Netty in Action

Author: Norman Maurer, Marvin Allen Wolfthal
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by anonymous   2018-03-19

General approach

Let's describe an approach to the problem.

When receiving data on the server side, use the remote address of the channel (the Channel.remoteAddress() method) to identify the client.

Such identification may be done using a map like: Map<SocketAddress, Client>, where the Client class or interface should contain the appropriate client connection (channel) associated context, including its Channel. Be sure to keep the map up-to-date: handle the «client connected» and «client disconnected» events appropriately.

After a client is identified, you may just send the appropriate messages to the clients, except the current sending client, using the client connection (channel) map.

Additionally, I would like to recommend you to find a good implementation of a chat application using Netty and to take a look at it.

Netty-specific solution

Let's consider the server side implementation, in particular, the implementation of the ProcessingHandler class.

It already manages the active channels by representing them as the channel group:

static final ChannelGroup channels1 =
    new DefaultChannelGroup(GlobalEventExecutor.INSTANCE);

Keeping the channel group up-to-date

The current implementation handles the «channel becomes active» event to keep the channel group up-to-date:

public void channelActive(ChannelHandlerContext ctx) throws Exception {
    // ...

But this is only a half: it is necessary to handle the «channel becomes inactive» event symmetrically as well. The implementation should look like:

public void channelInactive(final ChannelHandlerContext ctx) throws Exception {

Broadcasting: Sending the received message to all channels, except the current one

To implement the desired behaviour, just update the implementation by introducing the appropriate check as follows:

public void channelRead(ChannelHandlerContext ctx, Object msg) throws Exception {
    // ...

    for (Channel ch : channels1) {
        // Does `ch` represent the channel of the current sending client?
        if (ch.equals( {
            // Skip.

        // Send the message to the `ch` channel.
        // ...

    // ...

Sending and receiving string problem

Currently, the functionality around the ResponseData class is not present (not implemented).

The following draft changes are required to make both the client and the server work.

  1. The ResponseData class: the getStringValue and toString methods should be corrected:

    String getStringValue() {
        return this.strValue;
    public String toString() {
        return intValue + ";" + strValue;
  2. The ResponseDataEncoder class: it should use the string value:

    private final Charset charset = Charset.forName("UTF-8");
    protected void encode(final ChannelHandlerContext ctx, final ResponseData msg, final ByteBuf out) throws Exception {
        out.writeCharSequence(msg.getStringValue(), charset);
  3. The ResponseDataDecoder class: it should use the string value:

    private final Charset charset = Charset.forName("UTF-8");
    protected void decode(final ChannelHandlerContext ctx, final ByteBuf in, final List<Object> out) throws Exception {
        ResponseData data = new ResponseData();
        int strLen = in.readInt();
        data.setStringValue(in.readCharSequence(strLen, charset).toString());
  4. The ClientHandler class: it should correctly receive and handle the message:

    public void channelRead(ChannelHandlerContext ctx, Object msg) throws Exception {
        final ResponseData responseData = (ResponseData) msg;
        System.out.println("The message sent from the server " + responseData);

Additional references

  1. «SecureChat ‐ an TLS-based chat server, derived from the Telnet example», Netty Documentation. In particular, the implementation of the SecureChatServerHandler class.
  2. «Netty in Action», Norman Maurer, Marvin Allen Wolfthal (ISBN-13: 978-1617291470), «Part 3 — Network protocols», the «12.2 Our example WebSocket application» subchapter. Covers implementation of «a browser-based chat application».