Spring Integration

Jorge Simao Posted 22 May 20

Spring Integration — Overview

Spring Integration is an integration framework for Java that support the development of applications based on the principles of Enterprise Integration Patterns (EIP). It makes straightforward for applications to integrate with many types of protocols, systems, and data formats, using pipelines of out-of-the-box components.

Spring Integration is based on Spring Framework and support the same kinds of configuration styles, including XML, annotations, Java DSL, and programmatic use of the components API. Components are bundled in different modules, and each module has a dedicated XML namespace that can be used to configure the components. A core XML namespace defines the mostly used component (e.g. router, filter, transformer, service-activator, etc.), while the integration components come in dedicated namespaces (e.g. file-system, JMS, AMQP, FTP(S), HTTP, TCP/UDP/IP, JDBC, GemFire, etc.). Components can also be defined as Spring beans in factory methods of Java @Configuration classes, or using a Java DSL based on the concept of IntegrationFlow.

Enterprise Integration Patterns

In the EIP programming-model components interact by unidirectional in-memory message passing, rather than method invocation with return values. Data is exchanged between endpoint components through communication channels, with varied semantics. The overall architecture of the application is a network or pipeline of endpoints linked by channels (see fig. below).

Spring Integration Pipeline

Component Types

Components are broadly defined as channels or endpoints. Both channels and endpoints come in different kinds. Endpoint components that fetch/send data from/to an external system or transport protocol are designated inbound/outbound adapters, or if bidirectional inbound/outbound gateways. Several components are used inside pipelines to process data, including: routers, filters, transformers, splitters and aggregators. Some endpoints, such as the service-activator and the gateway, are used to mediate the interaction between pipelines and other Java/Spring beans.

One-WayInbound AdapterOutbound Adapter
Two-WayInbound GatewayOutbound Gateway

Messages & Messaging Operations

In Spring Integration each message contains a payload object and a set of headers (key-value pairs), and its modelled by the generic interface Message<T>. A Message is a read-only (immutable) object — once it is created with some payload and headers it is not possible to modify it. This is intended to preserve the analogy with distributed message passing. The class MessageBuilder can be used to conveniently create a message using a fluent API and according to the builder design-pattern.

Example: Message API

  T getPayload();
  MessageHeaders getHeaders();

Example: Creating Message w/ MessageBuilder

Message<Order> message = MessageBuilder.withPayload(order)
  .setHeader("status", OrderStatus.OPEN)
  .setHeader("description", "Deliver to Dr. J.")

The utility class MessagingTemplate provides a low-level programmatic API to send and receive messages to channels.

Example: Send & Receive w/ MessagingTemplate

public MessagingTemplate messagingTemplate() {
  return new MessagingTemplate();
private MessagingTemplate template;
Message<?> reply = template.sendAndReceive("orders", message);
if (reply.getHeaders().get("STATUS")==COMPLETED) { ... }

Message Channels

A message Channel is used to connect endpoints. Channels come in two broad categories, according to the reception mode:

  • Poolable — With active reception from a usually buffered channel — e.g. QueueChannel, PriorityQueueChannel.
  • Subscribable — Message delivery is done via a callback or handler method — e.g. DirectChannel, PublishSubscribeChannel.

Subscribable channels are more light-weighted and are used more commonly. A PoolableChannel allows for more loose-coupling between endpoints, but requires active pooling via a Poller. Both the Direct and QueueChannel channels are used for point-to-point communication — each message is delivered to a single endpoint, while the PublishSubscribableChannel is used for dissemination of messages – all receivers get a “copy” of the message.

Channels can be defined as Spring beans using the core XML namespace of Spring Integration.

In the Java DSL, the utility class MessageChannels provides factory methods and a fluent API to create and configure the different kinds of channels. Channels are light-weighted pure in-memory abstractions. But a QueueChannel can be made persistent by configuration of a MessageStore, or it can also be backed my a queue in an external message-broker (JMS or AMQP). Message delivery in Subscribable channels is by default node with synchronous hand-off (same thread), but can also be made asynchronous by configuring a TaskExecutor. When components are referenced by endpoints but not explicitly defined, the framework assume them to be auto-created DirectChannel.

Example: Defining Message Channels in XML

<int:channel id="orderChannel">
	<int:queue capacity="100" />
<int:publish-subscribe-channel id="pubsubChannel" task-executor="someExecutor" />

Example: Defining Message Channel in Java

<task:executor id="taskExecutor
public MessageChannel fileContent() {
	return MessageChannels.direct("fileContent").get();

Table below summarizes the channels types:

DirectChannelSubscribable; Point-to-Point; Synchronous hand-off
ExecuterChannelSubscribable; Point-to-Point; Asynchronous hand-off
PublishScubscribChannelSubscribable; Dissemination; Synch or Asynch hand-off
QueueChannelFIFO Buffer; Pollable; Point-to-Point; Asynchronous hand-off
PriorityQueueChannelPriority Buffer; Pollable; Point-to-Point; Asynchronous hand-off
RendezvousChannelZero-capacity queue (blocks sender); Pollable; Point-to-Point; Async hand-off

Channel Interceptors

Message flow trough a Channel can be observed and acted upon using a ChannelInterceptor, whose API defines four callback methods that notify message exchange at different instants: preSend(), postSend(), preReceive(), postReceive(). A commonly used ChannelInterceptor is a WireTap, that copies message from a channel into another.

Example: Setup ChannelInterceptor in Channel (XML)

<int:channel id="orderChannel">
       <ref bean="statsInterceptor"/>
public class StatsInterceptor extends ChannelInterceptorAdapter {
  int nsent;
  public Message<?> preSend(Message<?> message, MessageChannel channel) {
    return message;

Example: Setup WireTap in Channel (XML)

<int:channel id="orderChannel">
        <int:wire-tap channel="logger"/>
<int:channel id="logger

Poller, Channel Adapter & Bridge

When using PollableChannels, like a Queue, endpoints need to active fetch messages. This can be done with a Poller component configured with a pooling policy. In XML, a Poller is defined with element <poller>, using attributes fixed-rate, fixed-delay, or cron to set the pooling policy. A Poller can be configured in an individual endpoint (as XML sub-element), or globally by setting attribute default="true". Using the Java DSL, a Poller can be defined trough a bean of type PollerMetaData.

Example: Defining a Default Polling Policy (XML)

<int:poller fixed-rate="1000" default="true"/>

Example: Defining a Default Polling Policy (Java)

public PollerMetadata poller() {
  return Pollers.fixedRate(1000).get();

Pollers are also used to configure ChannelAdapters — endpoints that invokes a Java method and acts as a message source. The Poller define the rate at which the Java method is invoked.

Example: Defining an Inbound Channel Adapter (XML)

<int:inbound-channel-adapter ref="getStatus"
  method="StatusService" channel="status">
    <int:poller fixed-rate="5000"/>

A Bridge is a component that is used to move messages between two channels unchanged. This is useful when integrating two sub-networks — e.g. that have different expectations on the type or name of input/output channels, or to throttle the publisher sub-network via buffering in a queue.

Gateway Proxies

A Gateway is a proxy-factory component that allows Spring beans to integrated seemly with Spring Integration networks, by sending a message to a Channel when a method in the generated proxy is invoked. That is, rather than explicitly using the API of the MessagingTemplate to send messages, Spring managed components simply invoke a method defined in an interface.

A Gateway is defined in XML with element <gateway> using the attribute service-interface to specify the interface the proxy should implement. Attribute default-request-channel specifies the Channel where the proxy sends the created messages. Annotation @Gateway can be used in the interface methods when the interface as several methods. When interface methods have a return value the attribute default-reply-channel can be used to specify the Channel where the proxy gets the response message from. If not specified, the proxy dynamically creates a (Direct)Channel. In both cases, the replyTo header of the request message is set to reference the Channel where the receiving endpoint should send the reply. The annotation @IntegrationComponentScan can also be used to automatically create Gateway proxies (without XML) by searching for @Gateway annotated methods in interfaces (on classpath).

Example: Using a Bridge to Throttle a Publisher

<int:channel id="orders" />

<int:bridge input-channel="orders" 

<int:channel id="orderQueue" >
	<int:queue capacity="100" />

Example: Define Gateway in Java

<int:gateway id="orderService"
  default-reply-channel="confirmationChannel" />

Example: Interface Implemented by Gateway Proxy

public interface OrderService {
	  Confirmation submitOrder(Order order);

Example: Using a Proxy Gateway

public class ShoppingService {
  private OrderService orderService;

  public Confirmation processOrder(Order order) {
    return new Confirmation(order);

Service Activators

A ServiceActivator is an endpoint that invokes a method in a Spring bean (usually in a service layer component) when a message arrives at an input channel in order to be processed. The return value of the invoked method is forward in a message to the output channel. A ServiceActivator is defined in XML with element <service-activator>, using the attributes ref and method to specify the Java method to invoke. Annotation @ServiceActivator can also be used to specify which method to invoke. A third possibility, it to use a SPEL in-lined script, defined in XML attribute expression.

Example: Defining a ServiceActivator (XML+Java)

<int:service-activator input-channel="in" output-channel="out"
ref="OrderProcessor" method="processOrder" />
public class OrderProcessor {
  Confirmation processOrder(Order order) {
    return new Confirmation(order);

Example: Define ServiceActivator w/ SPEL Expression

<int:service-activator input-channel="in" output-channel="out"
expression="@orderProcessor.process(payload,headers['type'])" />

Message Routing

A Router is an endpoint that forwards incoming messages to one among several output channels.

A routing criteria is defined — in Java or in SPEL — to select the output channel for each individual message. The content of the message payload and/or headers is usually used to make this decision. A generic router is defined in XML with element <router>, using the attributes ref and method to specify the Java method for the routing criteria. Alternatively, annotation @Router be used to specify which methods define the routing criteria. Additionally, the stereotype annotation @MessageEndpoint is often used to define criteria beans. SPEL scripts can also be used to specify the routing criteria with XML attribute expression.

Example: Defining a Router (XML) & Routing Criteria

<int:router input-channel="orderChannel" ref="orderRouter" />
public class OrderRouter  {
  public String routeOrder(Message<Order> message) {
    return isUrgent(message) ? "vipChannel" : "altChannel";

Example: Defining Routing Criteria w/ SPEL

<int:router input-channel="orderChannel" expression="headers['type']"/>
<int:router input-channel="orderChannel" expression="Orders.isXml(payload)?'xmlChannel':'csvChannel'" />

More specialized kinds of routers are also available, such as the PayloadTypeRouter that routes messages to channels according to the type of the payload, or the HeaderValueRouter that routes based on the value on an header.

Example: Routing w/ PayloadTypeRouter (XML)

<int:payload-type-router input-channel="orderChannel" default-output-channel="miscOrderChannel" >
   <int:mapping type="org.w3c.dom.Document" channel="xmlOrderChannel" />
   <int:mapping type="java.lang.String" channel="csvOrderChannel" />

Example: Routing w/ HeaderValueRouter (XML)

<int:header-value-router input-channel="orderChannel" header-name="status" >
	<int:mapping value="CHECKED_OUT" channel="stockChannel" />
	<int:mapping value="COMPLETED" channel="invoiceChannel" />
	<int:mapping value="CANCELED" channel="cancelChannel" />

Message Filtering

A message Filter is an endpoint that relays messages from an input to an output channel conditionally. They are used to discard messages based on payload or header values, and detect invalid or non-conforming messages. A filter is defined in XML with element <filter>, using attributes input-channel and output-channel to specify the channel from where message are received and relayed, respectively, and ref and method for the filtering criteria. Alternatively, annotation @Filter be used to specify which method defines the routing criteria as well as the Filter configuration. A SPEL script can also be used as filtering criteria with XML attribute expression.

By default, filtered-out messages — those for who the criteria method returns false — are discarded. It is also possible to make filtered-out messages throw an Exception, with XML attribute throw-exception-on-rejection="true". Or, alternatively, to be diverted to an alternative channel with attribute discard-channel.

Example: Defining Filter (XML) & Filtering Criteria

<int:filter ref="orderSelector" />
public class OrderSelector {
	@Filter(inputChannel="in", outputChannel="out")
	boolean filter(Order order) {
		return OrderUtil.isValid(order);

Example: Diverting Filtered Out Messages

<int:filter input-channel="in" output-channel="out" ref="orderValidator" discard-channel="invalid" />

Message Transformation

A message Transformer is an endpoint that transforms messages payload and/or headers, and can be used to perform arbitrary transformations on payloads, convert payload types, and add/change/remove headers.
The XML element <transformer> can be used to define a transformer. The transformation function can be defined as Spring bean implementing interface MessageProcessor. Alternatively, a POJO can be used when XML attribute method or Java annotation @Transformer specifies the transformation method.

Example: Define & Configure Transformer (XML+Java)

<int:transformer id="invoiceTransformer"  input-channel="orderChannel" 
  output-channel="invoiceChannel" ref="orderTransform" method="createInvoice" />
public class InvoiceCreator {
  public Invoice createInvoce(Order order) {
    return new Invoice(order);

More specialized kinds of transformer are also available such as the ObjectToStringTransformer that maps an object to its String representation, or transformers to perform XML or JSON (un)marshalling.

Message Splitting

A Splitter is an endpoint that produces multiples output messages out of a single input message. It is used to decompose messages with composite payloads (e.g. a collection or a structured object with child objects), into separated messages one for each of component parts of the payload (e.g. an Order may be split into a collection of OrderItem). This is useful for processing the component parts separately, followed possibly by latter (re)aggregation.

The XML element <splitter> is be used to define a Splitter, with attribute ref naming a Spring bean implementing interface SplittingCriteria. Alternatively, a POJO can be used when XML attribute method or Java annotation @Splitter specifies the splitting criteria. The method takes a Message or POJO (for the payload) as parameter, and should return a List of Message or payload objects.

Example: Define & Configure Splitter (XML + Java)

<int:splitter id="orderSplitter" input-channel="orderChannel" 
  output-channel="itemChannel" ref="orderSplitterBean"  />
public class OrderSplitter {
	public List<OrderItem> split(Order order) {
		return order.getItems();

A Splitter copies the headers of the input message to the output message when POJO payloads are used in the splitting method. Additionally, it sets the following headers:

  • CORRELATION_ID — is set with the value of the header ID of the input message.
  • SEQUENCE_SIZE — is set with the number of output messages produced from the input message.
  • SEQUENCE_NUMBER — is set with a ordering number from 1 to SEQUENCE_SIZE.

These headers are set so that it possible to track the origin of the message. For example, to reconstruct the original messages after the component elements are further processed by intermediate endpoints.

Message Aggregation

An Aggregator is an endpoint that combines multiple input messages into a single output message (i.e. the converse of a Splitter).

  • A correlation strategy is used to decided which input messages are to be aggregated with which other messages (i.e. belong to the same message group or “bucket”).

  • A release strategy is used to determine when the message group is complete and a single message should be produced out of all the messages in the group.

  • An aggregation criteria defines how to assemble a single output message out of a group of correlated messages.

A typical use-case for an Aggregator (but not the only one) is to reconstruct a composite message out of multiple “child” messages that were earlier produced by a Splitter (e.g. an Order (re)created out of a collection of OrderItem). Messages that have the same correlation value are collected together, and when the release is done, the aggregation criteria is called to produce the combined output message.

The XML element <aggregator> is be used to define an Aggregator, with attribute ref naming a Spring bean implementing interface AggregationCriteria. Alternatively, a POJO can be used when XML attribute method or Java annotation @Aggregator specifies the aggregation criteria. The method takes a a List of Message or payload objects as parameter, and should return a single Message or POJO (for the combined payload).

The correlation and release strategies are specified with attributes correlation-strategy and, release-strategy, respectively, implementing interfaces CorrelationStrategy and ReleaseStrategy. Alternatively, POJO can be used if attributes correlation-strategy-method and release-strategy-method are specified. In the common case where the aggregation is done over messages split earlier by a Splitter both strategies are optional. This is because the default strategy is to combined messages by the value of the CORRELATION_ID, and to release them when SEQUENCE_SIZE equals the number of available messages.

Example: Aggregator w/ Default Correlation&Release

<int:aggregator id="orderAggregator"
  input-channel="itemChannel" output-channel="orderChannel"
  ref="orderAggregatation" />
public class OrderAggregation {
  public List<OrderItem> createOrder(Order order) {
    return order.getItems();

Example: Aggregator with Full Custom Configuration

<int:aggregator id="orderAggregator" input-channel="itemChannel" output-channel="orderChannel"
  ref="orderAggregatation" method="createOrder" 
  correlation-strategy="correlationStrategyBean" correlation-strategy-method="correlate" 
  release-strategy="releaseStrategyBean" release-strategy-method="release" />

Endpoint Chain

When several endpoints are connected in a serial pipeline, such that the output channel of previous component is the input channel of the following one, it is possible to simplify the configuration by defining a composite component that makes this relationship explicit.

The XML element <chain> defines an endpoint Chain, that automatically wires the endpoints part of the pipeline including the creation of intermediate DirectChannel to connect the endpoints. The channel named in the attribute input-channel is wired as input channel to the first component in the pipeline, and the channel named in the attribute output-channel (if specified) is wired as output channel of the last component.

Example: Defining a Chain as a Endpoint Pipeline

<int:chain input-channel="input" output-channel="output">
    <int:filter ref="orderValidator" />
        <int:header name="valid" value="true
    <int:service-activator ref="OrderService" method="submit" />

Integration Flow (Java DSL)

A Java DSL can also be used to create pipelines based on the IntegrationFlow abstraction — similarly to the Chain — but allowing Java lambda expressions to be used to define the criteria strategies.

An IntegrationFlow is defined as a Spring bean and created with a IntegrationFlowBuilder that provides a fluent API to define the pipeline. The IntegrationFlow is a meta-data descriptor used only during configuration. To actually create the components from the meta-data the annotation @EnableIntegration should be used.

Example: Using the IntegrationFlow DSL

public IntegrationFlow orderFilesFlow() {
  return IntegrationFlows
    .filter((File f) -> f.length()<=100000)
    .filter((Order o) -> o.isValid())

XML Payloads

In the special case where messages payload is XML, it is desirable to use XML specific technologies to process the messages. XPath expressions — which are used to select the sub-trees of an XML document that match a particular expression — can be used to define strategies for a Spliter, a Router, or a Filter (e.g. XPath expression //item returns the list of all <item> elements in a XML document, so it can be used as a splitting criteria). The element <xpath-expression> from the spring-integration-xml namespace is used to define XPath expression.

An XSLT script define an XML transformation, so it can also be naturally to used to define a Transformer for XML payloads. The XML element <xslt-transformer> defines a XSLT transformer, with attribute xsl-resource naming the script file.

Example: Splitting XML Payload via XPath

<int-xml:xpath-splitter id="orderItemSplitter"
	input-channel="orderChannel" output-channel="itemsChannel">
    <int-xml:xpath-expression expression="//item" />

Example: XLST Transformer & XSLT Script

<int-xml:xslt-transformer id="xsltTransformerWithResource"
  input-channel="withResourceIn" output-channel="output" xsl-resource="order-version-migration.xsl"/>
<xsl:stylesheet version="1.0" xmlns:xsl="http://www.w3.org/1999/XSL/Transform">
  <xsl:template match="/order">
    <xsl:attribute name="priority" value="normal" />

JMS Integration

JMS integration is done trough four main components from the spring-integration-jms XML namespace: <inbound-channel-adapter>, to relay messages sent from a MessageChannel to a JMS destination, <outbound-channel-adapter> to receive JMS messages and relay them to a channel, and for two-way communication the <inbound-gateway> to process JMS messages and send a response, and the <outbound-gateway> to send a SMS message and wait for a response.

Example: Sending Channel Messages to JMS

<int-jms:inbound-channel-adapter id="jmsIn" destination="ordersQueue" channel="ordersChannel" />

File Integration

Integration with the file-system (reading & writing files) is done with a few components from XML namespace spring-integration-file such an <inbound-channel-adapter> that pool a directory for new files and emits messages with the File payload (the filename). Transformer class FileToStringTransformer can be use to read the content of the file as a message.

Example: Pooling Directory & Reading File Content

<int-file:inbound-channel-adapter id="files"
  directory="file:input" filename-pattern="*.csv">
  <int:poller id="poller" fixed-rate="5000" />
@Transformer(inputChannel = "files", 
             outputChannel = "fileContentChannel")
public FileToStringTransformer fileToStringTransformer() {
  return new FileToStringTransformer();

Other Integration Options

Spring Integration provides many additional integration components — inbound and outbound adaptors and gateways — for a variety of transport protocols and data stores, including: FTP, AMQP, Redis Pub/Sub, GemFire, JDBC, HTTP, TCP/UDP/IP, among other.


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