Circuit Breakers for well designed applications.


Add this line to your application's Gemfile:

gem 'breaker'

And then execute:

$ bundle

Or install it yourself as:

$ gem install breaker

Circuit Breaker Pattern

The circuit breaker pattern is described in the (wonderful) book Release It by Michael T. Nygard. A circuit breaker in programming terms is modeled after a circuit breaker in the real world. A circuit breaker protects the larger system from failures in other systems. They are especially useful for protecting an application from finnicky remote systems.

The circuit is a state machine. It has three states: open, closed, and half-open. The circuit starts off in open state--normal operation. If the operation failures N times (the failure threshold) the circuit moves to closed. Calls in the closed state will immediate fail and raise an exception. After a specified time period has passed (retry timeout) the circuit moves into half-open. Calls happen normally. If a call fails the state moves to open. If the call suceeds it moves to open. All calls are capped with a timeout. If a timeout occurs that counts as a failure.


Most interaction should go through Breaker.circuit. This is a factory method that creates Breaker::Circuit objects. It requires one argument: the name. It also takes an options hash for customizing the circuit. Thirdly it takes a block to run inside the circuit. Here are some examples:

# Simplest example: protect some code with a circuit breaker
Breaker.circuit 'twitter' do 'Oh Hai'

Breaker.circuit is an upsert opertion. It will create or update an existing circuit. Pass the options hash to customize the circuit's behavior.

circuit = Breaker.circuit 'twitter', timeout: 5 do 'Oh Hai'

Breaker.circuit returns Breaker::Circuit instances which can be saved for later. There use depends no how persistence works.


Circuit breakers are only really useful in a large system (perhaps distributed). Some information must be shared acrosss subsystems. Say there are 5 different services in the system. Each is talking to 2 different systems protected by circuit breakers. Either of the systems go down. It's natural that the failure should propogate through the system so that each service knows the shared ones are down. This is where state and persistence come into play.

The breaker gems bundles a simple in memory repository. This is process specific. If you need to share state across multiple processes then you must write your own repository.

The repository manages fueses (in the eletrical sense). A fuse maintains state. The repository must implement one method: upsert which creates or updates a fuse given by name. The repistory can return some sort of persistent fuse where writer methods write to persistent storage.

Refer to lib/breaker/in_memory_repo.rb for an example. The class is very simple.


  1. Fork it
  2. Create your feature branch (git checkout -b my-new-feature)
  3. Commit your changes (git commit -am 'Add some feature')
  4. Push to the branch (git push origin my-new-feature)
  5. Create new Pull Request