Creating the Actors

So far we have looked at the definitions of Actors and their messages. Now let’s dive a bit deeper into the power of location transparency and see how to create Actor instances.

The power of location transparency

In Akka you can’t create an instance of an Actor using the new keyword. Instead, you create Actor instances using a factory spawn methods. Spawn does not return an actor instance, but a reference, akka.actor.typed.ActorRef, that points to the actor instance. This level of indirection adds a lot of power and flexibility in a distributed system.

In Akka location doesn’t matter. Location transparency means that the ActorRef can, while retaining the same semantics, represent an instance of the running actor in-process or on a remote machine.
If needed, the runtime can optimize the system by changing an Actor’s location or the entire application topology while it is running. This enables the “let it crash” model of failure management in which the system can heal itself by crashing faulty Actors and restarting healthy ones.

The Akka ActorSystem

An ActorSystem is the intial entry point into Akka, usually only one is created per application. An ActorSystem has a name and a guardian actor. The bootstrap of your application is typically done within the guardian actor.

The Hello work guardian actor is GreeterMain.

val greeterMain: ActorSystem[GreeterMain.Start] = ActorSystem(GreeterMain(), "AkkaQuickStart")

It uses Behaviors.setup to bootstrap the application

object GreeterMain {

  final case class Start(name: String)

  def apply(): Behavior[Start] =
    Behaviors.setup { context =>
      val greeter = context.spawn(Greeter(), "greeter")

      Behaviors.receiveMessage { message =>
        val replyTo = context.spawn(GreeterBot(max = 3), message.name)
        greeter ! Greeter.Greet(message.name, replyTo)
        Behaviors.same
      }
    }
}

Spawning child actors

Other actors are created using spawn methods on ActorContext. The GreeterMain creates a Greeter actor this way on startup as well as a new GreeterBot each time it receives a Start message.

val greeter = context.spawn(Greeter(), "greeter")
val replyTo = context.spawn(GreeterBot(max = 3), message.name)