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Commands and events

The event sourcing philosophy is careful to distinguish between events and commands [48]. When a request from a user first arrives, it is initially a command: at this point it may still fail, for example because some integrity condition is violated. The application must first validate that it can execute the command. If the validation is successful and the command is accepted, it becomes an event, which is durable and immutable.

For example, if a user tries to register a particular username, or reserve a seat on an airplane or in a theater, then the application needs to check that the username or seat is not already taken. (We previously discussed this example in “Fault-Tolerant Consensus” on page 364.) When that check has succeeded, the application can generate an event to indicate that a particular username was registered by a particular user ID, or that a particular seat has been reserved for a particular customer.

At the point when the event is generated, it becomes a fact. Even if the customer later decides to change or cancel the reservation, the fact remains true that they formerly held a reservation for a particular seat, and the change or cancellation is a separate event that is added later.

A consumer of the event stream is not allowed to reject an event: by the time the consumer sees the event, it is already an immutable part of the log, and it may have already been seen by other consumers. Thus, any validation of a command needs to happen synchronously, before it becomes an event—for example, by using a serializable transaction that atomically validates the command and publishes the event.

Alternatively, the user request to reserve a seat could be split into two events: first a tentative reservation, and then a separate confirmation event once the reservation has been validated (as discussed in “Implementing linearizable storage using total order broadcast” on page 350). This split allows the validation to take place in an asynchronous process.

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