The Java EE 6 Tutorial

Programmatic Timers

When a programmatic timer expires (goes off), the container calls the method annotated @Timeout in the bean’s implementation class. The @Timeout method contains the business logic that handles the timed event.

The @Timeout Method

Methods annotated @Timeout in the enterprise bean class must return void and optionally take a javax.ejb.Timer object as the only parameter. They may not throw application exceptions.

public void timeout(Timer timer) {
    System.out.println("TimerBean: timeout occurred");

Creating Programmatic Timers

To create a timer, the bean invokes one of the create methods of the TimerService interface. These methods allow single-action, interval, or calendar-based timers to be created.

For single-action or interval timers, the expiration of the timer can be expressed as either a duration or an absolute time. The duration is expressed as a the number of milliseconds before a timeout event is triggered. To specify an absolute time, create a java.util.Date object and pass it to the TimerService.createSingleActionTimer or the TimerService.createTimer method.

The following code sets a programmatic timer that will expire in 1 minute (6,000 milliseconds):

long duration = 6000;
Timer timer =
    timerService.createSingleActionTimer(duration, new TimerConfig());

The following code sets a programmatic timer that will expire at 12:05 p.m. on May 1, 2010, specified as a java.util.Date:

SimpleDateFormatter formatter = 
    new SimpleDateFormatter("MM/dd/yyyy 'at' HH:mm");
Date date = formatter.parse("05/01/2010 at 12:05");
Timer timer = timerService.createSingleActionTimer(date, new TimerConfig());

For calendar-based timers, the expiration of the timer is expressed as a javax.ejb.ScheduleExpression object, passed as a parameter to the TimerService.createCalendarTimer method. The ScheduleExpression class represents calendar-based timer expressions and has methods that correspond to the attributes described in Creating Calendar-Based Timer Expressions.

The following code creates a programmatic timer using the ScheduleExpression helper class:

ScheduleExpression schedule = new ScheduleExpression();
schedule.hour("12-17, 23");
Timer timer = timerService.createCalendarTimer(schedule);

For details on the method signatures, see the TimerService API documentation at

The bean described in The timersession Example creates a timer as follows:

Timer timer = timerService.createTimer(intervalDuration,
        "Created new programmatic timer");

In the timersession example, createTimer is invoked in a business method, which is called by a client.

Timers are persistent by default. If the server is shut down or crashes, persistent timers are saved and will become active again when the server is restarted. If a persistent timer expires while the server is down, the container will call the @Timeout method when the server is restarted.

Nonpersistent programmatic timers are created by calling TimerConfig.setPersistent(false) and passing the TimerConfig object to one of the timer-creation methods.

The Date and long parameters of the createTimer methods represent time with the resolution of milliseconds. However, because the timer service is not intended for real-time applications, a callback to the @Timeout method might not occur with millisecond precision. The timer service is for business applications, which typically measure time in hours, days, or longer durations.