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course: Spring Framework and Apache Kafka®

Receiving Messages with KafkaListener

6 min
Viktor Gamov

Viktor Gamov

Developer Advocate (Presenter)

Receiving Messages with KafkaListener

Factories drive a lot of functionality in Spring Boot. You learned in Sending Messages to Confluent Cloud with Spring Boot that ProducerFactory instantiates Apache Kafka producers. Similarly, ConsumerFactory instantiates Kafka consumers.

  public ConsumerFactory<String, String> consumerFactory() {
    return new DefaultKafkaConsumerFactory<>(consumerProperties());

For a ConsumerFactory, you need to provide the property files or configurations that your consumer will use. So you need to create a consumerProperties bean, which is essentially a Map with config key pairs:

  public Map<String, Object> consumerProperties() {
    return Map.of(
        ConsumerConfig.BOOTSTRAP_SERVERS_CONFIG, "localhost:9092",
        GROUP_ID_CONFIG, "spring-ccloud",
        KEY_DESERIALIZER_CLASS_CONFIG, StringDeserializer.class,
        VALUE_DESERIALIZER_CLASS_CONFIG, StringDeserializer.class);

Message-Driven POJOs

Inside of Spring Boot, the components that integrate with messaging systems follow the pattern of “message-driven POJOs.” If you’ve been around the Java community for a while, you know that in the Java EE specification message-driven beans were introduced as part of the enterprise JavaBean specification. It was a good idea but difficult to put into practice, requiring an application server to run. Fortunately, the Spring Framework came up with a simplified version of those beans, not enterprise beans, but just regular POJOs made into Spring-managed beans.

Message-driven POJOs enable asynchronous communication between systems, so essentially you define a message listener and the framework takes care of the functionality (in the past, you would have had to implement an interface with the method listen(); the old functionality still exists, but it’s not necessarily useful anymore because of annotations).

This approach to message listening doesn’t have a direct coupling to the Kafka consumer API, and that’s why the layer of message-driven POJO support can be implemented as something that is abstracted out. So you don’t put any Kafka-related code in your POJO—you can just have one method with one input parameter. This is also a good opportunity to use an annotation. When you annotate the method, Spring takes care of instantiating the underlying containers that will run your Kafka consumers and read messages from your Kafka topics and handle serialization. All of these things are managed by Spring so you can focus on your application code. The annotation KafkaListener instantiates a facility called MessageListenerContainer, which handles parallelization, configuration, retries, and other things that the Kafka application requires, such as offsets.

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