Akka.NET has Joined the .NET Foundation

And Also: Introducing the AkkaNetContrib Organization and the Akka.NET Summer Hackfest

It’s our pleasure to announce that as of today, Akka.NET is officially part of the .NET Foundation! Akka.NET is joining an elite group of projects such as Roslyn, NuGet, .NET Core, ASP.NET Core, and others.

New Akka.NET logo

What Does This Mean for Akka.NET?

Open source foundations have been a mainstay of OSS projects across many different platforms for years; ultimately what they provide to OSS projects are legal support, marketing help, and general project guidance. This includes things like protecting the project’s copyrights, ensuring that its intellectual property is in good standing and is properly assigned, etc.

In general the goal of the .NET Foundation is to help ensure that all of its projects follow OSS best practices in order to increase adoption of OSS across the entire .NET ecosystem.

Akka.NET already has major users such as Bank of America, SNL Financial, Schneider Electric, Boeing, and others. And the rate at which Akka.NET is being installed and deployed into production is increasing all the time. We’re joining the .NET Foundation in order to help broaden the tent of Akka.NET users and send a signal to potential users everywhere that Akka.NET is in it for the long haul and that our project is enterprise-friendly.

The core development team behind Akka.NET will continue to do what they’ve been doing; our roadmap and our priorities are driven by achieving parity with our partners at Lightbend and the Scala implementation of Akka and by the demands of our users. Joining the .NET Foundation will enable us to focus on our code, samples, and documentation while it helps us keep the project’s IP and community standards in good hands.

Announcing the Akka.NET Contrib Organization and the 2017 .NET Foundation Summer Hackfest

One other big change we wish to...

Introducing Petabridge.Cmd - a Command-line Management Tool for Akka.NET Applications

Tools for Akka.Cluster Management, Actor Hierarchy Visualization, Log Management, and More

Petabridge has been working with Akka.NET users since January, 2015 and one of the biggest gaps in the Akka.NET ecosystem thus far has been adequate tooling for deployment, monitoring, and management of Akka.NET applications. This has been especially true for users who are building sophisticated, high-performance distributed systems using Akka.Cluster.

Today we’re pleased to announce the release of the first one of our tools for this purpose: Petabridge.Cmd - a command-line interface for managing Akka.NET applications in production.

Petabridge.Cmd Interactive CLI for Akka.NET Application Management

Petabridge.Cmd Features

So what can Petabridge.Cmd do? Out of the box, it supports the following:

  1. Akka.Cluster management - view the status of the cluster, down nodes, trigger nodes to leave the cluster gracefully, and have new nodes join an existing cluster;
  2. Akka.NET log management - perform a live tail of logs from a given node, view historical logs, manually append log messages, and more;
  3. Akka.NET actor hierarchy visualization - perform a live trace of the current actor hierarchy, including ones on remote machines;
  4. System information - view data about the uptime of the current node and etc;
  5. Ability to define custom, application-specific management commands, which can be automatically downloaded from the Petabridge.Cmd.Host server to the pbm client with no code updates necessary; and
  6. Tab-autocomplete, help information, command memorization, argument hints, and a two-line installation process.

Petabridge.Cmd provides an out of the box experience that is designed to give most Akka.NET users 80% of what they need right out of the gate.

Installation

Petabridge.Cmd ships as two component parts which work together:

  1. The pbm client, which can be installed via Chocolatey - a package manager for Windows and
  2. The Petabridge.Cmd.Host, which is installed to your...

Akka.NET 2017 Roadmap Update

.NET Standard, Akka.Persistence RTM, and More

Fresh off the release of Akka.NET 1.2 last month, we’ve been hard at work moving onto the next set of changes and developments for Akka.NET. So let’s get right into it.

Current State of Akka.NET

First, our previous Akka.NET roadmap from 2016. We accomplished most of what we wanted to achieve on that roadmap, but the exact releases and the dates are all over the place. So just to review what’s happened since this roadmap was written:

  • July 2016. Akka.NET 1.1 - Stable Akka.Cluster; Akka.IO release; Akka.Streams Beta. Helios 2.0 transport and Akka.Remote performance improvements.
  • September 2016. Akka.NET 1.1.2 - Stable Mono support; Downing providers for Akka.Cluster, and lots of other features and fixes.
  • January 2017. Akka.NET 1.1.3 - Akka.DistributedData beta; introduction of Hyperion serializer.
  • April 2017. Akka.NET 1.2 - DotNetty transport with TLS support for Akka.Remote; Akka.Streams RTM; Akka.Cluster.Tools RTM; CoordinatedShutdown; and more.

You can view the full release notes for each of the Akka.NET releases from our Github repository here.

You’ll notice that many of the things we promised in Akka.NET 1.5, such as TLS support did not happen in that order and some proposed changes, such as a new default serializer, have not happened yet.

Without getting too deep into the details, the release of .NET Core in the summer of 2016 had to be factored into our roadmap and we wanted to add support for .NET Standard in 1.5. As we later discovered, adding .NET Standard support that early turned out to be a bit premature: the .NET Standard / .NET Core + tooling rodeo was an unmanageable mess in 2016.

Now that Visual Studio 2017 is out and many of the other libraries we depend on all support .NET Standard / .NET Core, it’s a much easier proposition for...

Akka.NET 1.2: Production-ready Akka.Cluster.Tools and Akka.Streams

TLS support for Akka.Remote, Coordinated Shutdown, Performance Improvements, and More

A ton of work has gone into Akka.NET thus far in 2017, and the biggest release we’ve done since last year’s Akka.NET 1.1 release just hit NuGet: Akka.NET v1.2.

Akka.NET v1.2 is the culmination of months of work on many different fronts at once, and you can read the official Akka.NET 1.2 release notes here. In this post we’re going to explain the significance of the 1.2 release and what it means for the end-users of Akka.NET.

Akka.Streams and Akka.Cluster.Tools Released from Beta

The most notable part of the release is what’s coming out of beta: Akka.Streams and Akka.Cluster.Tools. Both of these modules now have stable APIs and are considered to be sufficiently well-tested and well-used (measured by adoption and usage during its beta period) to be considered full production-ready modules.

Akka.Streams is a subject we intend to cover at length as it’s an amazing, higher-level abstraction built on top of Akka.NET actors that allows end-users to express powerful flows in just a few lines of code. Petabridge has been using Akka.Streams in a number of our consulting projects for months now and both we and our customers are impressed with its conciseness and power.

Akka.Cluster.Tools is built on top of Akka.Cluster and introduces three additional capabilities:

  • Distributed Publish and Subscribe, which we’ve written about recently on the Petabridge blog. In essence this module can be used to create a decentralized message broker that allows Akka.NET actors to subscribe and publish to various user-defined “topics” across the cluster. This can be done transparently without needing to know which subscribers and which publishers are on each node.
  • Cluster Singleton, which is used to help create reliable singleton actors inside a cluster. I.E. you can guarantee that only a single actor of...

Introduction to Distributed Publish-Subscribe in Akka.NET

Decentralized Message Brokers in Akka.Cluster

Today we’ll talk about one of the most common communication patterns, which is publish/subscribe, and how to perform it in a distributed environments using Akka.NET. In case if you want to save yourself some time implementing it, its already available as part of a bigger package called Akka.Cluster.Tools. To install it, you can simply get the latest prerelease version from NuGet:

install-package Akka.Cluster.Tools -pre

Below, we’ll cover the abilities and limitations that come with the Akka.Cluster.Tools.DistributedPubSub implementation.

When EventStream isn’t enough

An idea of distributed publish subscribe came from slightly different design choices than those of the default Akka pub/sub model (EventStream).

EventStream has been invented to work with actor systems from the ground up, even in systems that are not inherently distributed. It’s extremely simple, lightweight, and fast. Dead letters - a place where every undeliverable message lands by default - is implemented on top of it.

However, EventStream comes with some limitations. It works only locally in the scope of the current actor system. This means that you cannot publish/subscribe actors from other nodes and publish messages in a global address space without worrying on which node they live. These limitations were motivation for a separate, cluster-specific publish-subscribe feature.

Event stream publish/subscribe

Technical Overview of Akka.Cluster.Sharding in Akka.NET

How Akka.Cluster.Sharding Allocates Shards, Rebalances, and More

In our previous post about using Akka.Cluster.Sharding we looked at the module from an end-user’s perspective. Today we’ll provide a little more insights into how this plugin works internally.

Cluster sharding depends on several types of actors:

  • Coordinator - one per entity type for an entire cluster.
  • Shard region - one per entity type per each cluster node, where sharding should be enabled.
  • Shard - there can be many on each shard region, and they can move between shard regions located on different nodes.
  • Entity - actors defined by the end-user. There can be many on each shard, but they are always bound to a specific shard.

All of them can be visualized using diagram below:

Conceptual image of cluster shard internal actors located across the cluster nodes

If you look at actor paths of the entities you’ve created you’ll see that they reflect the structure of that hierarchy. They follow the pattern /user/sharding/<typeName>/<shardId>/<entityId>. Given that, it’s easy to infer that /user/sharding/<typeName> is path to a shard region while subsequent path segments are responsible for shard actor and entity actor.

Introduction to Akka.Cluster.Sharding in Akka.NET

Distributing State Evenly and Automatically with Self-Managing Actors

In this post, we’ll discuss one of the Akka.NET plugins, Akka.Cluster.Sharding and how it gives us easier, higher level abstractions to work with actors (in this case also referred to as entities). Cluster.Sharding gives us:

  • By using a logical keys (in form of ShardId/EntityId pairs) it’s able to route our messages to the right entity without need to explicitly determine on which node in the cluster it lives.
  • It automatically manages the process of actor creation, so you don’t have to do it explicitly. When a message is addressed to an entity that didn’t exist, an actor for that entity will be created automatically.
  • It’s able to rebalance actors across cluster as it grows or shrinks, to ensure its optimal usage.

Given all of those traits, let’s see how to utilize cluster sharding in a standard Akka.NET application.

Designing Akka.NET Applications from Scratch Part 2: Hierarchies and SOLID Principles

Decomposing Complex Domains into Understandable Actor Hierarchies

In the first post in this series, we discussed how the correct place to begin thinking about an Akka.NET application is actually with your data flows and organizing those into reusable “protocols”. Once that’s done, then it’s time to start slotting actors into some of the interaction points inside the protocol.

But what happens when certain types of interactions are complicated and can’t easily be expressed inside one actor? Or what happens if you need to accumulate state for each individual instance of the protocol?

Think of a protocol like a class. A protocol is a logical unit of encapsulation that expresses some defined behaviors, inputs, and outputs. And just like classes, protocols can be composed - one class can have members that are of another type of class. Small protocols can be combined with other protocols to build large, system-defining behaviors. This is generally how stream processing architectures are actually designed at scale.

An instance of a class is called an object in OOP. In protocol-driven design a “protocol instance” is an instance of a protocol, just like how a class is instance of an object.

Actor Hierarchies and Protocols

A protocol consists of multiple different interactions and can have totally different flows depending on the state of each particular protocol instance. Your Akka.NET actor system can theoretically run hundreds of thousands of concurrent protocol instances at the same time. It’s the goal of a well-designed actor hierarchy to make it performant and easy to manage.

So the first rule of thumb when it comes to designing an actor hierarchy is once again: separate your concerns.

Brute actor hierarchy

It’s pointless to attempt to design an entire end-to-end actor system before you’ve written any code, because you don’t know what you don’t know yet....

Free Webinar on September 26th: Introduction to Akka.NET and Akka.Cluster

The Business Case and Power Behind Akka.NET and Akka.Cluster

On Monday, September 26th at 8:00am PDT Petabridge will be hosting a free webinar entitled Introduction to Distributed Systems with Akka.NET with Akka.Cluster - the goal of which is to help educate developers, architects, and technology executives on how these technologies can be used to build highly available, distributed systems.

Introduction to Akka.NET and Akka.Cluster

We’ve never hosted a live webinar on the subject before and it’s a regularly requested topic - and if this one is popular we’ll definitely do another in the future on Akka.Cluster and other areas such as Akka.Persistence, Akka.NET DevOps, and so forth.

What We’ll Cover

This presentation is 90 minutes long and will be focused on the architectural concepts and possibilities that Akka.Cluster creates. Specifically:

  • Why businesses are adopting Akka.Cluster and why this technology is desperately needed;
  • How distributed systems are designed using Akka.NET actors and message-based systems;
  • What Akka.Cluster does to make this easy; and
  • How Akka.Cluster synergizes with modern deployment environments, such as Windows Azure Resource Manager, Azure Service Fabric, * Kubernetes, Apache Mesos, and so forth.

Seating is limited. We still have some room available, so please register now: click here to register.

We’ll be taking questions from the audience at the end of the presentation too!

N.B. the material we’re presenting in this webinar does have some overlap with our Akka.Cluster training, but is mostly new material. If you’ve attended our Akka.Cluster training in the past you will still get value out of this talk.

In Case You Can’t Attend

If you aren’t able to attend due to timezones or conflicts, go ahead and register anyway - we’ll send you a recording later the same day.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them...

Case Study: DigiOutsource Uses Akka.NET to Grow Revenue by 35%

Large-Scale, Real-time Complex Event Processing with Akka.NET

Our last customer case study “Akka.NET Goes to Wall Street” remains as one of the most popular articles on Petabridge, and today I’m pleased to share with you a new case study written by Kim-Lisa Gad and the DigiOutsource team from sunny Cape Town, South Africa.

The DigiOutsource team, lead by Jean-Pierré Vermeulen, developed an extremely high-speed complex event processing system real-time customer analysis system on top of Akka.NET from conception to production within 5 months, and that system has gone on to increase overall revenue by 35%.

What follows is their story!