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An exchange object is a wrapper that encapsulates a received message and stores its associated metadata (including the exchange properties). In addition, if the current message is dispatched to a producer endpoint, the exchange provides a temporary slot to hold the reply (the Out message).

An important feature of exchanges in Apache Camel is that they support lazy creation of messages. This can provide a significant optimization in the case of routes that do not require explicit access to messages.

Figure 1.1 shows an exchange object passing through a route. In the context of a route, an exchange object gets passed as the argument of the Processor.process() method. This means that the exchange object is directly accessible to the source endpoint, the target endpoint, and all of the processors in between.

The org.apache.camel.Exchange interface defines methods to access In and Out messages, as shown in Example 1.1.

For a complete description of the methods in the Exchange interface, see The Exchange Interface.

Apache Camel supports lazy creation of In, Out, and Fault messages. This means that message instances are not created until you try to access them (for example, by calling getIn() or getOut()). The lazy message creation semantics are implemented by the org.apache.camel.impl.DefaultExchange class.

If you call one of the no-argument accessors (getIn() or getOut()), or if you call an accessor with the boolean argument equal to true (that is, getIn(true) or getOut(true)), the default method implementation creates a new message instance, if one does not already exist.

If you call an accessor with the boolean argument equal to false (that is, getIn(false) or getOut(false)), the default method implementation returns the current message value.[1]

[1] If there is no active method the returned value will be null.