Kafka Transactions in Spring Enabled Applications

Kafka’s transactions are very suitable for scenarios that have a read-process-write pattern. It will be enough to add the following property definition in your application in order to enable Kafka transactions while you are working with Spring Boot and Kafka.


When Spring Boot notices transaction-id-prefix, Spring Boot AutoConfiguration feature enables KafkaTransactionManager bean within the ApplicationContext. Apart from the transaction-id-prefix, it might also be important to configure the following properties while you are working with Kafka transactions.


enable-auto-commit=false property setting makes the container send the offset information to Kafka transaction only when MessageListener ends without error. If we define enable-auto-commit=true, it allows the container to send offset information periodically without considering there exists a transaction or not. The auto.commit.interval.ms property which is in milliseconds precision becomes important to manage this period.

The isolation-level=read_committed property, on the other hand, only allows MessageListener, in other words, consumers to consume messages whose transaction is committed, or those messages sent without a transaction at all. Kafka broker won’t allow consumers to read messages whose transactions are aborted/rollbacked.

It becomes mandatory to have an active transaction in order to send messages using KafkaTemplate once we enabled Kafka transactions. For that purpose, you can utilize Spring’s declarative transaction management feature. You can employ @Transactional annotation over the class or method level. Declarative transaction management feature is enabled with @EnableTransactionManagement annotation, however, it is not necessary to explicitly add this annotation in your configuration classes, because it is already done by the Spring Boot for you if there exists a TransactionManager bean within the ApplicationContext. KafkaTransactionManager bean we already enabled above satisfies this condition.

One of the most important capabilities of Spring’s transaction management infrastructure is its “transaction synchronization” ability. With the help of transaction synchronization, we can defer the execution of some of the operations that we define within the transactional method until the end of that transaction (either to the commit or rollback, or both). Unfortunately, KafkaTransactionManager by default disabled this feature. The reason for disabling this feature is stated as it is generally expected that Kafka transactions and KafkaTransactionManager will be used together with another TransactionManager which is based on something like JDBC DataSourceTransactionManager. In such a combination, the Spring Data project’s ChainedTransactionManager class is utilized to orchestrate among individual TransactionManagers. In Spring Kafka projects, if there is such a combination then ChainedKafkaTransactionManager subclass must be configured because it exposes KafkaTransactionManager to the outside. Usage of ChainedTransactionManager corresponds to the “Best Effort 1PC pattern” which is mentioned in the article written by David Syer in which he examines transactional processing patterns commonly appear in Spring enabled applications.

If you are, somehow, only using KafkaTransactionManager in your project, and you need to activate the transaction synchronization feature (for example, you will be using Kafka and Redis together, and there will be no such usage of JDBC database, and you will need to synchronize Kafka and Redis operations), then you must override KafkaTransactionManager bean definition in your application in order to activate this feature.

    @ConfigurationProperties(prefix = "spring.kafka")
    fun kafkaTransactionManager(producerFactory: ProducerFactory<Any, Any>): KafkaTransactionManager<Any, Any> {
        val bean = KafkaTransactionManager<Any, Any>(producerFactory)
        bean.transactionSynchronization = AbstractPlatformTransactionManager.SYNCHRONIZATION_ON_ACTUAL_TRANSACTION
        return bean

If there is a TransactionManager bean defined in your application, Spring Kafka adds SeekToCurrentErrorHandler implementation by default as the ErrorHandler in order to deal with the exceptions that might occur within MessageListeners while they are consuming messages. You can define your own custom ErrorHandler bean definition in your application, and send messages to dead letter topics after some max number of failure retries which max 10 by default.

    fun kafkaErrorHandler(kafkaTemplate: KafkaOperations<Object,Object>) : SeekToCurrentErrorHandler {
        val dlt = DeadLetterPublishingRecoverer(kafkaTemplate)
        val errorHandler = SeekToCurrentErrorHandler(dlt)
        return errorHandler

Apart from ErrorHandler configuration, MessageListenerContainer has also AfterRollbackProcessor. It handles messages whose transactions rollback and those messages which cannot be processed at all. Spring Kafka configures DefaultAfterRollbackProcessor implementation by default. This processor implementation tries to process those failed messages for some number of times (max 10 by default) and then logs them using a BiConsumer Recoverer instance configured for it. You can configure
DeadLetterPublishingRecoverer as the recoverer of AfterRollbackProcessor instead of configuring it in ErrorHandler bean.

    fun kafkaAfterRollbackProcessor(kafkaTemplate: KafkaOperations<Object,Object>) : AfterRollbackProcessor<Any,Any> {
        val dlt = DeadLetterPublishingRecoverer(kafkaTemplate)
        val processor = DefaultAfterRollbackProcessor<Any,Any>(dlt)
        return processor