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RxJS Essentials. Part 7: Handling errors with the catch operator

In this article, I’ll show you aone of the RxJS operators for error handling – the catch() operator. The previous articles in this series include:

1. Basic Terms
2. Operators map, filter, and reduce
3. Using Observable.create()
4. Using RxJS Subject
5. The flatMap operator
6. The switchMap operator

The Reactive Manifesto declares that a reactive app should be resilient, which means that the app should implement the procedure to keep it alive in case of a failure. An observable can emit an error by invoking the error() function on the observer, but when the error() method is invoked, the stream completes.

A subscription to an observable ends if one of the following occurs:

1. The consumer explicitely unsubscribes
2. The observable invokes the complete() method on the observer
3. The observable invokes the error() method on the observer

RxJS offers several operators to intercept and handle the error before it reaches the code in the error() method on the observer.

* catch(error) – intercepts the error and you can implement some business logic to handle it
* retry(n) – retries the erroneous operation up to n times

* retryWhen(fn) – retries the erroneous operation as per the provided function

In this article, I’ll show you an example of using the catch() operator. Inside the catch() operator you can check the error status and react accordingly. The following code snippet shows how to intercept an error, and if the error status is 500, switch to a different data producer to get the cached data. If the received error status is not 500, this code will return an empty observable and the stream of data will complete. In any case, the method error() on the observer won’t be invoked.

.catch(err => {  
    console.error("Got " + err.status + ": " + err.description);

    if (err.status === 500){
        console.error(">>> Retrieving cached data");

        return getCachedData();  // failover
    } else{
      return Rx.Observable.empty();  // don't handle the error
    }
})

The following listing shows the complete example, where we subscribe to the stream of beers from a primary source – getData() – which randomly generates an error with the status 500. The catch() operator intercepts this error and switches to an alternative source – getCachedData().

function getData(){
    var beers = [
        {name: "Sam Adams", country: "USA", price: 8.50},
        {name: "Bud Light", country: "USA", price: 6.50},
        {name: "Brooklyn Lager", country: "USA", price: 8.00},
        {name: "Sapporo", country: "Japan", price: 7.50}
    ];

    return Rx.Observable.create( observer => {
        let counter = 0;
        beers.forEach( beer => {
                observer.next(beer);   // 1
                counter++;

                if (counter > Math.random()*5) {   // 2
                    observer.error({
                            status: 500,
                            description: "Beer stream error" 
                        });
                } 
            }
        );

        observer.complete();}
    );
}

// Subscribing to data from the primary source
getData() 
    .catch(err => {  // 3
        console.error("Got " + err.status + ": " + err.description);
        if (err.status === 500){
            console.error(">>> Retrieving cached data");
            return getCachedData();   // 4
        } else{
          return Rx.Observable.empty();  // 5  
        }
    })
    .map(beer => beer.name + ", " + beer.country)
    .subscribe(
        beer => console.log("Subscriber got " + beer),
        err => console.error(err),
        () => console.log("The stream is over")
    );

function getCachedData(){  // 6
    var beers = [
        {name: "Leffe Blonde", country: "Belgium", price: 9.50},
        {name: "Miller Lite", country: "USA", price: 8.50},
        {name: "Corona", country: "Mexico", price: 8.00},
        {name: "Asahi", country: "Japan", price: 7.50}
    ];

    return Rx.Observable.create( observer => {
        beers.forEach( beer => {
                observer.next(beer);
            }
        );

        observer.complete();}
    );
}

1. Emit the next beer from the primary data source
2. Randomly generate the error with the status 500
3. Intercept the error before it reaches the observer
4. Failover to the alternative data source
5. Don’t handle the non-500 errors; return an empty observable to complete the stream
6. The alternative data source for failover

The output of this program can look as follows:

Subscriber got Sam Adams, USA
Subscriber got Bud Light, USA
Got 500: Beer stream error
>>> Retrieving cached data
Subscriber got Leffe Blonde, Belgium
Subscriber got Miller Lite, USA
Subscriber got Corona, Mexico
Subscriber got Asahi, Japan
The stream is over

NOTE: To see it in CodePen, follow this link. Stay tuned…


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Yakov Fain is a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay. He wrote a thousand blogs (http://yakovfain.com) and several books about software development. Yakov authored and co-authored such books as "Angular 2 Development with TypeScript", "Java 24-Hour Trainer", and "Enterprise Web Development". His Twitter tag is @yfain