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Virtual Actors

How to build actors

If you’re new to the actor pattern, the best place to learn about the actor pattern is in the Actor Overview.

In the PHP SDK, there are two sides to an actor, the Client, and the Actor (aka, the Runtime). As a client of an actor, you’ll interact with a remote actor via the ActorProxy class. This class generates a proxy class on-the-fly using one of several configured strategies.

When writing an actor, state can be managed for you. You can hook into the actor lifecycle, and define reminders and timers. This gives you considerable power for handling all types of problems that the actor pattern is suited for.

The Actor Proxy

Whenever you want to communicate with an actor, you’ll need to get a proxy object to do so. The proxy is responsible for serializing your request, deserializing the response, and returning it to you, all while obeying the contract defined by the specified interface.

In order to create the proxy, you’ll first need an interface to define how and what you send and receive from an actor. For example, if you want to communicate with a counting actor that solely keeps track of counts, you might define the interface as follows:

<?php
#[\Dapr\Actors\Attributes\DaprType('Counter')]
interface ICount {
    function increment(int $amount = 1): void;
    function get_count(): int;
}

It’s a good idea to put this interface in a shared library that the actor and clients can both access (if both are written in PHP). The DaprType attribute tells the DaprClient the name of the actor to send to. It should match the implementation’s DaprType, though you can override the type if needed.

<?php
$app->run(function(\Dapr\Actors\ActorProxy $actorProxy) {
    $actor = $actorProxy->get(ICount::class, 'actor-id');
    $actor->increment(10);
});

Writing Actors

To create an actor, you need to implement the interface you defined earlier and also add the DaprType attribute. All actors must implement IActor, however there’s an Actor base class that implements the boilerplate making your implementation much simpler.

Here’s the counter actor:

<?php
#[\Dapr\Actors\Attributes\DaprType('Count')]
class Counter extends \Dapr\Actors\Actor implements ICount {
    function __construct(string $id, private CountState $state) {
        parent::__construct($id);
    }
    
    function increment(int $amount = 1): void {
        $this->state->count += $amount;
    }
    
    function get_count(): int {
        return $this->state->count;
    }
}

The most important bit is the constructor. It takes at least one argument with the name of id which is the id of the actor. Any additional arguments are injected by the DI container, including any ActorState you want to use.

Actor Lifecycle

An actor is instantiated via the constructor on every request targeting that actor type. You can use it to calculate ephemeral state or handle any kind of request-specific startup you require, such as setting up other clients or connections.

After the actor is instantiated, the on_activation() method may be called. The on_activation() method is called any time the actor “wakes up” or when it is created for the first time. It is not called on every request.

Next, the actor method is called. This may be from a timer, reminder, or from a client. You may perform any work that needs to be done and/or throw an exception.

Finally, the result of the work is returned to the caller. After some time (depending on how you’ve configured the service), the actor will be deactivated and on_deactivation() will be called. This may not be called if the host dies, daprd crashes, or some other error occurs which prevents it from being called successfully.

Actor State

Actor state is a “Plain Old PHP Object” (POPO) that extends ActorState. The ActorState base class provides a couple of useful methods. Here’s an example implementation:

<?php
class CountState extends \Dapr\Actors\ActorState {
    public int $count = 0;
}

Registering an Actor

Dapr expects to know what actors a service may host at startup. You need to add it to the configuration:


If you want to take advantage of pre-compiled dependency injection, you need to use a factory:

<?php
// in config.php

return [
    'dapr.actors' => fn() => [Counter::class],
];

All that is required to start the app:

<?php

require_once __DIR__ . '/vendor/autoload.php';

$app = \Dapr\App::create(
    configure: fn(\DI\ContainerBuilder $builder) => $builder->addDefinitions('config.php')->enableCompilation(__DIR__)
);
$app->start();

<?php
// in config.php

return [
    'dapr.actors' => [Counter::class]
];

All that is required to start the app:

<?php

require_once __DIR__ . '/vendor/autoload.php';

$app = \Dapr\App::create(configure: fn(\DI\ContainerBuilder $builder) => $builder->addDefinitions('config.php'));
$app->start();
Last modified January 1, 0001