Reacting to promises

published on November 29, 2017.

I was working on the next post of my Prooph service bus series, which includes the usage of ReactPHP promises. Given that I haven’t had the chance to take a closer look at it yet, I decided that this is the right time for it.

ReactPHP has several different components, with the end goal of providing a low-level library for event-driven programming in PHP. The one component I want to talk about today is the promise component, which is a Promises/A implementation for PHP.

What this promise library allows us is a nicer workflow with asynchronous code.

With promises, when we want to execute something asynchronously we defer the work that will be executed asynchronously. The Deferred unit of work will complete sometimes in the future, but we don’t know when. But it does promise that the work will be done, one way or the other.

The Promise is a sort of a placeholder for the result that will eventually be returned from our deferred work. This promise can then either be resolved or rejected by our deferred. When a promise is resolved successfully it has an associated value, and when it is rejected it has an associated reason for the rejection.

We use the then method on the promise to register handlers that will be called when the deferred is resolved or rejected.

To install the React/Promise component, run:

$ composer require react/promise

An example

Let’s say we have some code that does some asynchronous work. Checking the HTTP status code of a bunch of URLs, for example. We could create an invokable class that extends the Deferred:

FetchStatusCodes.php

<?php declare(strict_types=1);

use React\Promise\Deferred;

class FetchStatusCodes extends Deferred
{
    public function __invoke(array $urls)
    {
        $multiHandle = curl_multi_init();

        $handles = $this->getHandlesForUrls($urls, $multiHandle);

        $this->executeMultiHandle($multiHandle);

        $statusCodes = $this->getStatusCodes($handles);

        curl_multi_close($multiHandle);

        $successRate = $this->calculateSuccessRate($statusCodes);

        if ($successRate > 50) {
            $this->resolve($statusCodes);
        } else {
            $this->reject('Success rate too low: ' . $successRate);
        }
    }
}

I’ve left out here a bunch of code that deals with the actual fetching of the status codes, just to keep the “noise” down. The full example is available in this repository.

The important thing here is that we extend React\Promise\Deferred and that at the end we call the resolve() method to resolve this deferred if the success rate is over 50%, or that we call the reject() method if the success rate is below 50%.

The set up of the actual promise and its handlers would look something like this:

promise.php

<?php

$statusCodes = new FetchStatusCodes();
$promise = $statusCodes->promise();

$promise
    ->then(
        function($value) {
            var_dump($value);
        },
        function($reason) {
            echo $reason . PHP_EOL;
        }
    );

$urls = [
    'https://example.com/',
    'https://stackoverflow.com/',
    'https://www.google.com/',
    'https://www.google.com/no-such-url',
    'https://www.google.com:81'
];
$statusCodes($urls);

We create the FetchStatusCodes deferred object and get the promise. We setup the resolve and reject handler callbacks in the then method. They don’t do much for now:

  • the resolve handler dumps the value it got,
  • the reject handler prints out the reason of the rejection.

The output for a resolved promise would be something like this:

$ php promise.php
/home/robert/projects/react-promise-example/promise.php:32:
array(5) {
  'https://example.com/' => int(200)
  'https://stackoverflow.com/' => int(200)
  'https://www.google.rs/' => int(200)
  'https://www.google.com/no-such-url' => int(404)
  'https://www.google.com:81/' => int(0)
}

We’re not done yet!

The example above where we call the then method to set up our resolve/reject handlers, isn’t quite correct. Why?

When we call the then method it actually returns a new Promise. This feature of the Promises/A specification allows us to chain promises together.

On this second promise we can again set up our resolve/reject handlers calling the then method on it, same as we do for our first promise. The resolve handler of the second promise will be called with the return value of either the resolve or the reject handler of the first promise. The reject handler of the second promise will be called when either the resolve or the reject handler of the first promise throws an exception. And the then method of our second promise again returns a new, third promise.

Let’s see if an example makes it a bit more clearer:

promise.php

<?php

$statusCodes = new FetchStatusCodes();
$firstPromise = $statusCodes->promise();

$secondPromise = $firstPromise->then(
    function($statusCodes) {
        $successCodes = array_filter($statusCodes, function ($code) {
            if ($code >= 200 && $code < 300) {
                return true;
            }
            return false;
        });
        return $successCodes;
    },
    function($reason) {
        // handle rejected promise
        // gets called when Deferred gets reject-ed
    }
);

$thirdPromise = $secondPromise->then(
    function ($successCodes) {
        return json_encode($successCodes);
    },
    function ($reason) {
        // handle rejected promise
        // gets called when $firstPromise handlers throw an exception
    }
);

$urls = [
    'https://example.com/',
    'https://stackoverflow.com/',
    'https://www.google.com/',
    'https://www.google.com/no-such-url',
    'https://www.google.com:81'
];
$statusCodes($urls);

When our FetchStatusCodes deferred resolves, it will call the resolve handler of the $firstPromise. In that first resolve handler we get only the successful status codes and return them.

With this return from the resolve handler of the first promise, we “trigger” the resolve handler of the $secondPromise where we can, for example, json_encode our success codes. By returning this JSON string from the resolve handler of the second promise, we again “trigger” the resolve handler of the $thirdPromise, and so on.

Almost done!

When we call then, we make a new promise.

To actually be done with all the promises, we need to call the done method on the last promise in our chain. With done we stop making promises and use the result of our last promise:

promise.php

<?php
$thirdPromise->done(
    function ($jsonString) {
        echo $jsonString . PHP_EOL;
    },
    function ($reason) {
        // handle rejected promise
        // gets called when $secondPromise handlers throw an exception
    }
);

If we’d run the example now, we’d get something like this:

$ php promise.php | json_pp
{
   "https://example.com/" : 200,
   "https://www.google.rs/" : 200,
   "https://stackoverflow.com/" : 200
}

We additionally pipe the output of our example script to json_pp to pretty print the JSON string.

Now we’re done

ReactPHP promises have an ExtendedPromisesInterface that include additional shortcut and utility methods that are not part of the Promise/A specification. Their docs include some more examples, and Cees-Jan Kiewiet looks at examples using the react/dns component, among other things.

When we deal with asynchronous code in PHP, using ReactPHP promises gives us a way to deal with it in a much nicer, saner way.

Happy hackin’!

Thanks for reading! If you require help on a project of any kind, let's talk!

Robert Basic

Robert Basic

Software engineer, consultant, open source contributor.

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