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How to Automatically Retry on a Webclient Timeout in Spring Boot Webflux

Oct 2020

The source code for this post can be found on Github.

Intermittent network flapping, or any one downstream host of several clones responding slowly, is a not uncommon thing that happens in a microservices architecture, especially if you're using java applications, where the JIT compiler can often make initial requests slower than they ought to be.

Depending on the request that you're making, it can often be retried effectively to smooth out these effects to your consumer. Doing so in a straightforward and declarative way will be the subject of this post.

The App

I'm going to build off of some work in a previous blog post about fallbacks. You'll recall that we had setup a WebClient like so:

public class Config {

    public WebClient serviceAWebClient() {
        HttpClient httpClient = HttpClient.create().tcpConfiguration(tcpClient ->
                tcpClient.option(ChannelOption.CONNECT_TIMEOUT_MILLIS, 1000)
                        .doOnConnected(connection -> connection.addHandlerLast(new ReadTimeoutHandler(1000, TimeUnit.MILLISECONDS)))

        return WebClient.builder()
                .clientConnector(new ReactorClientHttpConnector(httpClient))

This WebClient already has a timeout of 1 second configured, which in many cases is quite conservative [well written, performance focused services usually respond much faster than that].

Setting up the retry

I'll also steal our DTO from the last post:

public class WelcomeMessage {
    private String message;

    public WelcomeMessage() {}

    public WelcomeMessage(String message) {
        this.message = message;

    public String getMessage() {
        return message;

    public void setMessage(String message) {
        this.message = message;

With this, let's set up a barebones services that will soon contain the code we're looking for:

public class RetryService {
    private final WebClient serviceAWebClient;

    public RetryService(@Qualifier("service-a-web-client") WebClient serviceAWebClient) {
        this.serviceAWebClient = serviceAWebClient;

    public Mono<WelcomeMessage> getWelcomeMessageAndHandleTimeout(String locale) {
        return Mono.empty();

This code doesn't do anything yet. Now let's make a test class, configured with the familiar MockServer setup that we've leveraged before:

public class RetryServiceIT {

    public static final int WEBCLIENT_TIMEOUT = 50;
    private final ClientAndServer clientAndServer;

    private RetryService retryService;
    private WebClient mockWebClient;

    public RetryServiceIT(ClientAndServer clientAndServer) {
        this.clientAndServer = clientAndServer;
        HttpClient httpClient = HttpClient.create()
                .tcpConfiguration(tcpClient ->
                        tcpClient.option(ChannelOption.CONNECT_TIMEOUT_MILLIS, WEBCLIENT_TIMEOUT)
                                .doOnConnected(connection -> connection.addHandlerLast(
                                        new ReadTimeoutHandler(WEBCLIENT_TIMEOUT, TimeUnit.MILLISECONDS))

        this.mockWebClient = WebClient.builder()
                .baseUrl("http://localhost:" + this.clientAndServer.getPort())
                .clientConnector(new ReactorClientHttpConnector(httpClient))

    public void setup() {
        this.retryService = new RetryService(mockWebClient);

    public void clearExpectations() {

    public void retryOnTimeout() {
        AtomicInteger counter = new AtomicInteger();
        HttpRequest expectedRequest = request()

                httpRequest -> {
                    if (counter.incrementAndGet() < 2) {
                        Thread.sleep(WEBCLIENT_TIMEOUT + 10);
                    return HttpResponse.response()
                            .withBody("{\"message\": \"hello\"}")

                .expectNextMatches(welcomeMessage -> "hello".equals(welcomeMessage.getMessage()))

        this.clientAndServer.verify(expectedRequest, VerificationTimes.exactly(3));

This code:

  1. Starts by looking for a GET request at the endpoint /locale/en_US/message
  2. Anything that matches that request path and HTTP method will then leverage an ExpectationResponseCallback to sleep for 10 milliseconds longer than our WebClient is configured to timeout on for the first two requests
  3. After the first two requests are completed, the response will immediately return
  4. We verify, using StepVerifier, that there is one item in the Mono and that item is deserialized correctly.
  5. We then assert that this endpoint was called three times, meaning the first two would have timed out, and the final one was successful.

Now, following TDD, let's write code that passes this test:

    public Mono<WelcomeMessage> getWelcomeMessageAndHandleTimeout(String locale) {
        return this.serviceAWebClient.get()
                .uri(uriBuilder -> uriBuilder.path("/locale/{locale}/message").build(locale))
                    Retry.backoff(2, Duration.ofMillis(25))
                            .filter(throwable -> throwable instanceof TimeoutException)

This code:

  1. Makes a GET request to the locale endpoint specified, passing in the locale argument so that it gets interpolated.
  2. Deserializes the response into a WelcomeMessage
  3. If that mono fails to complete, it will consult the specified retryWhen declaration.
  4. We specify that any exception which is of type TimeoutException should be retried twice, for a total of three attempts.

If you now run the test, it will pass. Remember to check out the source code on Github!

Nick Fisher is a software engineer in the Pacific Northwest. He focuses on building highly scalable and maintainable backend systems.