Reference 5: Communicating Between Bounded Contexts

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Introduction | Context maps | The anti-corruption layer | Integration with legacy systems

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Bounded contexts are autonomous components, with their own domain models and their own ubiquitous language. They should not have any dependencies on each other at run time and should be capable of running in isolation. However they are a part of the same overall system and do need to exchange data with one another. If you are implementing the CQRS pattern in a bounded context, you should use events for this type of communication: your bounded context can respond to events that are raised outside of the bounded context, and your bounded context can publish events that other bounded contexts may subscribe to. Events (one-way, asynchronous messages that publish information about something that has already happened), enable you to maintain the loose coupling between your bounded contexts. This guidance uses the term integration event to refer to an event that crosses bounded contexts.

Context maps

A large system, with dozens of bounded contexts, and hundreds of different integration event types, can be difficult to understand. A valuable piece of documentation records which bounded contexts publish which integration events, and which bounded contexts subscribe to which integration events.

The anti-corruption layer

Bounded contexts are independent of each other and may be modified or updated independently of each other. Such modifications may result in changes to the events that a bounded context publishes. These changes might include, introducing a new event, dropping the use of an event, renaming an event, or changing the definition of event by adding or removing information in the payload. A bounded context must be robust in the face of changes that might be made to another bounded context.

A solution to this problem is to introduce an anti-corruption layer to your bounded context. The anti-corruption layer is responsible for verifying that incoming integration events make sense. For example, by verifying that the payload contains the expected types of data for the type of event.

You can also use the anti-corruption layer to translate incoming integration events. This translation might include the following operations:

  • Mapping to a different event type when the publishing bounded context has changed the type of an event to one that the receiving bounded context does not recognize.
  • Converting to a different version of the event when the publishing bounded context uses a different version to the receiving bounded context.

Integration with legacy systems

Bounded contexts that implement the CQRS pattern will already have much of the infrastructure necessary to publish and receive integration events: a bounded context that contains a legacy system may not. How you choose to implement with a bounded context that uses a legacy implementation depends largely on whether you can modify that legacy system. It may be that it is a black-box with fixed interfaces, or you may have access to the source code and be able to modify it to work with events.

The following sections outline some common approaches to getting data from a legacy system to a bounded context that implements the CQRS pattern.

Reading the database

Many legacy systems use a relational database to store their data. A simple way to get data from the legacy system to your bounded context that implements the CQRS pattern, is to have your bounded context read the data that it needs directly from the database. This approach may be useful if the legacy system has no APIs that you can use or if you cannot make any changes to the legacy system. However, it does mean that your bounded context is tightly coupled to the database schema in the legacy system.

Generating events from the database

As an alternative, you can implement a mechanism that monitors the database in the legacy system, and then publishes integration events that describe those changes. This approach decouples the two bounded contexts and can still be done without changing the existing legacy code because you are creating an additional process to monitor the database. However, you now have another program to maintain that is tightly coupled to the legacy system.

Modifying the legacy systems

If you are able to modify the legacy system, you could modify it to publish integration events directly. With this approach, unless you are careful, you still have a potential consistency problem. You must ensure that the legacy system always saves its data and publishes the event. To ensure consistency, you either need to use a distributed transaction or introduce another mechanism to ensure that both operations complete successfully.

Implications for event sourcing

If the bounded context that implements the CQRS pattern also uses event sourcing, then all of the events published by aggregates in that domain are persisted to the event store. If you have modified your legacy system to publish events, you should consider whether you should persist these integration events as well. For example, you may be using these events to populate a read-model. If you need to be able to rebuild the read-model, you will need a copy of all these integration events.

If you determine that you need to persist your integration events from a legacy bounded context, you also need to decide where to store those events: in the legacy publishing bounded context, or the receiving bounded context. Because you use the integration events in the receiving bounded context, you should probably store them in the receiving bounded context.

Your event store must have a way to store events that are not associated with an aggregate.


As a practical solution, you could also consider allowing the legacy bounded context to persist events directly into the event store that your CQRS bounded context uses.

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