API: Flows

Flows allow your CorDapp to communicate with other parties on a network. Before you begin, familiarize yourself with the flow key concepts.

In this document, you will:

  • See an example flow for a basic ledger update, demonstrating the Initiator and Responder sides of a flow.
  • Get an explanation of Flowlogic, including annotations and calls.
  • Learn how to build transactions and extract states from the vault.
  • Explore how nodes communicate and share data.
  • Learn how to use subflows.
  • Discover flow exceptions and how they are resolved.
  • Find out how to visually track the progress of a flow.
  • Learn how you can expand the reach of your flows by calling external systems.
  • Uncover the best practices for concurrency, locking, and waiting.
  • Discover how to gracefully end a flow by killing it.

Each concept is illustrated with sample code.

An example flow

If Alice and Bob want to agree a basic ledger update, they would create a flow with two sides, one for each party:

  • An Initiator side: A flow class that initiates the request to update the ledger.
  • A Responder side: A flow class that responds to the request to update the ledger.

Initiator flow class example

In this example, the Initiator does the majority of the work - they will build, sign, verify, and finalize the transaction.

Step 1: Build the transaction

The initiator:

  1. Chooses a notary for the transaction.
  2. Create a transaction builder.
  3. Extracts any input states from the vault and adds them to the builder.
  4. Creates any output states and adds them to the builder.
  5. Adds any commands, attachments or time windows to the builder.

Step 2: Sign the transaction

The initiator:

  1. Signs the transaction builder.
  2. Converts the builder into a signed transaction.

Step 3: Verify the transaction

The initiator:

  1. Runs the contracts contained in the CorDapp.
  2. Verifies that the transaction is valid based on the contracts.

Step 4: Get the counterparty’s signature

The initiator:

  1. Sends the transaction to the responding counterparty.
  2. Waits to get the responding counterparty’s signature.
  3. Adds the responding counterparty’s signature to the transaction.
  4. Verifies the transaction’s signatures.

Step 5: Finalize the transaction

The initiator:

  1. Sends the transaction to the notary.
  2. Waits to receive the notarized transaction.
  3. Records the transaction locally.
  4. Stores any relevant states in the vault.
  5. Sends the transaction to the counterparty for recording.

You can visualize the work performed by initiator like this:

flow overview

Responder flow class example

The responder verifies, signs, and records the transaction.

Step 1: Verify the transaction

The responder:

  1. Receives the transaction from the counterparty.
  2. Verifies the transaction’s existing signatures.
  3. Runs the contracts contained in the CorDapp.
  4. Verifies that the transaction is valid based on the contracts.

Step 2: Sign the transaction

The responder:

  1. Generates a signature for the transaction.
  2. Sends the signature back to the counterparty.

Step 3 - Record the transaction

The responder:

  1. Receives the notarized transaction from the initiator.
  2. Records the transaction locally.
  3. Stores any relevant states in the vault.

The transaction is now part of the ledger.

The FlowLogic class

You can implement flows as one or more communicating FlowLogic subclasses. The FlowLogic subclass’s constructor can take any number of arguments of any type. The generic FlowLogic (e.g. FlowLogic<SignedTransaction>) indicates the flow’s return type.

class Initiator(val arg1: Boolean,
                val arg2: Int,
                val counterparty: Party): FlowLogic<SignedTransaction>() { }

class Responder(val otherParty: Party) : FlowLogic<Unit>() { }
public static class Initiator extends FlowLogic<SignedTransaction> {
    private final boolean arg1;
    private final int arg2;
    private final Party counterparty;

    public Initiator(boolean arg1, int arg2, Party counterparty) {
        this.arg1 = arg1;
        this.arg2 = arg2;
        this.counterparty = counterparty;
    }

}

public static class Responder extends FlowLogic<Void> { }

FlowLogic annotations

Use annotations to track the interactions between flows.

  • @InitiatingFlow: If you plan to initiate additional flows from an initial flow, you must annotate the first flow with @InitiatingFlow.

  • @StartableByRPC: If you plan to start the flow via RPC, annotate it with @StartableByRPC:

@InitiatingFlow
@StartableByRPC
class Initiator(): FlowLogic<Unit>() { }
@InitiatingFlow
@StartableByRPC
public static class Initiator extends FlowLogic<Unit> { }

@InitiatedBy: If a flow responds to any messages from another flow, use @InitiatedBy. @InitiatedBy takes the class of the flow it is responding to as its single parameter:

@InitiatedBy(Initiator::class)
class Responder(val otherSideSession: FlowSession) : FlowLogic<Unit>() { }
@InitiatedBy(Initiator.class)
public static class Responder extends FlowLogic<Void> { }
  • @SchedulableFlow: If a SchedulableState starts a flow, annotate the flow with @SchedulableFlow.

FlowLogic calls

Each FlowLogic subclass must override FlowLogic.call(), which describes the actions it will take as part of the flow. For example, the actions of the initiator’s side of the flow would be defined in Initiator.call, and the actions of the responder’s side of the flow would be defined in Responder.call.

For nodes to run multiple flows concurrently, and survive node upgrades and restarts, flows need to be checkpointable and serializable to disk. To do this, mark FlowLogic.call(), and any function invoked from within FlowLogic.call(), with an @Suspendable annotation.

class Initiator(val counterparty: Party): FlowLogic<Unit>() {
    @Suspendable
    override fun call() { }
}
public static class InitiatorFlow extends FlowLogic<Void> {
    private final Party counterparty;

    public Initiator(Party counterparty) {
        this.counterparty = counterparty;
    }

    @Suspendable
    @Override
    public Void call() throws FlowException { }

}

Accessing the node’s ServiceHub

You can access the node’s ServiceHub within FlowLogic.call. The ServiceHub provides access to the node’s services. See Accessing node services for more information.

Common flow tasks

To agree ledger updates, you need to perform a number of common tasks within FlowLogic.call:

  • Transaction building: The majority of the work performed during a flow is building, verifying, and signing a transaction. See Understanding transactions .
  • Extracting states from the vault:: When building a transaction, you’ll often need to extract the states you wish to consume from the vault. See Writing vault queries .
  • Retrieving information about other nodes:: You can retrieve information about other nodes on the network and the services they offer using ServiceHub.networkMapCache.

Notaries

Transactions generally need a notary to:

  • Prevent double-spends if the transaction has inputs.
  • Serve as a timestamping authority if the transaction has a time window.

You can retreive a notary from the network map:

val notaryName: CordaX500Name = CordaX500Name(
        organisation = "Notary Service",
        locality = "London",
        country = "GB")
val specificNotary: Party = serviceHub.networkMapCache.getNotary(notaryName)!!
// Alternatively, we can pick an arbitrary notary from the notary
// list. However, it is always preferable to specify the notary
// explicitly, as the notary list might change when new notaries are
// introduced, or old ones decommissioned.
val firstNotary: Party = serviceHub.networkMapCache.notaryIdentities.first()

CordaX500Name notaryName = new CordaX500Name("Notary Service", "London", "GB");
Party specificNotary = Objects.requireNonNull(getServiceHub().getNetworkMapCache().getNotary(notaryName));
// Alternatively, we can pick an arbitrary notary from the notary
// list. However, it is always preferable to specify the notary
// explicitly, as the notary list might change when new notaries are
// introduced, or old ones decommissioned.
Party firstNotary = getServiceHub().getNetworkMapCache().getNotaryIdentities().get(0);

Retrieving specific counterparties

You can use the network map to retrieve a specific counterparty:

val counterpartyName: CordaX500Name = CordaX500Name(
        organisation = "NodeA",
        locality = "London",
        country = "GB")
val namedCounterparty: Party = serviceHub.identityService.wellKnownPartyFromX500Name(counterpartyName) ?:
        throw IllegalArgumentException("Couldn't find counterparty for NodeA in identity service")
val keyedCounterparty: Party = serviceHub.identityService.partyFromKey(dummyPubKey) ?:
        throw IllegalArgumentException("Couldn't find counterparty with key: $dummyPubKey in identity service")

CordaX500Name counterPartyName = new CordaX500Name("NodeA", "London", "GB");
Party namedCounterparty = getServiceHub().getIdentityService().wellKnownPartyFromX500Name(counterPartyName);
Party keyedCounterparty = getServiceHub().getIdentityService().partyFromKey(dummyPubKey);

Communication between parties

To create a communication session between your initiator flow and the receiver flow, you must call initiateFlow(party: Party): FlowSession.

FlowSession instances provide three functions:

  • send(payload: Any)
    • Sends the payload object
  • receive(receiveType: Class<R>): R
    • Receives an object of type receiveType
  • sendAndReceive(receiveType: Class<R>, payload: Any): R
    • Sends the payload object and receives an object of type receiveType back

FlowLogic also provides functions that can receive messages from multiple sessions and send messages to multiple sessions:

  • receiveAllMap(sessions: Map<FlowSession, Class<out Any>>): Map<FlowSession, UntrustworthyData<Any>>
    • Receives from all FlowSession objects specified in the passed in map. The received types may differ.
  • receiveAll(receiveType: Class<R>, sessions: List<FlowSession>): List<UntrustworthyData<R>>
    • Receives from all FlowSession objects specified in the passed in list. The received types must be the same.
  • sendAll(payload: Any, sessions: Set<FlowSession>)
    • Sends the payload object to all the provided FlowSession.
  • sendAllMap(payloadsPerSession: Map<FlowSession, Any>)
    • Sends a potentially different payload to each FlowSession, as specified by the provided payloadsPerSession.

Create communication sessions with InitiateFlow

initiateFlow creates a communication session with the Party that you pass in.

val counterpartySession: FlowSession = initiateFlow(counterparty)

FlowSession counterpartySession = initiateFlow(counterparty);

When you call this function, no communication happens until the first send or receive. At that point the counterparty will either:

  • Ignore the message, if they are not registered to respond to messages from your flow.
  • Start a flow, if they have one registered to respond to your flow.

Send

Once you have a FlowSession object, you can send arbitrary data to a counterparty:

counterpartySession.send(Any())

counterpartySession.send(new Object());

The flow on the other side must eventually reach a corresponding receive call to get the message.

Receiving data from counterparties

You can choose to wait to receive arbitrary data of a specific type from a counterparty. This implies a corresponding send call in the counterparty’s flow. A few scenarios:

  • You never receive a message back. In the current design, the flow is paused until the node’s owner kills the flow.
  • Instead of sending a message back, the counterparty throws a FlowException. This exception is propagated back to you. You can use the error message to establish what happened.
  • You receive a message back, but it’s of the wrong type. In this case, a FlowException is thrown.
  • You receive back a message of the correct type.

If FlowLogic calls receive or sendAndReceive, FlowLogic is suspended until it receives a response.

If you receive the data wrapped in an UntrustworthyData instance. This is a reminder to check that the data is as expected. Unwrap the UntrustworthyData using a lambda to examine it:

val packet1: UntrustworthyData<Int> = counterpartySession.receive<Int>()
val int: Int = packet1.unwrap { data ->
    // Perform checking on the object received.
    // T O D O: Check the received object.
    // Return the object.
    data
}

UntrustworthyData<Integer> packet1 = counterpartySession.receive(Integer.class);
Integer integer = packet1.unwrap(data -> {
    // Perform checking on the object received.
    // T O D O: Check the received object.
    // Return the object.
    return data;
});

You’re not limited to exchanging data with a single counterparty. You can use flows to send messages to as many parties as you need to. Each party can invoke a different response flow:

val regulatorSession: FlowSession = initiateFlow(regulator)
regulatorSession.send(Any())
val packet3: UntrustworthyData<Any> = regulatorSession.receive<Any>()

FlowSession regulatorSession = initiateFlow(regulator);
regulatorSession.send(new Object());
UntrustworthyData<Object> packet3 = regulatorSession.receive(Object.class);

SendAndReceive

You can use a single call to send data to a counterparty and wait to receive data of a specific type back. The type of data sent doesn’t need to match the type of the data received:

val packet2: UntrustworthyData<Boolean> = counterpartySession.sendAndReceive<Boolean>("You can send and receive any class!")
val boolean: Boolean = packet2.unwrap { data ->
    // Perform checking on the object received.
    // T O D O: Check the received object.
    // Return the object.
    data
}

UntrustworthyData<Boolean> packet2 = counterpartySession.sendAndReceive(Boolean.class, "You can send and receive any class!");
Boolean bool = packet2.unwrap(data -> {
    // Perform checking on the object received.
    // T O D O: Check the received object.
    // Return the object.
    return data;
});

Counterparty response

Imagine you are now on the Responder side of the flow. You had this exchange with the Initiator:

  • The Initiator sent you an Any instance.
  • You responded with an Integer instance.
  • The Initiator sent you a String instance and is waiting to receive a Boolean instance from you.

Our side of the flow must mirror these calls. We could do this as follows:

val any: Any = counterpartySession.receive<Any>().unwrap { data -> data }
val string: String = counterpartySession.sendAndReceive<String>(99).unwrap { data -> data }
counterpartySession.send(true)

Object obj = counterpartySession.receive(Object.class).unwrap(data -> data);
String string = counterpartySession.sendAndReceive(String.class, 99).unwrap(data -> data);
counterpartySession.send(true);

Subflows

Subflows are pieces of reusable flows that you can run by calling FlowLogic.subFlow. There are two broad categories of subflows: inlined and initiating. Initiating flows initiate counter-flows automatically, while inlined ones expect a parent counter-flow to run the inlined counterpart.

Inlined subflows

Inlined subflows inherit their calling flow’s type when they initiate a new session with a counterparty. For example, flow A calls an inlined subflow B, which in turn initiates a session with a party. The FlowLogic type used to determine which counter-flow should be kicked off is A, not B. This means that the other side of this inlined flow must be implemented explicitly in the kicked-off flow. You can do this by calling a matching inlined counter-flow, or by implementing the other side explicitly in the kicked-off parent flow.

An example of this type of flow is CollectSignaturesFlow. It has a counter-flow, SignTransactionFlow, which isn’t annotated with InitiatedBy. This is because both of these flows are inlined. The kick-off relationship is defined when the parent flows call CollectSignaturesFlow and SignTransactionFlow.

In the code, inlined subflows appear as regular FlowLogic instances, without either of the @InitiatingFlow or @InitiatedBy annotation.

Initiating subflows

Initiating subflows annotated with the @InitiatingFlow annotation. When this type of flow initiates a session, its type is used to determine which @InitiatedBy flow to kick off on the counterparty.

An example is the @InitiatingFlow InitiatorFlow/@InitiatedBy ResponderFlow flow pair in the FlowCookbook.

Core initiating subflows

Corda-provided initiating subflows are a little different from standard ones. They are versioned together with the platform, and their initiated counter-flows are registered explicitly. This eliminates the need for the InitiatedBy annotation.

Library flows

Corda installs four initiating subflow pairs on each node by default:

  • NotaryChangeFlow/NotaryChangeHandler, used to change a state’s notary.
  • ContractUpgradeFlow.Initiate/ContractUpgradeHandler, used to change a state’s contract.
  • SwapIdentitiesFlow/SwapIdentitiesHandler, used to exchange confidential identities with a counterparty.

Corda provides a number of built-in inlined subflows that you can use to handle common tasks. The most important are:

  • FinalityFlow, used to notarize, locally record, and broadcast a signed transaction to its participants and any extra parties.
  • ReceiveFinalityFlow, used to receive these notarized transactions from the FinalityFlow sender and record them locally.
  • CollectSignaturesFlow, used to collect a transaction’s required signatures.
  • SendTransactionFlow, used to send a signed transaction if it needs to be resolved on the other side.
  • ReceiveTransactionFlow, used to receive a signed transaction.

FinalityFlow

FinalityFlow lets you notarize the transaction and record it in the vault of the participants of all the transaction’s states:

val notarisedTx1: SignedTransaction = subFlow(FinalityFlow(fullySignedTx, listOf(counterpartySession), FINALISATION.childProgressTracker()))

SignedTransaction notarisedTx1 = subFlow(new FinalityFlow(fullySignedTx, singleton(counterpartySession), FINALISATION.childProgressTracker()));

You can choose to send the transaction to additional parties who aren’t one of the state’s participants:

val partySessions: List<FlowSession> = listOf(counterpartySession, initiateFlow(regulator))
val notarisedTx2: SignedTransaction = subFlow(FinalityFlow(fullySignedTx, partySessions, FINALISATION.childProgressTracker()))

List<FlowSession> partySessions = Arrays.asList(counterpartySession, initiateFlow(regulator));
SignedTransaction notarisedTx2 = subFlow(new FinalityFlow(fullySignedTx, partySessions, FINALISATION.childProgressTracker()));

To record a transaction for all parties:

  1. Only one party calls FinalityFlow.
  2. All other parties must call ReceiveFinalityFlow in their responder flow to receive the transaction:
subFlow(ReceiveFinalityFlow(counterpartySession, expectedTxId = idOfTxWeSigned))

subFlow(new ReceiveFinalityFlow(counterpartySession, idOfTxWeSigned));

idOfTxWeSigned is an optional parameter used to confirm that you have received the right transaction. It comes from SignTransactionFlow which is described in the error handling behaviour section.

Some transactions only have one participant: the initiator. That means there are no other parties to send transactions to during FinalityFlow. In this case, use an empty counterpartySession list.

Once a transaction is notarized and its input states consumed by the flow initiator, if the participant(s) receiving the transaction fail to verify it, or the receiving flow (the finality handler) fails due to some other error, then all parties will not have the up-to-date view of the ledger.

To recover from this scenario, the receiver’s finality handler is automatically sent to the node-flow-hospital. There, it is suspended and retried from its last checkpoint upon node restart, or according to other conditional retry rules - see flow hospital runtime behavior . This gives the node operator the opportunity to recover from the error. Until the issue is resolved, the node will continue to retry the flow on each startup. Upon successful completion by the receiver’s finality flow, the ledger will become fully consistent.

CollectSignaturesFlow/SignTransactionFlow

The transaction’s commands dictate the parties who need to sign a transaction. After you sign a transaction, you can automatically gather the signatures of the other required signers using CollectSignaturesFlow:

val fullySignedTx: SignedTransaction = subFlow(CollectSignaturesFlow(twiceSignedTx, setOf(counterpartySession, regulatorSession), SIGS_GATHERING.childProgressTracker()))

SignedTransaction fullySignedTx = subFlow(new CollectSignaturesFlow(twiceSignedTx, emptySet(), SIGS_GATHERING.childProgressTracker()));

Each required signer will need to respond by invoking its own SignTransactionFlow subclass to check the transaction (by implementing the checkTransaction method) and provide their signature if they are satisfied:

val signTransactionFlow: SignTransactionFlow = object : SignTransactionFlow(counterpartySession) {
    override fun checkTransaction(stx: SignedTransaction) = requireThat {
        // Any additional checking we see fit...
        val outputState = stx.tx.outputsOfType<DummyState>().single()
        require(outputState.magicNumber == 777)
    }
}

val idOfTxWeSigned = subFlow(signTransactionFlow).id

class SignTxFlow extends SignTransactionFlow {
    private SignTxFlow(FlowSession otherSession, ProgressTracker progressTracker) {
        super(otherSession, progressTracker);
    }

    @Override
    protected void checkTransaction(@NotNull SignedTransaction stx) {
        requireThat(require -> {
            // Any additional checking we see fit...
            DummyState outputState = (DummyState) stx.getTx().getOutputs().get(0).getData();
            checkArgument(outputState.getMagicNumber() == 777);
            return null;
        });
    }
}

SecureHash idOfTxWeSigned = subFlow(new SignTxFlow(counterpartySession, SignTransactionFlow.tracker())).getId();

Check that:

  • The transaction received is the expected type, and has the expected types of inputs and outputs.
  • The properties of the outputs are expected, unless you have integrated reference data sources to facilitate this.
  • The transaction is correctly spending asset states and is not spending them maliciously. The transaction creator could have access to some of signer’s state references.

SendTransactionFlow and ReceiveTransactionFlow

When you verify a transaction you’ve received from a counterparty, you must also verify every transaction in its dependency chain. This means the receiving party needs to be able to ask the sender for all the details of the chain. The sender sends the transaction using SendTransactionFlow to process all subsequent transaction data vending requests while the receiver walks the dependency chain using ReceiveTransactionFlow:

subFlow(SendTransactionFlow(counterpartySession, twiceSignedTx))

// Optional request verification to further restrict data access.
subFlow(object : SendTransactionFlow(counterpartySession, twiceSignedTx) {
    override fun verifyDataRequest(dataRequest: FetchDataFlow.Request.Data) {
        // Extra request verification.
    }
})

subFlow(new SendTransactionFlow(counterpartySession, twiceSignedTx));

// Optional request verification to further restrict data access.
subFlow(new SendTransactionFlow(counterpartySession, twiceSignedTx) {
    @Override
    protected void verifyDataRequest(@NotNull FetchDataFlow.Request.Data dataRequest) {
        // Extra request verification.
    }
});

We can receive the transaction using ReceiveTransactionFlow, which will automatically download all the dependencies and verify the transaction:

val verifiedTransaction = subFlow(ReceiveTransactionFlow(counterpartySession))

SignedTransaction verifiedTransaction = subFlow(new ReceiveTransactionFlow(counterpartySession));

You can send and receive a StateAndRef dependency chain and automatically resolve its dependencies:

subFlow(SendStateAndRefFlow(counterpartySession, dummyStates))

// On the receive side ...
val resolvedStateAndRef = subFlow(ReceiveStateAndRefFlow<DummyState>(counterpartySession))

subFlow(new SendStateAndRefFlow(counterpartySession, dummyStates));

// On the receive side ...
List<StateAndRef<DummyState>> resolvedStateAndRef = subFlow(new ReceiveStateAndRefFlow<>(counterpartySession));

Why inlined subflows?

Inlined subflows provide a way to share commonly used flow code while forcing users to create a parent flow. Without inlined flows, flow users could create insecure chains of events. For example, a user could make CollectSignaturesFlow an initiating flow that automatically kicks off SignTransactionFlow, which signs the transaction. A malicious node could send any transaction to them using CollectSignaturesFlow, and they would automatically sign it.

If you make this pair of flows inlined, you can make sure the user actively chooses to either sign the transaction or not by forcing them to nest it in their own parent flows.

If you’re writing a subflow, the decision of whether you should make it initiating should depend on whether the counter-flow needs broader context to achieve its goal.

FlowException

Suppose a node throws an exception while running a flow. Any counterparty flows waiting for a message from the node (as part of a call to receive or sendAndReceive) are notified that the flow has ended unexpectedly and that the related counterparty flows will be terminated. However, the counterparties are not told what the exception is.

If you wish to notify any waiting counterparties of the exception cause, throw a FlowException:

The flow framework automatically propagates the FlowException back to the waiting counterparties.

There are many scenarios in which throwing a FlowException would be appropriate:

  • A transaction doesn’t verify().
  • A transaction’s signatures are invalid.
  • The transaction does not match the parameters of the deal as discussed.
  • You are reneging on a deal.

Below is an example using FlowException:

@InitiatingFlow
class SendMoneyFlow(private val moneyRecipient: Party) : FlowLogic<Unit>() {
    @Suspendable
    override fun call() {
        val money = Money(10.0, USD)
        try {
            initiateFlow(moneyRecipient).sendAndReceive<Unit>(money)
        } catch (e: FlowException) {
            if (e.cause is WrongCurrencyException) {
                log.info(e.message, e)
            }
        }
    }
}

@InitiatedBy(SendMoneyFlow::class)
class ReceiveMoneyFlow(private val moneySender: FlowSession) : FlowLogic<Unit>() {
    @Suspendable
    override fun call() {
        val receivedMoney = moneySender.receive<Money>().unwrap { it }
        if (receivedMoney.currency != GBP) {
            // Wrap a thrown Exception with a FlowException for the counter party to receive it.
            throw FlowException(WrongCurrencyException("I only accept GBP, sorry!"))
        }
    }
}

class WrongCurrencyException(message: String) : CordaRuntimeException(message)

HospitalizeFlowException

Some operations can fail intermittently, and will succeed if they are tried again later. Flows can halt their execution in such situations. By throwing a HospitalizeFlowException, a flow will stop and retry at a later time (on the next node restart).

A HospitalizeFlowException can be defined in various ways:

Below is an example of a flow that should retry again in the future if an error occurs:

class TryAccessServiceFlow(): FlowLogic<Unit>() {
    override fun call() {
        try {
            val code = serviceHub.cordaService(HTTPService::class.java).get() // throws UnknownHostException.
        } catch (e: UnknownHostException) {
            // Accessing the service failed! It might be offline. Let's hospitalize this flow, and have it retry again on next node startup.
            throw HospitalizeFlowException("Service might be offline!", e)
        }
    }
}

ProgressTracker

You can give your flow a progress tracker. This lets you track the flow’s progress visually in your node’s CRaSH shell.

To provide a progress tracker, override the flow’s FlowLogic.progressTracker:

companion object {
    object ID_OTHER_NODES : Step("Identifying other nodes on the network.")
    object SENDING_AND_RECEIVING_DATA : Step("Sending data between parties.")
    object EXTRACTING_VAULT_STATES : Step("Extracting states from the vault.")
    object OTHER_TX_COMPONENTS : Step("Gathering a transaction's other components.")
    object TX_BUILDING : Step("Building a transaction.")
    object TX_SIGNING : Step("Signing a transaction.")
    object TX_VERIFICATION : Step("Verifying a transaction.")
    object SIGS_GATHERING : Step("Gathering a transaction's signatures.") {
        // Wiring up a child progress tracker allows us to see the
        // subflow's progress steps in our flow's progress tracker.
        override fun childProgressTracker() = CollectSignaturesFlow.tracker()
    }

    object VERIFYING_SIGS : Step("Verifying a transaction's signatures.")
    object FINALISATION : Step("Finalising a transaction.") {
        override fun childProgressTracker() = FinalityFlow.tracker()
    }

    fun tracker() = ProgressTracker(
            ID_OTHER_NODES,
            SENDING_AND_RECEIVING_DATA,
            EXTRACTING_VAULT_STATES,
            OTHER_TX_COMPONENTS,
            TX_BUILDING,
            TX_SIGNING,
            TX_VERIFICATION,
            SIGS_GATHERING,
            VERIFYING_SIGS,
            FINALISATION
    )
}

private static final Step ID_OTHER_NODES = new Step("Identifying other nodes on the network.");
private static final Step SENDING_AND_RECEIVING_DATA = new Step("Sending data between parties.");
private static final Step EXTRACTING_VAULT_STATES = new Step("Extracting states from the vault.");
private static final Step OTHER_TX_COMPONENTS = new Step("Gathering a transaction's other components.");
private static final Step TX_BUILDING = new Step("Building a transaction.");
private static final Step TX_SIGNING = new Step("Signing a transaction.");
private static final Step TX_VERIFICATION = new Step("Verifying a transaction.");
private static final Step SIGS_GATHERING = new Step("Gathering a transaction's signatures.") {
    // Wiring up a child progress tracker allows us to see the
    // subflow's progress steps in our flow's progress tracker.
    @Override
    public ProgressTracker childProgressTracker() {
        return CollectSignaturesFlow.tracker();
    }
};
private static final Step VERIFYING_SIGS = new Step("Verifying a transaction's signatures.");
private static final Step FINALISATION = new Step("Finalising a transaction.") {
    @Override
    public ProgressTracker childProgressTracker() {
        return FinalityFlow.tracker();
    }
};

private final ProgressTracker progressTracker = new ProgressTracker(
        ID_OTHER_NODES,
        SENDING_AND_RECEIVING_DATA,
        EXTRACTING_VAULT_STATES,
        OTHER_TX_COMPONENTS,
        TX_BUILDING,
        TX_SIGNING,
        TX_VERIFICATION,
        SIGS_GATHERING,
        FINALISATION
);

Then, update the progress tracker’s current step as you progress through the flow:

progressTracker.currentStep = ID_OTHER_NODES

progressTracker.setCurrentStep(ID_OTHER_NODES);

Calling external systems inside of flows

You can wait for the result of an external operation running outside of the context of a flow - flows suspend when waiting for a result. This frees up flow worker threads to continue processing other flows.

You could use this functionality to:

  • Trigger a long running process on an external system.
  • Retrieve information from a external service that might go down.

FlowLogic provides two await functions that allow custom operations to be defined and executed outside of the context of a flow:

  • FlowExternalOperation: Returns a result which should be run using a thread from one of the node’s thread pools.
  • FlowExternalAsyncOperation: Returns a future, which you should run on a thread provided for its implementation. Threading needs to be explicitly handled when using FlowExternalAsyncOperation.
  • FlowExternalOperation: Allows developers to write an operation that runs on a thread provided by the node’s flow external operation thread pool.

You can call FlowExternalOperation from a flow to run an operation on a new thread, allowing the flow to suspend:

@StartableByRPC
class FlowUsingFlowExternalOperation : FlowLogic<Unit>() {

    @Suspendable
    override fun call() {
        // Other flow operations

        // Call [FlowLogic.await] to execute an external operation
        // The result of the operation is returned to the flow
        val response: Response = await(
            // Pass in an implementation of [FlowExternalOperation]
            RetrieveDataFromExternalSystem(
                serviceHub.cordaService(ExternalService::class.java),
                Data("amount", 1)
            )
        )
        // Other flow operations
    }

    class RetrieveDataFromExternalSystem(
        private val externalService: ExternalService,
        private val data: Data
    ) : FlowExternalOperation<Response> {

        // Implement [execute] which will be run on a thread outside of the flow's context
        override fun execute(deduplicationId: String): Response {
            return externalService.retrieveDataFromExternalSystem(deduplicationId, data)
        }
    }
}

@CordaService
class ExternalService(serviceHub: AppServiceHub) : SingletonSerializeAsToken() {

    private val client: OkHttpClient = OkHttpClient()

    fun retrieveDataFromExternalSystem(deduplicationId: String, data: Data): Response {
        return try {
            // [DeduplicationId] passed into the request so the external system can handle deduplication
            client.newCall(
                Request.Builder().url("https://externalsystem.com/endpoint/$deduplicationId").post(
                    RequestBody.create(
                        MediaType.parse("text/plain"), data.toString()
                    )
                ).build()
            ).execute()
        } catch (e: IOException) {
            // Handle checked exception
            throw HospitalizeFlowException("External API call failed", e)
        }
    }
}

data class Data(val name: String, val value: Any)
@StartableByRPC
public class FlowUsingFlowExternalOperation extends FlowLogic<Void> {

    @Override
    @Suspendable
    public Void call() {
        // Other flow operations

        // Call [FlowLogic.await] to execute an external operation
        // The result of the operation is returned to the flow
        Response response = await(
                // Pass in an implementation of [FlowExternalOperation]
                new RetrieveDataFromExternalSystem(
                        getServiceHub().cordaService(ExternalService.class),
                        new Data("amount", 1)
                )
        );
        // Other flow operations
        return null;
    }

    public class RetrieveDataFromExternalSystem implements FlowExternalOperation<Response> {

        private ExternalService externalService;
        private Data data;

        public RetrieveDataFromExternalSystem(ExternalService externalService, Data data) {
            this.externalService = externalService;
            this.data = data;
        }

        // Implement [execute] which will be run on a thread outside of the flow's context
        @Override
        public Response execute(String deduplicationId) {
            return externalService.retrieveDataFromExternalSystem(deduplicationId, data);
        }
    }
}

@CordaService
public class ExternalService extends SingletonSerializeAsToken {

    private OkHttpClient client = new OkHttpClient();

    public ExternalService(AppServiceHub serviceHub) { }

    public Response retrieveDataFromExternalSystem(String deduplicationId, Data data) {
        try {
            // [DeduplicationId] passed into the request so the external system can handle deduplication
            return client.newCall(
                    new Request.Builder().url("https://externalsystem.com/endpoint/" + deduplicationId).post(
                            RequestBody.create(
                                    MediaType.parse("text/plain"), data.toString()
                            )
                    ).build()
            ).execute();
        } catch (IOException e) {
            // Must handle checked exception
            throw new HospitalizeFlowException("External API call failed", e);
        }
    }
}

public class Data {

    private String name;
    private Object value;

    public Data(String name, Object value) {
        this.name = name;
        this.value = value;
    }

    public String getName() {
        return name;
    }

    public Object getValue() {
        return value;
    }
}

In the code above:

  1. ExternalService is a Corda service that provides a way to contact an external system (by HTTP in this example). ExternalService.retrieveDataFromExternalSystem is passed a deduplicationId which is included as part of the request to the external system. The external system, in this example, handles deduplication and returns the previous result if it was already computed.
  2. An implementation of FlowExternalOperation (RetrieveDataFromExternalSystem) is created that calls ExternalService.retrieveDataFromExternalSystem.
  3. RetrieveDataFromExternalSystem is passed into await to execute the code contained in RetrieveDataFromExternalSystem.execute.
  4. The result of RetrieveDataFromExternalSystem.execute is returned to the flow once its execution finishes.

FlowExternalAsyncOperation allows developers to write an operation that returns a future with threading handled within the CorDapp.

Implementations of FlowExternalAsyncOperation must return a CompletableFuture. The developer decides how to create this future. The best practice is to use CompletableFuture.supplyAsync and supply an executor to run the future. You can use other libraries to generate futures, as long as a CompletableFuture is returned out of FlowExternalAsyncOperation. You can see an example of creating a future using Guava’s ListenableFuture below.

Below is an example of how you can call FlowExternalAsyncOperation:

@StartableByRPC
class FlowUsingFlowExternalAsyncOperation : FlowLogic<Unit>() {

    @Suspendable
    override fun call() {
        // Other flow operations

        // Call [FlowLogic.await] to execute an external operation
        // The result of the operation is returned to the flow
        val response: Response = await(
            // Pass in an implementation of [FlowExternalAsyncOperation]
            RetrieveDataFromExternalSystem(
                serviceHub.cordaService(ExternalService::class.java),
                Data("amount", 1)
            )
        )
        // Other flow operations
    }

    class RetrieveDataFromExternalSystem(
        private val externalService: ExternalService,
        private val data: Data
    ) : FlowExternalAsyncOperation<Response> {

        // Implement [execute] which needs to be provided with a new thread to benefit from suspending the flow
        override fun execute(deduplicationId: String): CompletableFuture<Response> {
            return externalService.retrieveDataFromExternalSystem(deduplicationId, data)
        }
    }
}

@CordaService
class ExternalService(serviceHub: AppServiceHub) : SingletonSerializeAsToken() {

    private val client: OkHttpClient = OkHttpClient()

    // [ExecutorService] created to provide a fixed number of threads to the futures created in this service
    private val executor: ExecutorService = Executors.newFixedThreadPool(
        4,
        ThreadFactoryBuilder().setNameFormat("external-service-thread").build()
    )

    fun retrieveDataFromExternalSystem(deduplicationId: String, data: Data): CompletableFuture<Response> {
        // Create a [CompletableFuture] to be executed by the [FlowExternalAsyncOperation]
        return CompletableFuture.supplyAsync(
            Supplier {
                try {
                    // [DeduplicationId] passed into the request so the external system can handle deduplication
                    client.newCall(
                        Request.Builder().url("https://externalsystem.com/endpoint/$deduplicationId").post(
                            RequestBody.create(
                                MediaType.parse("text/plain"), data.toString()
                            )
                        ).build()
                    ).execute()
                } catch (e: IOException) {
                    // Handle checked exception
                    throw HospitalizeFlowException("External API call failed", e)
                }
            },
            // The future must run on a new thread
            executor
        )
    }
}

data class Data(val name: String, val value: Any)
@StartableByRPC
public class FlowUsingFlowExternalAsyncOperation extends FlowLogic<Void> {

    @Override
    @Suspendable
    public Void call() {
        // Other flow operations

        // Call [FlowLogic.await] to execute an external operation
        // The result of the operation is returned to the flow
        Response response = await(
                // Pass in an implementation of [FlowExternalAsyncOperation]
                new RetrieveDataFromExternalSystem(
                        getServiceHub().cordaService(ExternalService.class),
                        new Data("amount", 1)
                )
        );
        // Other flow operations
        return null;
    }

    public class RetrieveDataFromExternalSystem implements FlowExternalAsyncOperation<Response> {

        private ExternalService externalService;
        private Data data;

        public RetrieveDataFromExternalSystem(ExternalService externalService, Data data) {
            this.externalService = externalService;
            this.data = data;
        }

        // Implement [execute] which needs to be provided with a new thread to benefit from suspending the flow
        @Override
        public CompletableFuture<Response> execute(String deduplicationId) {
            return externalService.retrieveDataFromExternalSystem(deduplicationId, data);
        }
    }
}

@CordaService
public class ExternalService extends SingletonSerializeAsToken {

    private OkHttpClient client = new OkHttpClient();

    // [ExecutorService] created to provide a fixed number of threads to the futures created in this service
    private ExecutorService executor = Executors.newFixedThreadPool(
            4,
            new ThreadFactoryBuilder().setNameFormat("external-service-thread").build()
    );

    public ExternalService(AppServiceHub serviceHub) { }

    public CompletableFuture<Response> retrieveDataFromExternalSystem(String deduplicationId, Data data) {
        // Create a [CompletableFuture] to be executed by the [FlowExternalAsyncOperation]
        return CompletableFuture.supplyAsync(
                () -> {
                    try {
                        // [DeduplicationId] passed into the request so the external system can handle deduplication
                        return client.newCall(
                                new Request.Builder().url("https://externalsystem.com/endpoint/" + deduplicationId).post(
                                        RequestBody.create(
                                                MediaType.parse("text/plain"), data.toString()
                                        )
                                ).build()
                        ).execute();
                    } catch (IOException e) {
                        // Must handle checked exception
                        throw new HospitalizeFlowException("External API call failed", e);
                    }
                },
                // The future must run on a new thread
                executor
        );
    }
}

public class Data {

    private String name;
    private Object value;

    public Data(String name, Object value) {
        this.name = name;
        this.value = value;
    }

    public String getName() {
        return name;
    }

    public Object getValue() {
        return value;
    }
}

In the code above:

  1. ExternalService is a Corda service that provides a way to contact an external system (by HTTP in this example). ExternalService.retrieveDataFromExternalSystem is passed a deduplicationId, which is included as part of the request to the external system. The external system, in this example, handles deduplication and returns the previous result if it was already computed.
  2. A CompletableFuture is created that contacts the external system. CompletableFuture.supplyAsync takes in a reference to the ExecutorService, which provides a thread for the external operation to run on.
  3. An implementation of FlowExternalAsyncOperation (RetrieveDataFromExternalSystem) is created that calls the ExternalService.retrieveDataFromExternalSystem.
  4. RetrieveDataFromExternalSystem is passed into await to execute the code contained in RetrieveDataFromExternalSystem.execute.
  5. The result of RetrieveDataFromExternalSystem.execute is then returned to the flow once its execution finishes.

A flow can rerun from any point where it suspends. That means a flow can execute code multiple times depending on the retry point. For context contained inside a flow, values are reset to the state recorded at the last suspension point. This means that most properties inside are flow safe when retrying. External operations are at greater risk because they are executed outside of the context of flows.

External operations are provided with a deduplicationId to allow CorDapps to decide whether to run the operation again or return a result retrieved from a previous attempt. How deduplication is handled depends on the CorDapp and how the external system works. For example, an external system might already handle this scenario and return the result from a previous calculation or it could be idempotent and can be safely executed multiple times.

The deduplicationId passed to an external operation is constructed from its calling flow’s ID and the number of suspends the flow has made. Therefore, the deduplicationId is guaranteed to be the same on a retry and will never be used again once the flow has successfully reached its next suspension point.

Some examples of how you could handle deduplication:

  • The external system records successful computations and returns previous results if requested again.
  • The external system is idempotent, meaning the computation can be made multiple times without altering any state.
  • An extra external service maintains a record of deduplication IDs.
  • Deduplication is recorded inside of the node’s database.

The code below demonstrates how to convert a ListenableFuture into a CompletableFuture, allowing the result to be executed using a FlowExternalAsyncOperation.

@CordaService
class ExternalService(serviceHub: AppServiceHub) : SingletonSerializeAsToken() {

    private val client: OkHttpClient = OkHttpClient()

    // Guava's [ListeningExecutorService] created to supply a fixed number of threads
    private val guavaExecutor: ListeningExecutorService = MoreExecutors.listeningDecorator(
        Executors.newFixedThreadPool(
            4,
            ThreadFactoryBuilder().setNameFormat("guava-thread").build()
        )
    )

    fun retrieveDataFromExternalSystem(deduplicationId: String, data: Data): CompletableFuture<Response> {
        // Create a Guava [ListenableFuture]
        val guavaFuture: ListenableFuture<Response> = guavaExecutor.submit(Callable<Response> {
            try {
                // [DeduplicationId] passed into the request so the external system can handle deduplication
                client.newCall(
                    Request.Builder().url("https://externalsystem.com/endpoint/$deduplicationId").post(
                        RequestBody.create(
                            MediaType.parse("text/plain"), data.toString()
                        )
                    ).build()
                ).execute()
            } catch (e: IOException) {
                // Handle checked exception
                throw HospitalizeFlowException("External API call failed", e)
            }
        })
        // Create a [CompletableFuture]
        return object : CompletableFuture<Response>() {
            override fun cancel(mayInterruptIfRunning: Boolean): Boolean {
                return guavaFuture.cancel(mayInterruptIfRunning).also {
                    super.cancel(mayInterruptIfRunning)
                }
            }
        }.also { completableFuture ->
            // Create a callback that completes the returned [CompletableFuture] when the underlying [ListenableFuture] finishes
            val callback = object : FutureCallback<Response> {
                override fun onSuccess(result: Response?) {
                    completableFuture.complete(result)
                }

                override fun onFailure(t: Throwable) {
                    completableFuture.completeExceptionally(t)
                }
            }
            // Register the callback
            Futures.addCallback(guavaFuture, callback, guavaExecutor)
        }
    }
}
@CordaService
public class ExternalService extends SingletonSerializeAsToken {

    private OkHttpClient client = new OkHttpClient();

    public ExternalService(AppServiceHub serviceHub) { }

    private ListeningExecutorService guavaExecutor = MoreExecutors.listeningDecorator(
            Executors.newFixedThreadPool(
                    4,
                    new ThreadFactoryBuilder().setNameFormat("guava-thread").build()
            )
    );

    public CompletableFuture<Response> retrieveDataFromExternalSystem(String deduplicationId, Data data) {
        // Create a Guava [ListenableFuture]
        ListenableFuture<Response> guavaFuture = guavaExecutor.submit(() -> {
            try {
                // [DeduplicationId] passed into the request so the external system can handle deduplication
                return client.newCall(
                        new Request.Builder().url("https://externalsystem.com/endpoint/" + deduplicationId).post(
                                RequestBody.create(
                                        MediaType.parse("text/plain"), data.toString()
                                )
                        ).build()
                ).execute();
            } catch (IOException e) {
                // Must handle checked exception
                throw new HospitalizeFlowException("External API call failed", e);
            }
        });
        // Create a [CompletableFuture]
        CompletableFuture<Response> completableFuture = new CompletableFuture<Response>() {
            // If the returned [CompletableFuture] is cancelled then the underlying [ListenableFuture] must be cancelled as well
            @Override
            public boolean cancel(boolean mayInterruptIfRunning) {
                boolean result = guavaFuture.cancel(mayInterruptIfRunning);
                super.cancel(mayInterruptIfRunning);
                return result;
            }
        };
        // Create a callback that completes the returned [CompletableFuture] when the underlying [ListenableFuture] finishes
        FutureCallback<Response> callback = new FutureCallback<Response>() {
            @Override
            public void onSuccess(Response result) {
                completableFuture.complete(result);
            }

            @Override
            public void onFailure(Throwable t) {
                completableFuture.completeExceptionally(t);
            }
        };
        // Register the callback
        Futures.addCallback(guavaFuture, callback, guavaExecutor);

        return completableFuture;
    }
}

In the code above:

  1. A ListenableFuture is created and receives a thread from the ListeningExecutorService. This future does all the processing.
  2. A CompletableFuture is created, so that it can be returned to and executed by a FlowExternalAsyncOperation.
  3. A FutureCallback is registered to the ListenableFuture, which will complete the CompletableFuture (either successfully or exceptionally) depending on the outcome of the ListenableFuture.
  4. CompletableFuture.cancel is overridden to propagate its cancellation down to the underlying ListenableFuture.

Concurrency, locking and waiting

Corda is designed to:

  • Run many flows in parallel.
  • Persist flows to storage and resurrect those flows later.

This means you should take care when performing locking or waiting operations.

Flows should avoid using locks or interacting with objects that are shared between flows (except for ServiceHub and other carefully crafted services such as Oracles). Locks significantly reduce the scalability of the node, and can cause the node to deadlock if they remain locked across flow context-switch boundaries (such as when sending and receiving from peers or sleeping).

A flow can wait until a specific transaction has been received and verified by the node using FlowLogic.waitForLedgerCommit. Otherwise, schedule activities for future times using SchedulableState.

If you need to create brief pauses in flows, you have the option of using FlowLogic.sleep where you might have used Thread.sleep. Flows should not use Thread.sleep, since this will prevent the node from processing other flows in the meantime, significantly impairing the performance of the node.

Corda is optimized for short-lived flows. Long-lived flows make upgrading nodes or CorDapps much more complicated. You should not use FlowLogic.sleep to create long-running flows or as a substitute for the SchedulableState scheduler.

For example, the finance package uses FlowLogic.sleep to make several attempts at coin selection when many states are soft locked, to wait for states to become unlocked:

for (retryCount in 1..maxRetries) {
    if (!attemptSpend(services, amount, lockId, notary, onlyFromIssuerParties, withIssuerRefs, stateAndRefs)) {
        log.warn("Coin selection failed on attempt $retryCount")
        // TODO: revisit the back off strategy for contended spending.
        if (retryCount != maxRetries) {
            stateAndRefs.clear()
            val durationMillis = (minOf(retrySleep.shl(retryCount), retryCap / 2) * (1.0 + Math.random())).toInt()
            FlowLogic.sleep(durationMillis.millis)
        } else {
            log.warn("Insufficient spendable states identified for $amount")
        }
    } else {
        break
    }
}

Killing flows

A flow becomes unusable and problematic when it is:

  • Blocked due to a never-ending or long-running loop.
  • Waiting indefinitely for another node to respond. *Started accidentally.

To resolve these issues, you can kill a flow. This effectively “cancels” that flow.

Overview

Killing a flow gracefully terminates the flow. When you kill a flow:

  1. An UnexpectedFlowEndException is propagated to any nodes the flow is interacting with.
  2. The flow releases its resources and any soft locks that it reserved.
  3. An exception is returned to the calling client (as a FlowKilledException unless another exception is specified).

You can kill a flow using:

  • The flow kill shell command.
  • The CordaRPCOps.killFlow command, when writing an RPC client.

Exceptions

Exceptions are only propagated between flows (either from a flow initiator to its responder, or vice versa) when there is an active session established between them. A session is considered active if there are further calls to functions that interact with it within the flow’s execution, such as send, receive, and sendAndReceive. If a flow’s counterparty flow is killed, it only receives an UnexceptedFlowEndException once it interacts with the failed session again.

A FlowKilledException is propagated to the client that started the initiating flow. You cannot catch the KilledFlowException unless it is thrown manually - see cooperating with a killed flow .

Cooperating with a killed flow

To allow a killed flow to terminate when you execute the kill flow command, make sure your flow includes exit points.

All suspendable functions (functions annotated with @Suspendable) already take this into account, and check if a flow has been killed. This allows a killed flow to terminate when reaching a suspendable function. The flow will also exit if it is currently suspended:

@Suspendable
override fun call() {
    val session = initiateFlow(party)
    while (true) {
        // processing code
        session.sendAndReceive<String>("Here is some data")
    }
}
@Override
@Suspendable
public Void call() {
    FlowSession session = initiateFlow(party);
    while (true) {
        // processing code
        session.sendAndReceive(String.class,"Here is some data");
    }
}

A killed flow running this code will exit when it reaches the next sendAndReceive, or immediately if the flow is already suspended by the sendAndReceive call.

If your flow has functions that are not marked as @Suspendable, you may need to check the status of the flow manually to cooperate with the kill flow request - add a check on the isKilled flag of the flow:

@Suspendable
override fun call() {
    while (true) {
        if (isKilled) {
            throw KilledFlowException(runId)
        }
        // processing code
    }
}
@Override
@Suspendable
public Void call() {
    while (true) {
        if (isKilled()) {
            throw new KilledFlowException(getRunId());
        }
        // processing code
    }
}

The function in the example above exits the loop by checking the isKilled flag and throws an exception if the flow has been killed.

There are two overloads of checkFlowIsNotKilled that simplify the code above:

@Suspendable
override fun call() {
    while (true) {
        checkFlowIsNotKilled()
        // processing code
    }
}
@Override
@Suspendable
public Void call() {
    while (true) {
        checkFlowIsNotKilled();
        // processing code
    }
}

The other overload takes in a message to add to the returned KilledFlowException.

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