Akka is a toolkit and runtime for building highly concurrent, distributed, and fault tolerant event-driven applications on the JVM. Scalatra allows you to easily mix it into your application.

In versions of Scalatra before 2.2.0, Akka was an optional dependency, contained in a scalatra-akka jar. In Scalatra 2.2.0, Akka has been folded directly into Scalatra core, and the scalatra-akka dependency is no longer needed. To get access to Akka, all you need to do is mix FutureSupport into your servlets.

If you're using Scala 2.9.x, you'll need the Akka resolver in your sbt configuration, otherwise you'll get a missing dependency. Add
resolvers += "Akka Repo" at "http://repo.akka.io/repository",
and you'll be all set.

Setting up your Scalatra app with Akka

When you're using Akka, you'll want to start your Actors and ActorSystem from inside the ScalatraBootstrap class. You can then pass those into the constructors of your servlets as necessary:

import _root_.akka.actor.{ActorSystem, Props}
import com.example.app._
import org.scalatra._
import javax.servlet.ServletContext

class ScalatraBootstrap extends LifeCycle {

  // Get a handle to an ActorSystem and a reference to one of your actors
  val system = ActorSystem()
  val myActor = system.actorOf(Props[MyActor])

  // In the init method, mount your servlets with references to the system
  // and/or ActorRefs, as necessary.
  override def init(context: ServletContext) {
    context.mount(new PageRetriever(system), "/*")
    context.mount(new MyActorApp(system, myActor), "/actors/*")

  // Make sure you shut down
  override def destroy(context:ServletContext) {

It's also considered good form to shut the ActorSystem down when you're done with it. Keep in mind that a servlet context destroy does not necessarily mean a full application shutdown, it might be a reload - so you'll need to release the ActorSystem resources when your Scalatra application is destroyed.

Akka Futures

Scalatra's Akka support provides a mechanism for adding Akka futures to your routes. Akka support is only available in Scalatra 2.1 and up.

The generic case looks like this (but it won't compile):

import _root_.akka.dispatch._
import org.scalatra.FutureSupport

class MyAppServlet extends ScalatraServlet with FutureSupport {
    new AsyncResult { val is = 
      Future {
        // Add async logic here
        <html><body>Hello Akka</body></html>

Async request example

See akka-examples for a minimal and standalone project containing the examples in this guide.

As a more concrete example, here's how you'd make an asynchronous HTTP request from inside one of your actions, using the Dispatch http client and an Akka ActorSystem.

package com.example.app

import scala.concurrent.{ExecutionContext, Future, Promise}
import akka.actor.ActorSystem
import dispatch._
import org.scalatra.{ScalatraServlet, FutureSupport, AsyncResult}

object DispatchAkka {

  def retrievePage()(implicit ctx: ExecutionContext): Future[String] = {
    dispatch.Http(url("http://slashdot.org/") OK as.String)

class PageRetriever(system: ActorSystem) extends ScalatraServlet with FutureSupport {

  protected implicit def executor: ExecutionContext = system.dispatcher

  get("/") {
    contentType = "text/html"
    new AsyncResult { val is = 


This example code will run in Scalatra 2.2.x with Scala 2.9.2. In this combination, Scalatra uses Akka 2.0.5.

When using Akka with Scala 2.10, you get Akka 2.1.x, and some of the imports and class names have changed. Consult the Akka upgrade guide to see the differences between the two Akka versions.

Actor example

See akka-examples for a minimal and standalone project containing the examples in this guide.

When you use Scalatra with Akka, you most likely want to return a result of some sort so you're probably going to send a message to an Actor which will reply to you. The method you use for that returns a Future.

When the request you get just needs to trigger something on an Actor (fire and forget) then you don't need a Future and probably you want to reply with the Accepted status or something like it.

Here's some example code:

package com.example.app

import scala.concurrent.ExecutionContext
import akka.actor.{ActorRef, Actor, ActorSystem}
import akka.util.Timeout
import org.scalatra.{Accepted, AsyncResult, FutureSupport, ScalatraServlet}

class MyActorApp(system:ActorSystem, myActor:ActorRef) extends ScalatraServlet with FutureSupport {

  protected implicit def executor: ExecutionContext = system.dispatcher

  import _root_.akka.pattern.ask
  implicit val defaultTimeout = Timeout(10)

  get("/async") {
    new AsyncResult { val is = myActor ? "Do stuff and give me an answer" }

  get("/fire-forget") {
    myActor ! "Hey, you know what?"

class MyActor extends Actor {
  def receive = {
    case "Do stuff and give me an answer" => sender ! "The answer is 42"
    case "Hey, you know what?" => println("Yeah I know... oh boy do I know")