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POSTED 09 Sep 2019 17:30

Web3j Transaction Managers

ethereum
java
web3j
transaction
AUTHOR
Craig Williams

A Transaction Manager in Web3j is an abstraction that controls how transactions are signed and broadcast to the Ethereum network, via a connected client. You can pass an implementation to a smart contract wrapper when deploying or loading a contract, or you can use it to directly send transactions in a more manual way.

There are multiple different Transaction Manager implementations included, all extending the TransactionManager abstract class. Each extending class must implement the abstract sendTransaction(..) method:

public abstract EthSendTransaction sendTransaction(
            BigInteger gasPrice, BigInteger gasLimit, String to,
            String data, BigInteger value)
            throws IOException;

In this article we describe and compare the Transaction Managers provided by Web3j.

ClientTransactionManager

Signing

The client transaction manager does not perform any transaction signing, and instead, delegates to the connected Ethereum client to sign, using one of its managed accounts. Because of this, the client must unlock the sender account which means that the client has access to the private key of the account.

Sending

The non-signed transaction data is passed to the Ethereum client via the eth_sendTransaction JSON RPC endpoint of the connected client. For more information on this endpoint, read the geth JSON RPC documentation.

Nonce Management

Like signing, calculating the transaction nonce is delegated to the connected node.

Use Cases

For most production use cases it is not recommended to use the ClientTransactionManager. This is because the sender account needs to be unlocked, which adds a significant attack vector into your architecture. If the client is not configured correctly, or the server security is generally lacking, then an attacker could potentially steal the funds from the unlocked account.

To reduce risk, you should only use the ClientTransactionManager for testing purposes, or for unlocked accounts with a small Ether balance.

Source Code

RawTransactionManager

Signing

The RawTransactionManager takes a Credentials file as a constructor argument, and uses the private key of these credentials to sign the transaction on the Java side, before forwarding to the connected Ethereum client. This means that account management is not handled on the client side at all, and the account does not need to be unlocked.

Sending

The encoded and signed raw transaction is broadcast to the Ethereum network via the eth_sendRawTransaction JSON RPC endpoint.

Nonce Management

Before generating and signing the raw transaction, retrieve the nonce for the sender account by calling eth_getTransactionCount on the Ethereum client. As you can probably see, this retrieves the total number of transactions sent from the account, including pending transactions that have not yet been included in a block. As the nonce is zero indexed, this count should equal the nonce for the next transaction to be sent.

Use Cases

As the RawTransactionManager is signing server-side before forwarding to the client, it is not a requirement for an Ethereum client account to be unlocked. This means that you can use third party nodes, such as Infura, rather than hosting your own. However, because of the way the nonce is calculated, this transaction manager is not suitable for applications with high transaction throughput from a single account. More on this below.

Source Code

FastRawTransactionManager

Signing

As you've probably gathered from the name, the FastRawTransactionManager extends RawTransactionManager and builds and signs transaction exactly the same way, with the nonce value being the only exception.

Sending

Call eth_sendRawTransaction, just like in the RawTransactionManager.

Nonce Management

Nonce management is where the FastRawTransactionManager differs from the vanilla RawTransactionManager. Rather than calling eth_getTransactionCount every time a transaction is sent, the manager maintains an in memory transaction count and increments it every time the manager sends a transaction. The count management is synchronized and is therefore thread-safe.

Use Cases

As the name implies, this TransactionManager is useful in applications that intend to send transactions quickly from a single account, potentially on multiple threads. With a standard RawTransactionManager, in high throughput situations there is a chance of a race condition where RawTransactionManager sends multiple transactions with the same nonce value, causing all but one of the transactions to fail. This is not the case with the FastRawTransactionManager because of the thread-safe in memory transaction count.

Source Code

ReadonlyTransactionManager

This is a stub TransactionManager, which throws an UnsupportedOperationException if sentTransaction is called.

Use Cases

You can use this in situations where you would like to use an abstraction that takes a TransactionManager as an argument, such as calling the load(..) method of a contract wrapper, but the smart contract only makes call (read-only) operations, so you do not have to worry about credentials / private keys.

Source Code

Summary

There are a number of TransactionManager implementations bundled with Web3j, each with different characteristics. The right choice for you depends on the manner of transactions (or lack of) that you will send from the application that you are building. And if there isn't an implementation that fits your use case, you can always extend the existing ones with your desired functionality!

Outline
  • ClientTransactionManager

  • RawTransactionManager

  • FastRawTransactionManager

  • ReadonlyTransactionManager

  • Summary