Get Started With Using External Activator

In the blog post Announcing Service Broker External Activator, we introduced Service Broker External Activator and showed what benefits a broker user can get from using it. In this article, we'll get you started with using external activator in four steps:

· How to create a notification service

· How to create an event notification to associate your user queue with the notification service

· How to modify external activator configuration file to connect to the notification service you just defined and to launch applications when messages are arriving at your user queues that are being monitored

· A few things External Activator expect you to do


To begin with, external activator must connect to a notification service before it can do anything useful. If you don't have a notification service yet, here is the script you can use to create one:

-- switch to the database where you want to define the notification service

USE my_db


-- create a queue to host the notification service

CREATE QUEUE my_notif_queue


-- create event notification service

CREATE SERVICE my_notif_svc

      ON QUEUE my_notif_queue






Next, let's create an event notification object so whenever messages have arrived at the user queue you are interested in (my_user_queue), notifications will be posted to the notification service we just created above:


ON QUEUE my_user_queue


TO SERVICE 'my_notif_svc' , 'current database'



The above example assumes my_user_queue and my_notif_svc reside in the same database. In the case of my_notif_svc is in another database, 'current database' should be replaced with the broker instance GUID where my_notif_svc is defined in.

Assume you have already downloaded the Service Broker External Activator MSI package and installed external activator to C:\Program Files\Service Broker\External Activator\. Suppose the message processing application that you want external activator to invoke is in c:\test\myMessageReceiver.exe, and your notification database server is running on my_pc01. Here is what your configuration file will look like (C:\Program Files\Service Broker\External Activator\config\EAService.config):



    <NotificationService name="my_notif_svc" id="100" enabled="true">

      <Description>my notification service</Description>


        <Unencrypted>server=my_pc01;database=my_db;Application Name=External Activator;Integrated Security=true;</Unencrypted>





    <ApplicationService name="myMessageApp" enabled="true">









        <CmdLineArgs>whatever cmd-line arguments you need to pass to your receiver application</CmdLineArgs>



      <Concurrency min="1" max="4" />





We now have specified notification service name, notification database connection string, the four-part user queue name whose activities we like to watch, and the message-receiving application we like External Activator to invoke when messages are coming in. We have also configured the min attribute of the <Concurrency/> element to 1, which means External Activator will launch a single instance of c:\test\myMessageReceiver.exe upon the first QUEUE_ACTIVATION notification message received for my_user_queue. The max attribute is set to 4, meaning as many as four instances of the same application can be launched if service broker sees my_user_queue are not being drained fast enough (e.g., messages keep accumulating). We recommend max to be set to the number of CPU cores of the machine where External Activator is deployed (my_pc01) to take full advantage of the machine power.


A couple of things External Activator expects you to do it right include:

· The windows login-account external activator service is running under needs to have the set of permissions that are listed in Security Implications section of C:\Program Files\Service Broker\External Activator\bin\<language_id>\ssbea.doc in order to connect to the notification service and database to read notification messages from the notification service queue (my_notif_queue). Assuming the service account is my_domain\my_username, we have provided the SQL scripts below that can be used to set up the minimum set of permissions required by external activator. Please refer to Service Broker Identity and Access Control page for more information about what permissions are expected by service broker applications, and Service Broker Tutorials for more information about broker programming in general.

-- switch to master database

USE master


-- create a sql-login for the same named service account from windows

CREATE LOGIN [my_domain\my_username] FROM WINDOWS


-- switch to the notification database

USE my_db


-- allow CONNECT to the notification database

GRANT CONNECT TO [my_domain\my_username]


-- allow RECEIVE from the notification service queue

GRANT RECEIVE ON my_notif_queue TO [my_domain\my_username]


-- allow VIEW DEFINITION right on the notification service

GRANT VIEW DEFINITION ON SERVICE::my_notif_svc TO [my_domain\my_username]


-- allow REFRENCES right on the notification queue schema

GRANT REFERENCES ON SCHEMA::dbo TO [my_domain\my_username]


· Your application (c:\test\myMessageReceiver.exe), when launched, must issue RECEIVEs and consume messages from your user queue (my_user_queue) before it exits for service broker to post more event notifications when either your user queue is not completely drained at the time your application finishes or there are new messages coming in later after your application quits. For more details about how broker activations work, check out Understanding When Activation Occurs of SQL Server Books Online.


If you have done all the above necessities, now try to start your external activator service, and send a few messages to your user queue, you should probably be able to see the messages are read and processed. But if not, in our next EA blog article, and we'll show how you can trouble-shoot external activator to find out what have gone wrong. Stay tuned! :)