JVM's or from the local one.

  • Finally, the Serializer is used to serialize command messages before they are sent over the wire.

Ultimately, the JGroupsConnector needs to actually connect, in order to dispatch Messages to other segments. To do so, call the connect() method. It takes a single parameter: the load factor. The load factor defines how much load, relative to the other segments this segment should receive. A segment with twice the load factor of another segment will be assigned (approximately) twice the amount of routing keys as the other segments. Note that when commands are unevenly distributed over the rouing keys, segments with lower load factors could still receive more command than a segment with a higher load factor.

JChannel channel = new JChannel("path/to/channel/config.xml");
CommandBus localSegment = new SimpleCommandBus();
Serializer serializer = new XStreamSerializer();

JGroupsConnector connector = new JGroupsConnector(channel, "myCommandBus", localSegment, serializer);
DistributedCommandBus commandBus = new DistributedCommandBus(connector);

// on one node:
commandBus.subscribe(CommandType.class.getName(), handler);

// on another node with more CPU:
commandBus.subscribe(CommandType.class.getName(), handler);
commandBus.subscribe(AnotherCommandType.class.getName(), handler2);

// from now on, just deal with commandBus as if it is local...

Note that it is not required that all segments have Command Handlers for the same type of Comands. You may use different segments for different Command Types altogether. The Distributed Command Bus will always choose a node to dispatch a Command to that has support for that specific type of Command.

The JGroupsConnector and Spring Framework

If you use Spring, you may want to consider using the JGroupsConnectorFactoryBean. It automatically connects the Connector when the ApplicationContext is started, and does a proper disconnect when the ApplicationContext is shut down. Furthermore, it uses sensible defaults for a testing environment (but should not be considered production ready) and autowiring for the configuration.