Sagas, State Machines, and Abandoned Carts

A few weeks ago, there was a post on how to use a saga to coordinate the business requirement of sending an email when a shopping cart is abandoned by a user. The use case demonstrated is fairly common, particularly if you generalize the solution.

While a general solution can be extracted from the subject matter, I wanted to see how the same approach could be taken using an Automatonymous state machine and MassTransit.

TL;DR – Go to the Sample Code

The General Idea

The idea is that through purely observing the events of a shopping cart, an external system could determine when a potential customer has added items to their cart only to abandon the cart after a period of time. Once the cart was abandoned, a separate event would trigger a process to send the user an email asking them to come back and spend some of those hard earned dollars on some swag.

The Implementation

The sample was built using MassTransit, RabbitMQ, and Automatonymous, as well as using Entity Framework to persist the state of the state machine and using Quartz to schedule the timeout event.

The Observed Events

A few events are needed to allow the cart activity to be observed. These would be produced by the web application, so a Shopping.Web site was created in the sample. My UI chops are terrible, but what a beautiful web site the template generator creates! The CartController is the majority of the work here. The events are simple interfaces, one for an item being added to the cart and another for when an order is submitted.

public interface CartItemAdded
{
    DateTime Timestamp { get; }
    string UserName { get; }
}

public interface OrderSubmitted
{
    Guid OrderId { get; }
    DateTime Timestamp { get; }
    Guid CartId { get; }
    string UserName { get; }
}

The State Machine

To design the business logic, a state machine is created using Automatonymous. The state machine defines the events observed, how the events are correlated, and the behavior of events in each state. But first, the actual state to be persisted should be defined.

public class ShoppingCart :
    SagaStateMachineInstance
{
    public string CurrentState { get; set; }
    public string UserName { get; set; }
    public DateTime Created { get; set; }
    public DateTime Updated { get; set; }
    public Guid? ExpirationId { get; set; }
    public Guid? OrderId { get; set; }
    public Guid CorrelationId { get; set; }
}

The ShoppingCart is a class, which will be persisted using Entity Framework. The code-first map is in the project, so you can check that out yourself. Now, the state machine.

public class ShoppingCartStateMachine :
    MassTransitStateMachine<ShoppingCart>
{
    public ShoppingCartStateMachine()
    {
        InstanceState(x => x.CurrentState);

The state machine class, and the specification of the property for the current state of the machine are defined first.

        Event(() => ItemAdded, x => x.CorrelateBy(cart => cart.UserName, context => context.Message.UserName)
            .SelectId(context => Guid.NewGuid()));

The event that is observed when an item is added to the cart, along with the correlation between the state machine instance and the message are defined. The id generator for the saga instance is also defined.

        Event(() => Submitted, x => x.CorrelateById(context => context.Message.CartId));

The order submitted event, and the correlation for that order.

        Schedule(() => CartExpired, x => x.ExpirationId, x =>
        {
            x.Delay = TimeSpan.FromSeconds(10);
            x.Received = e => e.CorrelateById(context => context.Message.CartId);
        });

In order to schedule the timeout, a schedule is defined, including the time delay for the scheduled event, and the correlation of the event back to the state machine.

Now, it is time for the actual behavior of the events and how they interact with the state of the ShoppingCart.

        Initially(
            When(ItemAdded)
                .Then(context =>
                {
                    context.Instance.Created = context.Data.Timestamp;
                    context.Instance.Updated = context.Data.Timestamp;
                    context.Instance.UserName = context.Data.UserName;
                })
                .ThenAsync(context => Console.Out.WriteLineAsync($"Item Added: {context.Data.UserName} to {context.Instance.CorrelationId}"))
                .Schedule(CartExpired, context => new CartExpiredEvent(context.Instance))
                .TransitionTo(Active)
            );

Initially defined events that can create a state machine instance. In the above, the properties of the instance are initialized, and then the CartExpired event is scheduled, after which the state is set to Active.

        During(Active,
            When(Submitted)
                .Then(context =>
                {
                    if (context.Data.Timestamp > context.Instance.Updated)
                        context.Instance.Updated = context.Data.Timestamp;
                    context.Instance.OrderId = context.Data.OrderId;
                })
                .ThenAsync(context => Console.Out.WriteLineAsync($"Cart Submitted: {context.Data.UserName} to {context.Instance.CorrelationId}"))
                .Unschedule(CartExpired)
                .TransitionTo(Ordered),

While the shopping cart is active, if the order is submitted, the expiration is canceled (via Unschedule) and the state is set to Ordered.

            When(ItemAdded)
                .Then(context =>
                {
                    if (context.Data.Timestamp > context.Instance.Updated)
                        context.Instance.Updated = context.Data.Timestamp;
                })
                .ThenAsync(context => Console.Out.WriteLineAsync($"Item Added: {context.Data.UserName} to {context.Instance.CorrelationId}"))
                .Schedule(CartExpired, context => new CartExpiredEvent(context.Instance)),

If another item is added to the cart, the CartExpired event is scheduled, and the existence of a previously scheduled event (via the ExpirationId property) is used to cancel the previously scheduled event.

            When(CartExpired.Received)
                .ThenAsync(context => Console.Out.WriteLineAsync($"Item Expired: {context.Instance.CorrelationId}"))
                .Publish(context => new CartRemovedEvent(context.Instance))
                .Finalize()
            );

If the CartExpired event is received, the cart removed event is published and the shopping cart is finalized.

        SetCompletedWhenFinalized();
    }

Signals that the state machine instance should be deleted if it is finalized. This is used to tell Entity Framework to delete the row from the database.

    public State Active { get; private set; }
    public State Ordered { get; private set; }

The states of the shopping cart (Initial and Final are built-in states).

    public Schedule<ShoppingCart, CartExpired> CartExpired { get; private set; }

The schedule definition for the CartExpired event.

    public Event<CartItemAdded> ItemAdded { get; private set; }
    public Event<OrderSubmitted> Submitted { get; private set; }
}

The events that are observed by the state machine (the correlations are defined earlier in the state machine).

The Plumbing

To connect the state machine to a bus endpoint, the saga repository is declared, and then the machine and repository are connected to the receive endpoint.

_machine = new ShoppingCartStateMachine();

SagaDbContextFactory sagaDbContextFactory = () => 
    new SagaDbContext<ShoppingCart, ShoppingCartMap>(SagaDbContextFactoryProvider.ConnectionString);

_repository = new Lazy<ISagaRepository<ShoppingCart>>(
    () => new EntityFrameworkSagaRepository<ShoppingCart>(sagaDbContextFactory));

Once the machine and repository are declared, the receive endpoint is declared on the bus configuration.

_busControl = Bus.Factory.CreateUsingRabbitMq(x =>
{
    IRabbitMqHost host = x.Host(...);

    x.ReceiveEndpoint(host, "shopping_cart_state", e =>
    {
        e.PrefetchCount = 8;
        e.StateMachineSaga(_machine, _repository.Value);
    });

    x.ReceiveEndpoint(host, "scheduler", e =>
    {
        x.UseMessageScheduler(e.InputAddress);

        e.PrefetchCount = 1;

        e.Consumer(() => new ScheduleMessageConsumer(_scheduler));
        e.Consumer(() => new CancelScheduledMessageConsumer(_scheduler));
    });
});

There are two endpoints on the tracking service bus, and both are shown as the message scheduler needs to be setup (using Quartz). Refer to the source for the details of configuring and starting the Quartz scheduler, but multiple endpoints can be setup on the bus.

The key line is the registration:

e.StateMachineSaga(_machine, _repository.Value);

That’s where the state machine is connected to the endpoint. All of the events in the state machine are added to the exchange bindings in RabbitMQ so the events, when published, make it to the queue for processing by the state machine. It’s important to point out that:

x.UseMessageScheduler(e.InputAddress);

Is special, in that it’s configuring the bus to use the message scheduler on the scheduler receive endpoint. The subtle references to x and e aren’t obvious, but the input address of the endpoint is passed to the bus. Configuration in MassTransit is evaluated after it is all defined, so it’s possible to do crazy stuff like this.

Enough Already

This post has already gotten far too long, but I really wanted to share the experience of building an event-driven work flow using a state machine. I think the experience for a developer is pretty clean and easy to understand.

Check out the source: Go to the Sample Code

Share your thoughts!

About Chris Patterson

Chris is a senior architect for RelayHealth, the connectivity business of the nation's leading healthcare services company. There he is responsible for the architecture and development of applications and services that accelerate care delivery by connecting patients, providers, pharmacies, and financial institutions. Previously, he led the development of a new content delivery platform for TV Guide, enabling the launch of a new entertainment network seen on thousands of cable television systems. In his spare time, Chris is an active open-source developer and a primary contributor to MassTransit, a distributed application framework for .NET. In 2009, he was awarded the Most Valuable Professional award by Microsoft for his technical community contributions.
This entry was posted in masstransit. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.
  • Raham

    Amazing example Chris

  • Great post Chris!! Really made me want to take MassTransit for a ride.

    One quick question though- you mention that calling SetCompletedWhenFinalized() makes sure EF deletes the row from the DB when the state machine is finalised. How then do we keep the history of all those user interaction – a history that would mean a lot esp. in this context (e-commerce / shopping cart).

    • Rickard Robin

      I wanna know this too! Isn’t one of the points to see what Sagas are active, what state they are in and see the history?

  • Jonathan Darling

    Great post!

    Just a heads up, many of your code samples overflow the center column and are unreadable. If you added pre {overflow: auto} to your styles, it would take care of that.

    Thanks again for the post!