Version: 1.2.1

Tuples can be comprised of objects of any types. Since Storm is a distributed system, it needs to know how to serialize and deserialize objects when they're passed between tasks. By default Storm can serialize ints, shorts, longs, floats, doubles, bools, bytes, strings, and byte arrays, but if you want to use another type in your tuples, you'll need to implement a custom serializer.

Dynamic typing

There are no type declarations for fields in a Tuple. You put objects in fields and Storm figures out the serialization dynamically. Before we get to the interface for serialization, let's spend a moment understanding why Storm's tuples are dynamically typed.

Adding static typing to tuple fields would add large amount of complexity to Storm's API. Hadoop, for example, statically types its keys and values but requires a huge amount of annotations on the part of the user. Hadoop's API is a burden to use and the "type safety" isn't worth it. Dynamic typing is simply easier to use.

Further than that, it's not possible to statically type Storm's tuples in any reasonable way. Suppose a Bolt subscribes to multiple streams. The tuples from all those streams may have different types across the fields. When a Bolt receives a Tuple in execute, that tuple could have come from any stream and so could have any combination of types. There might be some reflection magic you can do to declare a different method for every tuple stream a bolt subscribes to, but Storm opts for the simpler, straightforward approach of dynamic typing.

Finally, another reason for using dynamic typing is so Storm can be used in a straightforward manner from dynamically typed languages like Clojure and JRuby.

Custom serialization

Let's dive into Storm's API for defining custom serializations. There are two steps you need to take as a user to create a custom serialization: implement the serializer, and register the serializer to Storm.

Creating a serializer

Custom serializers implement the ISerialization interface. Implementations specify how to serialize and deserialize types into a binary format.

The interface looks like this:

public interface ISerialization<T> {
    public boolean accept(Class c);
    public void serialize(T object, DataOutputStream stream) throws IOException;
    public T deserialize(DataInputStream stream) throws IOException;

Storm uses the accept method to determine if a type can be serialized by this serializer. Remember, Storm's tuples are dynamically typed so Storm determines what serializer to use at runtime.

serialize writes the object out to the output stream in binary format. The field must be written in a way such that it can be deserialized later. For example, if you're writing out a list of objects, you'll need to write out the size of the list first so that you know how many elements to deserialize.

deserialize reads the serialized object off of the stream and returns it.

You can see example serialization implementations in the source for SerializationFactory

Registering a serializer

Once you create a serializer, you need to tell Storm it exists. This is done through the Storm configuration (See Concepts for information about how configuration works in Storm). You can register serializations either through the config given when submitting a topology or in the storm.yaml files across your cluster.

Serializer registrations are done through the Config.TOPOLOGY_SERIALIZATIONS config and is simply a list of serialization class names.

Storm provides helpers for registering serializers in a topology config. The Config class has a method called addSerialization that takes in a serializer class to add to the config.

There's an advanced config called Config.TOPOLOGY_SKIP_MISSING_SERIALIZATIONS. If you set this to true, Storm will ignore any serializations that are registered but do not have their code available on the classpath. Otherwise, Storm will throw errors when it can't find a serialization. This is useful if you run many topologies on a cluster that each have different serializations, but you want to declare all the serializations across all topologies in the storm.yaml files.