Synchronising transactions between database and Kafka producer

I'd suggest to use a slightly altered variant of approach 2.

Write into your database only, but in addition to the actual table writes, also write "events" into a special table within that same database; these event records would contain the aggregations you need. In the easiest way, you'd simply insert another entity e.g. mapped by JPA, which contains a JSON property with the aggregate payload. Of course this could be automated by some means of transaction listener / framework component.

Then use Debezium to capture the changes just from that table and stream them into Kafka. That way you have both: eventually consistent state in Kafka (the events in Kafka may trail behind or you might see a few events a second time after a restart, but eventually they'll reflect the database state) without the need for distributed transactions, and the business level event semantics you're after.

(Disclaimer: I'm the lead of Debezium; funnily enough I'm just in the process of writing a blog post discussing this approach in more detail)

Here are the posts

first of all, I have to say that I’m no Kafka, nor a Spring expert but I think that it’s more a conceptual challenge when writing to independent resources and the solution should be adaptable to your technology stack. Furthermore, I should say that this solution tries to solve the problem without an external component like Debezium, because in my opinion each additional component brings challenges in testing, maintaining and running an application which is often underestimated when choosing such an option. Also not every database can be used as a Debezium-source.

To make sure that we are talking about the same goals, let’s clarify the situation in an simplified airline example, where customers can buy tickets. After a successful order the customer will receive a message (mail, push-notification, …) that is sent by an external messaging system (the system we have to talk with).

In a traditional JMS world with an XA transaction between our database (where we store orders) and the JMS provider it would look like the following: The client sets the order to our app where we start a transaction. The app stores the order in its database. Then the message is sent to JMS and you can commit the transaction. Both operations participate at the transaction even when they’re talking to their own resources. As the XA transaction guarantees ACID we’re fine.

Let’s bring Kafka (or any other resource that is not able to participate at the XA transaction) in the game. As there is no coordinator that syncs both transactions anymore the main idea of the following is to split processing in two parts with a persistent state.

When you store the order in your database you can also store the message (with aggregated data) in the same database (e.g. as JSON in a CLOB-column) that you want to send to Kafka afterwards. Same resource – ACID guaranteed, everything fine so far. Now you need a mechanism that polls your “KafkaTasks”-Table for new tasks that should be send to a Kafka-Topic (e.g. with a timer service, maybe @Scheduled annotation can be used in Spring). After the message has been successfully sent to Kafka you can delete the task entry. This ensures that the message to Kafka is only sent when the order is also successfully stored in application database. Did we achieve the same guarantees as we have when using a XA transaction? Unfortunately, no, as there is still the chance that writing to Kafka works but the deletion of the task fails. In this case the retry-mechanism (you would need one as mentioned in your question) would reprocess the task an sends the message twice. If your business case is happy with this “at-least-once”-guarantee you’re done here with a imho semi-complex solution that could be easily implemented as framework functionality so not everyone has to bother with the details.

If you need “exactly-once” then you cannot store your state in the application database (in this case “deletion of a task” is the “state”) but instead you must store it in Kafka (assuming that you have ACID guarantees between two Kafka topics). An example: Let’s say you have 100 tasks in the table (IDs 1 to 100) and the task job processes the first 10. You write your Kafka messages to their topic and another message with the ID 10 to “your topic”. All in the same Kafka-transaction. In the next cycle you consume your topic (value is 10) and take this value to get the next 10 tasks (and delete the already processed tasks).

If there are easier (in-application) solutions with the same guarantees I’m looking forward to hear from you!

Sorry for the long answer but I hope it helps.

All the approach described above are the best way to approach the problem and are well defined pattern. You can explore these in the links provided below.

Pattern: Transactional outbox

Publish an event or message as part of a database transaction by saving it in an OUTBOX in the database.

Pattern: Polling publisher

Publish messages by polling the outbox in the database.

Pattern: Transaction log tailing

Publish changes made to the database by tailing the transaction log.