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Microservices with Spring

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Microservices with Spring

How to put Spring, Spring Boot, and Spring Cloud together to create a microservice.

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Originally written by Paul Chapman for the Spring blog 

Microservices allow large systems to be built up from a number of collaborating components. It does at the process level what Spring has always done at the component level: loosely coupled processes instead of loosely coupled components.

Shopping Application

For example imagine an online shop with separate microservices for user-accounts, product-catalog order-processing and shopping carts:

Inevitably there are a number of moving parts that you have to setup and configure to build such a system. How to get them working together is not obvious - you need to have good familiarity with Spring Boot since Spring Cloud leverages it heavily, several Netflix or other OSS projects are required and, of course, there is some Spring configuration “magic”!

Demo Application

In this article I aim to clarify how things work by building the simplest possible system step-by-step. Therefore, I will only implement a small part of the big system - the user account service.

The Web-Application will make requests to the Account-Service microservice using a RESTful API. We will also need to add a discovery service – so the other processes can find each other.

The code for this application is here: https://github.com/paulc4/microservices-demo.

Follow-Up 1: Other Resources

This article only discusses a minimal system. For more information, you might like to read Josh Long’s blog article Microservice Registration and Discovery with Spring Cloud and Netflix’s Eureka which shows running a complete microservice system on Cloud Foundry.

The Spring Cloud projects are here.

Follow Up 2: SpringOne 2GX 2015

Book your place at SpringOne2GX in Washington, DC soon - simply the best opportunity to find out first hand all that’s going on and to provide direct feedback. There will be an entire track on Spring Cloud and Cloud Native applications.


OK, let’s get started …

Service Registration

When you have multiple processes working together they need to find each other. If you have ever used Java’s RMI mechanism you may recall that it relied on a central registry so that RMI processes could find each other. Microservices has the same requirement.

The developers at Netflix had this problem when building their systems and created a registration server called Eureka (“I have found it” in Greek). Fortunately for us, they made their discovery server open-source and Spring has incorporated into Spring Cloud, making it even easier to run up a Eureka server. Here is the complete application:

public class ServiceRegistrationServer {

  public static void main(String[] args) {
    // Tell Boot to look for registration-server.yml
    System.setProperty("spring.config.name", "registration-server");
    SpringApplication.run(ServiceRegistrationServer.class, args);

It really is that simple!

Spring Cloud is built on Spring Boot and utilizes parent and starter POMs. The important parts of the POM are:

        <version>Angel.SR3</version>  <!-- Name of release train -->
            <!-- Setup Spring Boot -->

            <!-- Setup Spring MVC & REST, use Embedded Tomcat -->

            <!-- Spring Cloud starter -->

            <!-- Eureka for service registration -->

Note: Angel.SR3 is the current "release train" - a set of co-ordinated releases -- see note on Spring Cloud home page (scroll down to second section).

By default Spring Boot applications look for an application.properties or application.yml file for configuration. By setting the spring.config.name property we can tell Spring Boot to look for a different file - useful if you have multiple Spring Boot applications in the same project - as I will do shortly.

This application looks for registration-server.properties or registration-server.yml. Here is the relevant configuration from registration-server.yml:

# Configure this Discovery Server
    hostname: localhost
  client:  # Not a client, don't register with yourself
    registerWithEureka: false
    fetchRegistry: false

  port: 1111   # HTTP (Tomcat) port

By default Eureka runs on port 8761, but here we will use port 1111 instead. Also by including the registration code in my process I might be a server or a client. The configuration specifies that I am not a client and stops the server process trying to register with itself.

Using Consul

Spring Cloud also supports Consul as an alternative to Eureka. You start the Consul Agent (its registration server) using a script and then clients use it to find their microservices. For details, see this blog article or project home page.

Try running the RegistrationServer now (see for help on running the application). You can open the Eureka dashboard here: http://localhost:1111 and the section showing Applications will be empty.

From now on we will refer to the discovery-server since it could be Eureka or Consul (see side panel).

Creating a Microservice: Account-Service

A microservice is a stand-alone process that handles a well-defined requirement.

Beans vs Processes

When configuring applications with Spring we emphasize Loose Coupling and Tight Cohesion, These are not new concepts (Larry Constantine is credited with first defining these in the late 1960s - reference) but now we are applying them, not to interacting components (Spring Beans), but to interacting processes.

In this example, I have a simple Account management microservice that uses Spring Data to implement a JPA AccountRepository and Spring REST to provide a RESTful interface to account information. In most respects this is a straightforward Spring Boot application.

What makes it special is that it registers itself with the discovery-server at start-up. Here is the Spring Boot startup class:

public class AccountsServer {

    AccountRepository accountRepository;

    public static void main(String[] args) {
        // Will configure using accounts-server.yml
        System.setProperty("spring.config.name", "accounts-server");

        SpringApplication.run(AccountsServer.class, args);

The annotations do the work:

  1. @EnableAutoConfiguration - defines this as a Spring Boot application.
  2. @EnableDiscoveryClient - this enables service registration and discovery. In this case, this process registers itself with the discovery-server service using its application name (see below).
  3. @Import(AccountsWebApplication.class) - this Java Configuration class sets up everything else (see for more details).

What makes this a microservice is the registration with the discovery-server via @EnableDiscoveryClient and its YML configuration completes the setup:

# Spring properties
     name: accounts-service

# Discovery Server Access
      defaultZone: http://localhost:1111/eureka/

# HTTP Server
  port: 2222   # HTTP (Tomcat) port

Note that this file

  1. Sets the application name as accounts-service. This service registers under this name and can also be accessed by this name - see below.
  2. Specifies a custom port to listen on (2222). All my processes are using Tomcat, they can’t all listen on port 8080.
  3. The URL of the Eureka Service process - from the previous section.

Eureka Dashboard

Run the AccountsService application now and let it finish initializing. Refresh the dashboard http://localhost:1111 and you should see the ACCOUNTS-SERVICE listed under Applications. Sometimes registration can take 10-20 seconds so be patient - check the log output from RegistrationService

Warning: Do not try to display XML output using the internal web-viewer of Eclipse/STS because it cannot do so. Use your favorite web browser instead.

For more detail, go here: http://localhost:1111/eureka/apps/ and you should see something like this:

            <port enabled="true">3344</port>
            <securePort enabled="false">443</securePort>

Alternatively go to http://localhost:1111/eureka/apps/ACCOUNTS-SERVICE and see just the details for AccountsService - if it’s not registered you will get a 404.

Accessing the Microservice: Web-Service

To consume a RESTful service, Spring provides the RestTemplate class. This allows you to send HTTP requests to a RESTful server and fetch data in a number of formats - such as JSON and XML.

Note: The Accounts microservice provides a RESTful interface over HTTP, but any suitable protocol could be used. Messaging using AMQP or JMS is an obvious alternative.

Which formats can be used depends on the presence of marshaling classes on the classpath - for example JAXB is always detected since it is a standard part of Java. JSON is supported if Jackson jars are present in the classpath.

A microservice (discovery) client can use a RestTemplate and Spring will automatically configure it to be microservice aware (more of this in a moment).

Encapsulating Microservice Access

Here is part of the WebAccountService for my client application:

public class WebAccountsService {

    @Autowired        // Created automatically by Spring Cloud
    protected RestTemplate restTemplate; 

    protected String serviceUrl;

    public WebAccountsService(String serviceUrl) {
        this.serviceUrl = serviceUrl.startsWith("http") ?
               serviceUrl : "http://" + serviceUrl;

    public Account getByNumber(String accountNumber) {
        Account account = restTemplate.getForObject(serviceUrl
                + "/acounts/{number}", Account.class, accountNumber);

        if (account == null)
            throw new AccountNotFoundException(accountNumber);
            return account;

Note that my WebAccountService is just a wrapper for the RestTemplate fetching data from the microservice. The interesting parts are the serviceUrl and the RestTemplate.

Accessing the Microservice

The serviceUrl is provided by the main program to the WebAccountController which in turn passes it to the WebAccountService (as shown above):

@ComponentScan(useDefaultFilters=false)  // Disable component scanner
public class WebServer {

    public static void main(String[] args) {
        // Will configure using web-server.yml
        System.setProperty("spring.config.name", "web-server");
        SpringApplication.run(WebServer.class, args);

    public WebAccountsController accountsController() {
         // 1. Value should not be hard-coded, just to keep things simple
         //        in this example.
         // 2. Case insensitive: could also use: http://accounts-service
         return new WebAccountsController
                       ("http://ACCOUNTS-SERVICE");  // serviceUrl

A few points to note:

  1. The WebController is a typical Spring MVC view-based controller returning HTML. The application uses Thymeleaf as the view-technology (for generating dynamic HTML)
  2. WebServer is also a @EnableDiscoveryClient but in this case as well as registering itself with the discovery-server (which is not necessary since it offers no services of its own) it uses Eureka to locate the account service.
  3. The default component-scanner setup inherited from Spring Boot looks for @Component classes and, in this case, finds my WebAccountController and tries to create it. However, I want to create it myself, so I disable the scanner like this @ComponentScan(useDefaultFilters=false).
  4. The service-url I am passing to the WebAccountController is the name the service used to register itself with the discovery-server - by default this is the same as the spring.application.name for the process which is account-service - see account-service.yml above. The use of upper-case is not required but it does help emphasize that ACCOUNTS-SERVICE is a logical host (that will be obtained via discovery) not an actual host.

Load Balanced RestTemplate

The RestTemplate has been auto-configured by Spring Cloud to use a custom HttpRequestClient that uses Netflix Ribbon to do the micro-service lookup. Ribbon is also load-balancer so if you have multiple instances of a service available, it picks one for you. (Neither Eureka nor Consul on their own perform load-balancing so we use Ribbon to do it instead).

If you look in the RibbonClientHttpRequestFactory you will see this code:

    String serviceId = originalUri.getHost();
    ServiceInstance instance =
             loadBalancer.choose(serviceId);  // loadBalancer uses Ribbon
    ... if instance non-null (service exists) ...
    URI uri = loadBalancer.reconstructURI(instance, originalUri);

The loadBalancer takes the logical service-name (as registered with the discovery-server) and converts it to the actual hostname of the chosen microservice.

A RestTemplate instance is thread-safe and can be used to access any number of services in different parts of your application (for example, I might have a CustomerService wrapping the same RestTemplate instance accessing a customer data microservice).


Below the relevant configuration from web-server.yml. It is used to:

  1. Set the application name
  2. Define the URL for accessing the discovery server
  3. Set the Tomcat port to 3333
# Spring Properties
     name: web-service

# Discovery Server Access
      defaultZone: http://localhost:1111/eureka/

# HTTP Server
  port: 3333   # HTTP (Tomcat) port

How to Run the Demo

A small demo of this system is at http://github.com/paulc4/microservices-demo. Clone it and either load into your favorite IDE or use maven directly. Suggestions on how to run the demo are included in the README on the project homepage.

Extra Notes

Some notes about Spring Boot usage by these applications. If you are not familiar with Spring Boot, this explains some of the “magic”!

View Templating Engines

The Eureka dashboard (inside RegistrationServer) is implemented using FreeMarker templates but the other two applications use Thymeleaf. To make sure each uses the right view engine, there is extra configuration in each YML file.

This is at the end of registration-server.yml to disable Thymeleaf.

# Discovery Server Dashboard uses FreeMarker.  Don't want Thymeleaf templates
    enabled: false     # Disable Thymeleaf spring:

Since both AccountService and WebService use thymeleaf, we also need to point each at their own templates. Here is part of account-server.yml:

# Spring properties
     name: accounts-service  # Service registers under this name
    enabled: false      # Ignore Eureka dashboard FreeMarker templates
    cache: false        # Allow Thymeleaf templates to be reloaded at runtime
    prefix: classpath:/accounts-server/templates/
                        # Template location for this application only

web-server.yml is similar but its templates are defined by

   prefix: classpath:/web-server/templates/

Note the / on the end of each spring.thymeleaf.prefix classpath - this is crucial.

Command-Line Execution

The jar is compiled to automatically run io.pivotal.microservices.services.Main when invoked from the command-line - see Main.java.

The Spring Boot option to set the start-class can be seen in the POM:

        <!-- Stand-alone RESTFul application for testing only -->

AccountsWebApplication Configuration

public class AccountsWebApplication {

This is the main configuration class for AccountService and is a classic Spring Boot application using Spring Data. The annotations do most of the work:

  1. @SpringBootApplication - defines this as a Spring Boot application. This convenient annotation combines @EnableAutoConfiguration, @Configuration and @ComponentScan (which, by default, causes Spring to search the package containing this class, and its sub-packages, for components - potential Spring Beans: AccountController and AccountRepository) .
  2. @EntityScan("io.pivotal.microservices.accounts") - because I am using JPA, I need to specify where the @Entity classes are. Normally this is an option you specify in JPA’s persistence.xml or when creating a LocalContainerEntityManagerFactoryBean. Spring Boot will create this factory-bean for me because the spring-boot-starter-data-jpa dependency is on the class path. So an alternative way of specifying where to find the @Entity classes is by using@EntityScan. This will find Account.
  3. @EnableJpaRepositories("io.pivotal.microservices.accounts")- look for classes extending Spring Data’s Repository marker interface and automatically implement them using JPA - see Spring Data JPA.
  4. @PropertySource("classpath:db-config.properties") - properties to configure my DataSource – see db-config.properties.

Note that the AccountsWebApplication can be run as a stand-alone application in its own right which I found useful for testing. It listens to the default Tomcat port: 8080, so the home page is http://localhost:8080.

Configuring Properties

As mentioned above, Spring Boot applications look for either application.properties or application.yml to configure themselves. Since all three servers used in this application are in the same project, they would automatically use the same configuration.

To avoid that, each specifies an alternative file by setting the spring.config.name property.

For example here is part of WebServer.java.

public static void main(String[] args) {
  // Tell server to look for web-server.properties or web-server.yml
  System.setProperty("spring.config.name", "web-server");
  SpringApplication.run(WebServer.class, args);

At runtime, the application will find and use web-server.yml in src/main/resources.


Spring Boot sets up INFO level logging for Spring by default. Since we need to examine the logs for evidence of our microservices working, I have raised the level to WARN to reduce the amount of logging.

To do this, the logging level would need to be specified in each of the xxxx-server.yml configuration files. This is usually the best place to define them as logging properties cannot be specified in property files (logging has already been initialized before @PropertySource directives are processed). There is a note on this in the Spring Boot manual, but it’s easy to miss.

Rather than duplicate the logging configuration in each YAML file, I instead opted to put it in the logback configuration file, since Spring Boot uses logback - see src/main/resources/logback.xml. All three services will share the same logback.xml.

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