Gateway¶

Audience: Architects, application and smart contract developers

A gateway manages the network interactions on behalf of an application, allowing it to focus on business logic. Applications connect to a gateway and then all subsequent interactions are managed using that gateway’s configuration.

In this topic, we’re going to cover:

Scenario¶

A Hyperledger Fabric network channel can constantly change. The peer, orderer and CA components, contributed by the different organizations in the network, will come and go. Reasons for this include increased or reduced business demand, and both planned and unplanned outages. A gateway relieves an application of this burden, allowing it to focus on the business problem it is trying to solve.

A MagnetoCorp and DigiBank applications (issue and buy) delegate their respective network interactions to their gateways. Each gateway understands the network channel topology comprising the multiple peers and orderers of two organizations MagnetoCorp and DigiBank, leaving applications to focus on business logic. Peers can talk to each other both within and across organizations using the gossip protocol.

A gateway can be used by an application in two different ways:

• Static: The gateway configuration is completely defined in a connection profile. All the peers, orderers and CAs available to an application are statically defined in the connection profile used to configure the gateway. For peers, this includes their role as an endorsing peer or event notification hub, for example. You can read more about these roles in the connection profile topic.

The SDK will use this static topology, in conjunction with gateway connection options, to manage the transaction submission and notification processes. The connection profile must contain enough of the network topology to allow a gateway to interact with the network on behalf of the application; this includes the network channels, organizations, orderers, peers and their roles.

• Dynamic: The gateway configuration is minimally defined in a connection profile. Typically, one or two peers from the application’s organization are specified, and they use service discovery to discover the available network topology. This includes peers, orderers, channels, deployed smart contracts and their endorsement policies. (In production environments, a gateway configuration should specify at least two peers for availability.)

The SDK will use all of the static and discovered topology information, in conjunction with gateway connection options, to manage the transaction submission and notification processes. As part of this, it will also intelligently use the discovered topology; for example, it will calculate the minimum required endorsing peers using the discovered endorsement policy for the smart contract.

You might ask yourself whether a static or dynamic gateway is better? The trade-off is between predictability and responsiveness. Static networks will always behave the same way, as they perceive the network as unchanging. In this sense they are predictable – they will always use the same peers and orderers if they are available. Dynamic networks are more responsive as they understand how the network changes – they can use newly added peers and orderers, which brings extra resilience and scalability, at potentially some cost in predictability. In general it’s fine to use dynamic networks, and indeed this the default mode for gateways.

Note that the same connection profile can be used statically or dynamically. Clearly, if a profile is going to be used statically, it needs to be comprehensive, whereas dynamic usage requires only sparse population.

Both styles of gateway are transparent to the application; the application program design does not change whether static or dynamic gateways are used. This also means that some applications may use service discovery, while others may not. In general using dynamic discovery means less definition and more intelligence by the SDK; it is the default.

Connect¶

When an application connects to a gateway, two options are provided. These are used in subsequent SDK processing:

  await gateway.connect(connectionProfile, connectionOptions);

• Connection profile: connectionProfile is the gateway configuration that will be used for transaction processing by the SDK, whether statically or dynamically. It can be specified in YAML or JSON, though it must be converted to a JSON object when passed to the gateway:

let connectionProfile = yaml.safeLoad(fs.readFileSync('../gateway/paperNet.yaml', 'utf8'));


Read more about connection profiles and how to configure them.

• Connection options: connectionOptions allow an application to declare rather than implement desired transaction processing behaviour. Connection options are interpreted by the SDK to control interaction patterns with network components, for example to select which identity to connect with, or which peers to use for event notifications. These options significantly reduce application complexity without compromising functionality. This is possible because the SDK has implemented much of the low level logic that would otherwise be required by applications; connection options control this logic flow.

Read about the list of available connection options and when to use them.

Static¶

Static gateways define a fixed view of a network. In the MagnetoCorp scenario, a gateway might identify a single peer from MagnetoCorp, a single peer from DigiBank, and a MagentoCorp orderer. Alternatively, a gateway might define all peers and orderers from MagnetCorp and DigiBank. In both cases, a gateway must define a view of the network sufficient to get commercial paper transactions endorsed and distributed.

Applications can use a gateway statically by explicitly specifying the connect option discovery: { enabled:false } on the gateway.connect() API. Alternatively, the environment variable setting FABRIC_SDK_DISCOVERY=false will always override the application choice.

Examine the connection profile used by the MagnetoCorp issue application. See how all the peers, orderers and even CAs are specified in this file, including their roles.

It’s worth bearing in mind that a static gateway represents a view of a network at a moment in time. As networks change, it may be important to reflect this in a change to the gateway file. Applications will automatically pick up these changes when they re-load the gateway file.

Dynamic¶

Dynamic gateways define a small, fixed starting point for a network. In the MagnetoCorp scenario, a dynamic gateway might identify just a single peer from MagnetoCorp; everything else will be discovered! (To provide resiliency, it might be better to define two such bootstrap peers.)

If service discovery is selected by an application, the topology defined in the gateway file is augmented with that produced by this process. Service discovery starts with the gateway definition, and finds all the connected peers and orderers within the MagnetoCorp organization using the gossip protocol. If anchor peers have been defined for a channel, then service discovery will use the gossip protocol across organizations to discover components within the connected organization. This process will also discover smart contracts installed on peers and their endorsement policies defined at a channel level. As with static gateways, the discovered network must be sufficient to get commercial paper transactions endorsed and distributed.

Dynamic gateways are the default setting for Fabric applications. They can be explicitly specified using the connect option discovery: { enabled:true } on the gateway.connect() API. Alternatively, the environment variable setting FABRIC_SDK_DISCOVERY=true will always override the application choice.

A dynamic gateway represents an up-to-date view of a network. As networks change, service discovery will ensure that the network view is an accurate reflection of the topology visible to the application. Applications will automatically pick up these changes; they do not even need to re-load the gateway file.

Multiple gateways¶

Finally, it is straightforward for an application to define multiple gateways, both for the same or different networks. Moreover, applications can use the name gateway both statically and dynamically.

It can be helpful to have multiple gateways. Here are a few reasons:

• Handling requests on behalf of different users.
• Connecting to different networks simultaneously.
• Testing a network configuration, by simultaneously comparing its behaviour with an existing configuration.