Posted by Edd Mann on Apr 21, 2017

Handling Retries and Back-off Attempts with JavaScript Promises

Promises are an invaluable abstraction around ‘eventual’ results within asynchronous operations. I recently had the need to be able to retry a Promise-based action in the event of a failure. It turned out to be very easy to implement such a process using simple recursive constructs.

Initially I only required the ability to retry a desired amount of times, before eventually failing if still unsuccessful. You can see how easy it was to describe this problem in Promise-form within the function below.

const retry = (retries, fn) =>
  fn().catch(err => retries > 1 ? retry(retries - 1, fn) : Promise.reject(err));

However, what I eventually required was the ability to ‘back-off’ and provide an increasing grace-period between the operation attempts. Again, it was very easy to describe this within a Promise as shown below.

const pause = (duration) => new Promise(res => setTimeout(res, duration));

const backoff = (retries, fn, delay = 500) =>
  fn().catch(err => retries > 1
    ? pause(delay).then(() => backoff(retries - 1, fn, delay * 2))
    : Promise.reject(err));

As you can see, both implementations use a recursive structure with decrementing retries to hit the base-case. What I find so impressive with the Promise abstraction is how easy it is to codify complex problems such as this with minimal code.


Below you can see a JSBin demo which uses an intentionally unreliable Promise to exercise the two functions retrying behaviour.

JS Bin on

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