Introducing Jasper — Asynchronous Messaging for .Net

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For my take on when you would use a tool like Jasper, see How Should Microservice’s Communicate?

“Jasper” is the codename for a new messaging and command execution framework that my shop has been building out to both integrate with and eventually replace our existing messaging infrastructure as we migrate applications to Netstandard 2.0, ASP.Net Core, and yes, adopt a microservices architecture. While we’ve been working very hard on it over the past 6 months, I’ve been hesitant to talk about it too much online. That ends today with the release of the first usable alpha (0.5.0) to Nuget today.

We’ve already done a great deal of work and it’s fairly feature rich, but I’m really just hoping to start drumming up some community interest and getting whatever feedback I can. Production-worthy versions of Jasper should hopefully be ready this spring.

Okay, so what problems does it solve over just using queues?

It’s ostensibly about NServiceBus (for right now, let’s call that the most similar competitor to Jasper), but Sure, You Can Just Use RabbitMQ sums it up perfectly. Jasper already supports functionality to:

Why would you want to use Jasper over [fill in the blank tool]?

I hate this part of talking about any kind of OSS activity or choice, but I know it’s coming, so let’s get to it:

  • Jasper’s execution pipeline is leaner than any other .Net framework that I’m aware of, and we’re theorizing that this will lead to Jasper having better performance, less memory utilization, less GC thrashing, and easier to understand stacktraces than other .Net frameworks. My very next blog post will be showing off our “special sauce” usage of Roslyn code generation and runtime compilation that makes this all possible.
  • Jasper requires much less coupling from your application code to the framework, especially compared to the typical .Net framework that requires you to implement their own interfaces or base classes, tangle your code with fluent interfaces, or force you to spray attributes all over your code. Some of you aren’t going to like that, but my preference is always cleaner code. There’s plenty of room in the world for both of us;)
  • It’s FOSS
  • Jasper plays nicely with ASP.Net Core and even comes with recipes for quick integration into ASP.Net Core applications

Ping/Pong Hello World

The obligatory “hello, world” project in messaging is to send a “ping” message from one service to another, with the expectation that the receiving system will send back a “pong.” So let’s start by saying we have a couple message types like these:

    public class PingMessage
    {
        public string Name { get; set; }
    }

    public class PongMessage
    {
        public string Name { get; set; }
    }

Note: Jasper does not require you to share .Net types between systems, but it’s the easiest way to get started so here you go.

Starting with the “Ponger” service (if the code is cut off in the blog post, it’s all in this project on GitHub), just follow these steps:

  1. “dotnet new console” to create a new console app
  2. Add a Nuget reference to Jasper.CommandLine that will also bring in the core Jasper Nuget as well

From there, the entire “Ponger” service is the following code:

    class Program
    {
        static int Main(string[] args)
        {
            return JasperAgent.Run(args, _ =>
            {
                _.Logging.UseConsoleLogging = true;

                _.Transports.LightweightListenerAt(2601);
            });
        }
    }

    public class PingHandler
    {
        public object Handle(PingMessage message)
        {
            ConsoleWriter.Write(ConsoleColor.Cyan, "Got a ping with name: " + message.Name);

            var response = new PongMessage
            {
                Name = message.Name
            };

            // Send a Pong response back to the original sender
            return Respond.With(response).ToSender();
        }
    }

Now, moving on to the “Pinger” service. Follow the same steps to start a new .Net console project and add a reference to the Jasper.CommandLine Nuget.

From there, we can utilize ASP.Net Core’s support for background services to send a new ping message every second:

    public class PingSender : BackgroundService
    {
        private readonly IServiceBus _bus;

        public PingSender(IServiceBus bus)
        {
            _bus = bus;
        }

        protected override Task ExecuteAsync(CancellationToken stoppingToken)
        {
            int count = 1;

            return Task.Run(async () =>
            {
                while (!stoppingToken.IsCancellationRequested)
                {
                    Thread.Sleep(1000);

                    await _bus.Send(new PingMessage
                    {
                        Name = "Message" + count++
                    });
                }
            }, stoppingToken);
        }
    }

Next, we need a simple message handler that receives the pong replies and writes the receipt to the console output:

    // Handles the Pong responses
    public class PongHandler
    {
        public void Handle(PongMessage message)
        {
            ConsoleWriter.Write(ConsoleColor.Cyan, "Got a pong back with name: " + message.Name);
        }
    }

Now, there’s a little more work to configure the Pinger application:

    class Program
    {
        static int Main(string[] args)
        {
            return JasperAgent.Run(args, _ =>
            {
                // Way too verbose logging suitable
                // for debugging
                _.Logging.UseConsoleLogging = true;

                // Listen for incoming messages
                // at port 2600
                _.Transports.LightweightListenerAt(2600);

                // Using static routing rules to start
                _.Publish.Message()
                    .To("tcp://localhost:2601");

                // Just adding the PingSender
                _.Services.AddSingleton<IHostedService, PingSender>();
            });
        }
    }

If I start up the Pinger application with “dotnet run” at the command line, I get output like this:

Running service 'Pinger'
Application Assembly: Pinger, Version=1.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=null
Hosting environment: Production
Content root path: /Users/user/code/jasper/src/Pinger/bin/Debug/netcoreapp2.0/
Listening for loopback messages
Listening at tcp://YOURMACHINE:2600/

Active sending agent to ws://default/
Active sending agent to tcp://localhost:2601/
Active sending agent to loopback://replies/
Active sending agent to loopback://retries/
Application started. Press Ctrl+C to shut down.

Which, because the Ponger application hasn’t been started, will start spitting out messages like:

Failure trying to send a message batch to tcp://localhost:2601/

And after enough failures trying to send messages, you’ll finally see this:

Sending agent for tcp://localhost:2601/ is latched

Now, after starting the Ponger service with its own “dotnet run,” you should see the following output back in the Pinger console output after Jasper detects that the downstream system for the Ping messages is available:

Sending agent for tcp://localhost:2601/ has resumed

And finally, a whole bunch of console messages about ping and pong messages zipping back and forth.

Other Common Questions

  • Is this in production yet? Yes, a super, duper early version of Jasper is in production in a low volume system.
  • Is it ready for production usage? No, it’s not really proven out yet in real usage. I think we’ll be able to start converting applications to Jasper this month, so it hopefully won’t be long. The sooner that folks poke and prod it, then supply feedback, the faster it’s ready to go.
  • What .Net frameworks does it support? Netstandard 2.0 only.
  • Where’s the code? On GitHub.
  • Are there any docs yet? Yeah, but there’s plenty of room for improvement on the Jasper website.
  • Where can I ask questions or just make fun of this thing? There’s a Gitter room ready
  • What about the license? The permissive MIT license.
  • Is it just you? Nope, several of my colleagues have contributed code, ideas, and feedback so far.
  • Do you want more contributors? Hell, yeah. The more the merrier.
  • Why roll your own? See the first section of this post. We’re not starting from scratch by any means, otherwise I don’t think we would have opted to build something brand new.
  • What’s with the boring name? It’s my hometown, it’s easy to remember, and it can’t possibly offend anyone like “fubu” did.
  • What’s the story with IoC integration? Uh, yeah, it’s StructureMap 4.5 only just at the moment, but that’s a much longer discussion for another blog post. A huge design goal of Jasper is to try to minimize the usage of an IoC container outside of the initial bootstrapping and application shutdown, so I’m not sure you’re going to care all that much.

What’s next?

I’m actually slowing down on new development on Jasper for awhile, but I’ll be flooding the interwebs with blog posts on Jasper while I also plug holes in the documentation. The next big thing at work is to start the trial conversion of one of our applications to Jasper. For longer term items in our backlog, just see the GitHub issue list. The next development task is probably going to have to be replicating the integration we’ve done with Postgresql and Marten for Sql Server.

RabbitMQ, Kafka, and Azure Service Bus integrations will follow later this year.

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10 thoughts on “Introducing Jasper — Asynchronous Messaging for .Net

  1. Pingback: Jasper’s Roslyn-Powered “Special Sauce” | The Shade Tree Developer

  2. Pingback: Introducing Jasper — Asynchronous Messaging for .Net | The Shade Tree Developer – BrentHumphreys.net

  3. Fritz Fantom

    Reading your code examples I noticed that you like to use _ in lambdas. Most people read _ as “this variable is not going to be used”, so I would recommend choosing a different name.

    Reply
    1. jeremydmiller Post author

      I’ve had this argument before, and still stand by that usage. The variable is used, but it’s not really important and the configuration code reads cleanly by using the underscore.

      Reply

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