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Jonas Bonér and the Reactive Manifesto II

It's been about seven years since Jonas Bonér, co-founder and CTO of Lightbend and creator of the Akka project, first published "The Reactive Manifesto" with contributions from Dave Farley, Roland Kuhn, and Martin Thompson. He and his colleagues used that document to provide an accessible and succinct definition of reactive systems--software developed using message-driven and event-driven approaches to achieve the resiliency, scalability, and responsiveness required for cloud-native applications.

"We needed a way to explain what we we're talking about that wasn't full of geeky buzzwords and ended up just being confusing," Bonér told me at the time. "The manifesto distills things down to the essence of these new applications, which are being built right now, and provided a vocabulary that would allow developers to talk about these things."

This week, under the auspices of the Linux Foundation and the newly formed Reactive Foundation, Bonér and a veritable crowd of collaborators published an updated and expanded version of that document, entitled "The Reactive Principle." The press announcement characterized the new manifesto as a complement to the original that "incorporates the ideas, techniques, and patterns from both Reactive Programming and Reactive Systems into a set of practical principles, to apply Reactive to cloud native applications to realize the efficiencies of building for and running on the cloud."

"One of the problems with reactive is that it has been a little bit diluted over the years," Bonér explained during a recent Zoom interview. "People slapped 'reactive' on almost anything. Some things are actually reactive and some are variations. And some things called reactive aren't really living up to what we think it is. And that's why I felt it was important to get together with a lot of people, not just me, to define what reactive means and sort of breathe some new life into it."

The new document is the product of a collaboration among leading minds in the Reactive and broader distributed computing communities. Along with Bonér, the list of collaborators includes Roland Kuhn, Ben Christensen, Sergey Bykov, Clement Escoffier, Peter Vlugter, Josh Long, Ben Hindman, Vaughn Vernon, James Roper, Michael Behrendt, Kresten Thorup, Colin Breck, Allard Buijze, Derek Collison, Viktor Klang, Ben Hale, Steve Gury, Tyler Jewell, Ryland Degnan, James Ward, and Stephan Ewen

The original manifesto was intentionally short and designed to be easily digestible ("Even CIOs read it," Bonér said.) The new "Principles" document is as rich as the original was lean. Among other things, it lays out the eight principles an application must embrace in its design, its architecture, and even its programming model to be considered Reactive:

  • Stay Responsive -- always respond in a timely manner
  • Accept Uncertainty -- build reliability despite unreliable foundations
  • Embrace Failure -- expect things to go wrong and build for resilience
  • Assert Autonomy -- design components that act independently and interact collaboratively
  • Tailor Consistency -- individualize consistency per component to balance availability and performance
  • Decouple Time -- process asynchronously to avoid coordination and waiting
  • Decouple Space -- create flexibility by embracing the network
  • Handle Dynamics -- continuously adapt to varying demand and resources

"The Reactive Principles" also offers sets of design principles for cloud-native and edge-native applications, as well as patterns that can help codify and apply the Reactive Principles to applications and systems.

The Reactive Foundation, launched last year with founding members Alibaba Cloud, Facebook, Lightbend, VMWare, and VLINGO, is a non-profit organization established to provide a formal open governance model and neutral ecosystem for creating open-source Reactive projects. The group is a top-level project within the Linux Foundation that it is "dedicated to being a catalyst for advancing a new landscape of technologies, standards, and vendors."

Bonér was set to unveil "The Reactive Principles" today during his keynote presentation at the Reactive Summit 2020 virtual event.

"The cloud needs a programming model that brings the same reliability, predictability, and scalability at the application layer that Kubernetes has brought to the infrastructure layer," Bonér said in a statement.

You can find an early edition of "The Reactive Manifesto" online. At least you could as of this writing. It's worth a look before digging into the new document, which, though much longer, is just as accessible.

The Reactive Foundation also announced that two open-source projects, R2DBC and Reactive Streams, have joined the foundation, and that a newly formed Technical Oversight Committee is evaluating additional open-source project candidates. The R2DBC project brings Reactive programming APIs to relational databases in an effort to provide a better alternative to JDBC and the "blocking" issues it creates for SQL databases in Reactive Systems. Reactive Streams is an initiative to provide a standard for asynchronous stream processing with non-blocking back pressure, encompassing runtime environments (JVM and JavaScript) as well as network protocols.

The first project of the foundation, RSocket, is an implementation of Reactive Streams that provides a message-driven binary protocol for use on byte stream transports ,such as TCP and WebSockets.


Posted by John K. Waters on November 10, 2020