I'm faced with implementing interfaces for some rather archaic systems, for handling online deposits to stored value accounts (think campus card accounts for students).
Here's my dilemma: stage 1 of the process involves passing the user off to a thrid-party site for the credit card transaction, like old-school PayPal. Step two involves using a proprietary protocol for communicating with a legacy system for conducting the actual deposit.
Step two requires that each transaction have a unique sequence number, and that the requests' seqnums are in order. Since we're logging each transaction in Postgres, my first thought was to take a number from a sequence in the DB, guaranteeing uniqueness. But since we're dealing with web requests that might come in near-simultaneously, and since latency with the return from the off-ste payment processor is beyond our control, there's always the chance for a race condition in the order of requests passed back to the proprietary system, and if the seqnums are out of order, the request fails silently (brilliant, right?).
I thought about enqueuing the requests in Redis and using Resque workers to process them (single worker, single process, so they are processed in order), but we need to be able to give the user feedback as to whether the transaction was processed successfully, so this seems less feasible to me.
I've tried to make this application handle concurrency well (as much as possible for a Ruby on Rails app), but now we're in a situation where we have to interact with a system that is designed to be single process, single threaded, and sequential. If it at least gave an "out of order" error, I could just increment (or take the next value off the sequence), but it's designed to fail silently in the event of ANY error. We are handling timeouts in a way that blocks on I/O, but since the application uses multiple workers (Unicorn), that's no guarantee.
Any ideas/suggestions would be appreciated.