Tag: reactive

Web Applications with Kotlin ktor

Web Applications with Kotlin ktor

Disclaimer: This article was originally published in the Dzone Web Development Guide, which can be downloaded here.


When Google made Kotlin an official language for Android a few months ago at Google I/O, the language gained a lot of popularity in the Android world quickly. On the server side though, Kotlin is not as broadly adopted yet and some people still seem to be cautious when backend services are involved. Other developers are convinced that Kotlin is mature enough and can safely be used for any server application in which Java could play a role otherwise.
If you want to develop web apps with Kotlin, you can choose from various web frameworks like Spring MVC/WebFlux, Vert.x, Vaadin and basically everything available for the JVM. Besides the mentioned frameworks there’s also a Kotlin specific library available for creating web applications, called ktor. After reading this article, you’ll know what ktor and its advantages are and how you can quickly develop a web application in Kotlin.


The web application framework ktor, itself written in Kotlin, is meant to provide a tool for quickly creating web applications with Kotlin. The resulting software may be hosted in common servlet containers like Tomcat or standalone in a Netty for example. Whatever kind of hosting you choose, ktor is making heavy use of Kotlin Coroutines, so that it’s implemented 100% asynchronously and mainly non-blocking. ktor does not dictate which frameworks or tools to be used, so that you can choose whatever logging, DI, or templating engine you like. The library is pretty light-weight in general, still being very extensible through a plugin mechanism.
One of the greatest advantages attributed to Kotlin is its ability to provide type-safe builders, also known as Domain Specific Languages (DSL). Many libraries already provide DSLs as an alternative to common APIs, such as the Android lib anko, the Kotlin html builder or the freshly released Spring 5 framework. As we will see in the upcoming examples, ktor also makes use of such DSLs, which enable the user to define the web app’s endpoints in a very declarative way.

Example Application

In the following, a small RESTful (Not sure, if everyone will agree) web service will be developed with ktor. The service will use an in-memory repository with simple Person resources, which it exposes through a JSON API. Let’s look at the components.

Person Resource and Repository

According to the app’s requirements, a resource “Person” is defined as a data class and the corresponding repository as an object, Kotlin’s way of applying the Singleton pattern to a class.

data class Person(val name: String, val age: Int){
    var id: Int? = null

The resource has two simple properties, which need to be defined when a new object is constructed, whereas the id property is set later when stored in the repository.
The Person repository is rather unspectacular and not worth observing. It uses an internal data store and provides common CRUD operations.


The most important part of the web application is the configuration of its endpoints, exposed as a REST API. The following endpoints will be implemented:

Endpoint HTTP Method Description
/persons GET Requests all Person resources
/persons/{id} GET Requests a specific Person resource by its ID
/persons DELETE Requests all Person resources to be removed
/persons/{id} DELETE Requests a specific Person resource to be removed by its ID
/persons POST Requests to store a new Person resource
/ GET Delivers a simple HTML page welcoming the client

The application won’t support an update operator via PUT.

Routing with Ktor

Now ktor comes into play with its structured DSL, which will be used for defining the previously shown endpoints, a process often referred to as “routing”. Let’s see how it works:

fun Application.main() {
    install(CORS) {
        maxAge = Duration.ofDays(1)
        register(ContentType.Application.Json, GsonConverter())

    routing {
        get("/persons") {
            LOG.debug("Get all Person entities")
    // more routings

The fundamental class in the ktor library is Application, which represents a configured and eventually running web service instance. In the snippet, an extension function main() is defined on Application, in which it’s possible to call functions defined in Application directly, without additional qualifiers. This is done by invoking install() multiple times, a function for adding certain ApplicationFeatures into the request processing pipeline of the application. These features are optional and the user can choose from various types. The only interesting feature in the shown example is ContentNegotiation, which is used for the (de-)serialization of Kotlin objects to and from JSON, respectively. The Gson library is used as a backing technology.
The routing itself is demonstrated by defining the GET endpoint for retrieving all Person resources here. It’s actually straight-forward since the result of the repository call getAll() is just delegated back to the client. The call.respond() invocation will eventually reach the GsonSupport feature taking care of transforming the Person into its JSON representation. The same happens for the remaining four REST endpoints, which will not be shown explicitly here.

The HTML builder

Another cool feature of ktor is its integration with other Kotlin DSLs like the HTML builder, which can be found on GitHub. By adding a single additional dependency to a ktor app, this builder can be used with the extension function call.respondHtml(), which expects type-safe HTML code to be provided. In the following example, a simple greeting to the readers is included, which the web service exposes as its index page.

get("/") {
    call.respondHtml {
        head {
            title("ktor Example Application")
        body {
            h1 { +"Hello DZone Readers" }
            p {
                +"How are you doing?"

Starting the Application

After having done the configuration of a ktor application, there’s still a need to start it through a regular main method. In the demo, a Netty server is started standalone by doing the following:

fun main(args: Array) {
    embeddedServer(Netty, 8080, module = Application::main).start(wait = true)

The starting is made pretty simple by just calling the embeddedServer() method with a Netty environment, a port and the module to be started, which happens to be the thingy defined in the Application.main() extension function from the previously shown example.


A web framework or library is only applicable if it comes with integrated testing means, which ktor actually does. Since the GET routing for retrieving all Person resources was already shown, let’s have a look at how the endpoint can be tested.

    fun getAllPersonsTest() = withTestApplication(Application::main) {
        val person = savePerson(gson.toJson(Person("Bert", 40)))
        val person2 = savePerson(gson.toJson(Person("Alice", 25)))
        handleRequest(HttpMethod.Get, "/persons") {
            addHeader("Accept", json)
        }.response.let {
            assertEquals(HttpStatusCode.OK, it.status())
            val response = gson.fromJson(it.content, Array::class.java)
            response.forEach { println(it) }
            response.find { it.name == person.name } ?: fail()
            response.find { it.name == person2.name } ?: fail()
        assertEquals(2, PersonRepo.getAll().size)

This one is quite simple: Two resource objects are added to the repository, then the GET request is executed and some assertions are done against the web service response. The important part is withTestApplication(), which ktor offers through its testing module and makes it possible to directly test the Application.
The article presented basically everything worth knowing in order to get started with ktor web applications. For more details, I recommend the ktor homepage or the samples included in the ktor repository.


In this article we had a look at the Kotlin web service library ktor that provides simple tools for writing a light-weight web application in Kotlin very quickly. ktor makes heavy use of Kotlin’s beautiful features, especially DSLs, Coroutines and extension functions, all of which make the language and ktor itself so elegant. This mainly separates ktor from other powerful frameworks, which in fact can be used with Kotlin very smoothly, but, since not completely written in Kotlin, lack certain features you can find in ktor. It’s a great place to start with web applications because of its simplicity and ability to be extended with custom features if needed, following the principle “simple is easy, complex is available”.
The complete source code of the developed web application can be found on GitHub, it’s backed by a Gradle build.

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Spring WebFlux with Kotlin – Reactive Web

Spring WebFlux with Kotlin – Reactive Web

Spring 5.0 – even fancier

In this article I will show how Spring and Kotlin can be used together. If you’re not familiar with my recent articles, have a look at the other Kotlin related posts here. Besides Kotlin, I’ve always been interested in working with Spring ever since I started with Java back in 2011. I still like the framework although it’s getting bigger and bigger and you often don’t quite know which feature to choose amongst all the alternatives. As the framework itself is growing, the documentation, which is one of best you’ll ever get to see, also is.

The thing I like most about Spring is that you can focus on your business logic from day one and don’t have much technical, infrastructural stuff to set up before kicking off. Spring does that by encapsulating a lot of boilerplate that’s necessary for certain tasks and provides simple annotations we can apply in order to make use of these features. One of the most famous modules certainly is Spring Web MVC, which is widely used whenever it comes to web services on the JVM.

Reactive Programming – The non-blocking way

You might have noticed, that Reactive Programming is getting more attention recently. There are many frameworks emerging that want to encourage this style of programming, namely RxJava, Vert.X or Akka for example. If you’ve never come across these, you can read my post on Kotlin with Vert.X as a first step.

Spring reactive

What does this have to do with Spring though? Well, of course, there’s yet another library for building reactive systems, which in fact is powered by Spring: [Project Reactor] https://projectreactor.io). Reactor is used in the current Spring Release 5.0, released in September, which introduces a reactive web framework called WebFlux.
This fact on its own is a good reason for me to dive into it as it sounds fairly fantastic knowing Web MVC as Spring’s outstanding module already. But, there’s yet another great reason to take this expansion into account: Spring is greatly supporting Kotlin and even introduced Kotlin dedicated features with the recent major release 🙂 This was achieved by making use of extension functions in order to extend existing APIs and also by introducing Kotlin DSLs, also a topic I’m really interested in, as you can read in my post on creating a DSL with Kotlin. One of these new DSLs goes hand in hand with Spring WebFlux: A functional DSL for describing the WebFlux-backed web service. This, in fact, is what I am going to present to you in a very short example up next…

WebFlux and Kotlin in Action

Let’s have a look at a very basic application using Spring WebFlux in a Kotlin application. The initial setup can easily be downloaded as a SpringBoot application from Spring Initializr, if you choose Kotlin as the programming language and also enable the “Reactive Web” dependency, which is available since SpringBoot 2.0.0.

spring boot initilizr

As soon as we’ve imported this project into our IDE, we can start with creating a reactive web service. For the sake of brevity, I chose a very simple, not very useful, example: An internally managed repository of
simple Strings that is populated through the web interface and also is searchable from it. Thanks to Kotlin, and also Spring, there’s not much code to be written:

Repo and Handler

class ReactiveHandler(val repo: StringRepo) {
    fun getText(search: String): Mono<String> =
        repo.get(search).toMono().map { "Result: $it!" }
    fun addText(text: String): Mono<String> =
        repo.add(text).toMono().map { "Result: $it!" }
    fun getAllTexts(): Flux<String> =
        repo.getAll().toFlux().map { "Result: $it" }

class StringRepo {
    private val entities = mutableListOf<String>()
    fun add(s: String) = entities.add(s)
    fun get(s: String) = entities.find { it == s } ?: "not found!"
    fun getAll() = listOf(entities)

We simply create a repository that maintains a list of Strings and another class ReactiveHandler, which is responsible for delegating to the repository and providing “reactive types” defined in Reactor. These are mandatory for WebFlux: Flux and Mono (Read about them here). Regardless of their intention, have a look at how they are created: toMono() and toFlux() are examples of extension functions added in Spring 5.0, a feature dedicated to Kotlin. The much more interesting part though is where the web routing is defined. This part, in particular, is where the already mentioned functional DSL comes into play. Let’s observe how it works.

Functional WebFlux DSL.

class RoutingConfiguration {

    fun routerFunction(handler: ReactiveHandler): RouterFunction<ServerResponse> = router {
        ("/reactive").nest {
            val searchPathName = "search"
            val savePathName = "save"
            GET("/{$searchPathName}") { req ->
                val pathVar = req.pathVariable(searchPathName)
            GET("/") {
            PUT("/{$savePathName}") { req ->
                val pathVar = req.pathVariable(savePathName)

The router function is the entry point of the new DSL, whose definition you can observe on GitHub. The shown solution is just one out of many since the DSL provides more ways you can choose from. With my definition, the server starts a web service under “/reactive” and accepts two GET and one PUT request, each of which is delegated to the previously shown ReactiveHandler (see method parameter) before the results are put into a ServerResponse. Of course, you’d have to handle errors in a real-world scenario and “ok” wouldn’t be the only response.


If you ask me, this approach is very clean structured and even provides the opportunity of using any Kotlin code for defining variables, loops, conditions, whatsoever inside the actual DSL code. Given that, you have a very powerful tool that can be utilized in a very natural programmatic way.

If your like to check this out, the code is available in my repository.

Wrap-up and Perspective

I’ve presented a small project that’s making use of Spring 5.0 and its new module WebFlux in combination with Kotlin. I think, the fact, that Spring officially uses and supports Kotlin is a very important one, I’d like to emphasize once again.

Kotlin – It’s not only Android!

We all know that Kotlin made its way into Android, which was possible because Google announced the official support a few months ago. On the server-side though, people and especially companies hesitate when it comes to Kotlin. They tend to have doubts as to whether Kotlin’s really mature enough already.
When you ask me, there’s no good reason for hesitation. Many projects use Kotlin already, frameworks support Kotlin and even extend their libraries with dedicated Kotlin features. Spring, as one of the most common Java frameworks, seems to think the same as they quickly adopted Kotlin as an alternative to Java and Groovy for SpringBoot applications. The most recent developments, which are part of Spring 5.0, are the next step, some of which we’ve observed in this little article. If you’re, same as me, interested in spreading Kotlin as an alternative to Java, talk about it and tell your colleagues about Spring’s support and what’s actually
happening 😉

Special Thanks

As you can read in this article, Spring’s introducing quite a few Kotlin features. There’s one guy, Sébastien Deleuze, who’s highly responsible for this development in the Spring Framework. He has also been part of talkingkotlin
already, as one of the first discussion partners of Hadi Hariri. It’s really great to have such influencers in the Kotlin community, many thanks to you! Keep up the great work 🙂

If you like to have a look at my examples, the code is available here:
Git. Feel free to give any feedback, I’m always happy to help. Also, if you like, have a look at my Twitter account and follow if you’re interested in more Kotlin stuff 🙂 Thanks a lot.

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Setup Vert.x Application written in Kotlin (Gradle Build)

Setup Vert.x Application written in Kotlin (Gradle Build)

I decided to write a Vert.x application in combination with Kotlin in a simple example because I’m really interested in Reactive Programming and love to use Kotlin. This post will give some basic information on Vert.x as a tool set for writing reactive applications on the JVM as well as a few words on Kotlin. In the end, I want to demonstrate how this application can be set up in Gradle. Of course, this will be just one out of a million possible solutions…​

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