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Service Discovery


Curator Service Discovery is in its own package in Maven Central: curator-x-discovery

What Is a Discovery Service?

In SOA/distributed systems, services need to find each other. i.e. a web service might need to find a caching service, etc. DNS can be used for this but it is nowhere near flexible enough for services that are constantly changing. A Service Discovery system provides a mechanism for:

  • Services to register their availability
  • Locating a single instance of a particular service
  • Notifying when the instances of a service change

Curator Service Discovery


A service instance is represented by the class: ServiceInstance. ServiceInstances have a name, id, address, port and/or ssl port, and an optional payload (user defined). ServiceInstances are serialized and stored in ZooKeeper in the following way:

base path
       |_______ service A name
                    |__________ instance 1 id --> (serialized ServiceInstance)
                    |__________ instance 2 id --> (serialized ServiceInstance)
                    |__________ ...
       |_______ service B name
                    |__________ instance 1 id --> (serialized ServiceInstance)
                    |__________ instance 2 id --> (serialized ServiceInstance)
                    |__________ ...
       |_______ ...


The main abstraction class is ServiceProvider. It encapsulates the discovery service for a particular named service along with a provider strategy. A provider strategy is a scheme for selecting one instance from a set of instances for a given service. There are three bundled strategies: Round Robin, Random and Sticky (always selects the same one).

ServiceProviders are allocated by using a ServiceProviderBuilder. You obtain a ServiceProviderBuilder from the ServiceDiscovery (see below). The ServiceProviderBuilder allows you to set the service name and several other optional values.

The ServiceProvider must be started by calling start(). When finished you should call close(). The only method in ServiceProvider is:

public ServiceInstance<T> getInstance()
                            throws Exception
Return an instance for a single use. IMPORTANT: users should not hold on to the instance
returned. A fresh instance should always be retrieved.
the instance to use

Note: When using Curator 2.x (Zookeeper 3.4.x) it's essential that service provider objects are cached by your application and reused. Since the internal NamespaceWatcher objects added by the service provider cannot be removed in Zookeeper 3.4.x, creating a fresh service provider for each call to the same service will eventually exhaust the memory of the JVM.


In order to allocate a ServiceProvider, you must have a ServiceDiscovery. It is created by a ServiceDiscoveryBuilder.

You must call start() on the object and, when done with it, call close().

Instance Stability

If a particular instance has an I/O error, etc. you should call ServiceProvider.noteError() passing in the instance. The ServiceProvider will temporarily consider instances that have errors to be "down". The thresholds and timeouts for down instances are set via the DownInstancePolicy which can be passed to ServiceProviderBuilder (note: a default DownInstancePolicy is used if you don't specify one).

Low Level APIs

The ServiceProvider API is all you should need for most purposes. However, for finer grained control, you can use these methods:

Registering/Unregistering Services

Normally, you pass your application's service descriptor to the ServiceDiscovery constructor and it will get registered/unregistered automatically. If, though, you need to manually do this, use these methods:

public void registerService(ServiceInstance<T> service)
                    throws Exception
Register/re-register/update a service instance
service - service to add
public void unregisterService(ServiceInstance<T> service)
                      throws Exception
Unregister/remove a service instance
service - the service

Querying for Services

You can query for all service names, all instances of a particular service, or single service instance.

public Collection<String> queryForNames()
                              throws Exception
Return the names of all known services
list of service names
public Collection<ServiceInstance<T>> queryForInstances(String name)
                                            throws Exception
Return all known instances for the given service
name - name of the service
list of instances (or an empty list)
public ServiceInstance<T> queryForInstance(String name,
                                         String id)
                                 throws Exception
Return a service instance POJO
name - name of the service
id - ID of the instance
the instance or null if not found

Service Cache

Each of the above query methods calls ZooKeeper directly. If you need more than occasional querying of services you can use the ServiceCache. It caches in memory the list of instances for a particular service. It uses a Watcher to keep the list up to date.

You allocate a ServiceCache via the builder returned by ServiceDiscovery.serviceCacheBuilder(). The ServiceCache object must be started by calling start() and, when done, you should call close(). You can get the currently known list of instances for the service by calling:

public Collection<ServiceInstance<T>> getInstances()
Return the current list of instances. NOTE: there is no guarantee of freshness. This is merely
the last known list of instances. However, the list is updated via a ZooKeeper watcher so it
should be fresh within a window of a second or two.

ServiceCache supports a listener that gets notified when Watcher has updated the list of instances:

 * Listener for changes to a service cache
public interface ServiceCacheListener extends ConnectionStateListener
     * Called when the cache has changed (instances added/deleted, etc.)
    public void cacheChanged();