To provide massive scalability of a large messaging fabric you typically want to allow many brokers to be connected together into a network so that you can have as many clients as you wish all logically connected together - and running as many message brokers as you need based on your number of clients and network topology.

If you are using client/server or hub/spoke style topology then the broker you connect to becomes a single point of failure which is another reason for wanting a network (or cluster) of brokers so that you can survive failure of any particular broker, machine or subnet.

From 1.1 onwards of ActiveMQ supports networks of brokers which allows us to support distributed queues and topics across a network of brokers.

This allows a client to connect to any broker in the network - and fail over to another broker if there is a failure - providing from the clients perspective a HA cluster of brokers.

N.B. By default a network connection is one way only - the broker that establishes the connection passes messages to the broker(s) its connected to. From version 5.x of ActiveMQ, a network connection can be optionally enabled to be duplex, which can be useful for hub and spoke architectures, where the hub is behind a firewall etc.

Configuring a network of brokers

The easiest way to configure a network of brokers is via the Xml Configuration. There are two main ways to create a network of brokers

  • use a hard coded list of URIs (the networkConnector / networkChannel elements in the activemq.xsd.html ).
  • use Discovery to detect brokers (multicast or rendezvous).

Example with a fixed list of URIs

Here is an example of using the fixed list of URIs

ActiveMQ also supports other transports than tcp to be used for the network connector such as http.

Example using multicast discovery

This example uses multicast discovery

Starting network connectors

By default, network connectors are initiated serially as part of the broker start up sequence. When some networks are slow, they prevent other networks from starting in a timely manner. Version 5.5 supports the broker attribute networkConnectorStartAsync="true" which will cause the broker to use an executor to start network connectors in parallel, asynchronous to a broker start.

Static discovery

With static: discovery you can hard code the list of broker URLs. A network connector will be created for each one.

There are some useful properties you can set on a static network connector for retries:

property

default

description

initialReconnectDelay

1000

time(ms) to wait before attempting a reconnect (if useExponentialBackOff is false)

maxReconnectDelay

30000

time(ms) to wait before attempting to re-connect

useExponentialBackOff

true

increases time between reconnect for every failure in a reconnect sequence

backOffMultiplier

2

multipler used to increase the wait time if using exponential back off

e.g.

MasterSlave Discovery

A common configuration option for a network of brokers is to establish a network bridge between a broker and an n+1 broker pair (master/slave). Typical configurations involve using the failover: transport, but there are a some other non-intuitive options that must be configured for it to work as desired. For this reason, ActiveMQ v5.6+ has a convenience discovery agent that can be specified with the masterslave: transport prefix:

The URIs are listed in order for: MASTER,SLAVE1,SLAVE2...SLAVE(thumbs down)

The same configuration options for static: are available for masterslave:

NetworkConnector Properties

property

default

description

name

bridge

name of the network - for more than one network connector between the same two brokers - use different names

dynamicOnly

false

if true, only activate a networked durable subscription when a corresponding durable subscription reactivates, by default they are activated on startup.

decreaseNetworkConsumerPriority

false

if true, starting at priority -5, decrease the priority for dispatching to a network Queue consumer the further away it is (in network hops) from the producer. When false all network consumers use same default priority(0) as local consumers

networkTTL

1

the number of brokers in the network that messages and subscriptions can pass through (sets both message&consumer -TTL)

messageTTL

1

(version 5.9) the number of brokers in the network that messages can pass through

consumerTTL

1

(version 5.9) the number of brokers in the network that subscriptions can pass through (keep to 1 in a mesh)

conduitSubscriptions

true

multiple consumers subscribing to the same destination are treated as one consumer by the network

excludedDestinations

empty

destinations matching this list won't be forwarded across the network

dynamicallyIncludedDestinations

empty

destinations that match this list will be forwarded across the network n.b. an empty list means all destinations not in the exluded list will be forwarded

staticallyIncludedDestinations

empty

destinations that match will always be passed across the network - even if no consumers have ever registered an interest

duplex

false

if true, a network connection will be used to both produce AND Consume messages. This is useful for hub and spoke scenarios when the hub is behind a firewall etc.

prefetchSize

1000

Sets the prefetch size on the network connector's consumer. It must be > 0 because network consumers do not poll for messages

suppressDuplicateQueueSubscriptions

false

(from 5.3) if true, duplicate subscriptions in the network that arise from network intermediaries will be suppressed. For example, given brokers A,B and C, networked via multicast discovery. A consumer on A will give rise to a networked consumer on B and C. In addition, C will network to B (based on the network consumer from A) and B will network to C. When true, the network bridges between C and B (being duplicates of their existing network subscriptions to A) will be suppressed. Reducing the routing choices in this way provides determinism when producers or consumers migrate across the network as the potential for dead routes (stuck messages) are eliminated. networkTTL needs to match or exceed the broker count to require this intervention.

bridgeTempDestinations

true

Whether to broadcast advisory messages for created temp destinations in the network of brokers or not. Temp destinations are typically created for request-reply messages. Broadcasting the information about temp destinations is turned on by default so that consumers of a request-reply message can be connected to another broker in the network and still send back the reply on the temporary destination specified in the JMSReplyTo header. In an application scenario where most/all messages use request-reply pattern, this will generate additional traffic on the broker network as every message typically sets a unique JMSReplyTo address (which causes a new temp destination to be created and broadcasted via an advisory message in the network of brokers).
When disabling this feature such network traffic can be reduced but then producer and consumers of a request-reply message need to be connected to the same broker. Remote consumers (i.e. connected via another broker in your network) won't be able to send the reply message but instead raise a "temp destination does not exist" exception.

alwaysSyncSend

false

(version 5.6) When true, non persistent messages are sent to the remote broker using request/reply in place of a oneway. This setting treats both persistent and non-persistent messages the same.

staticBridge

false

(version 5.6) If set to true, broker will not dynamically respond to new consumers. It will only use staticallyIncludedDestinations to create demand subscriptions

Reliability

Networks of brokers do reliable store and forward of messages. If the source is durable, persistent messages on a queue or a durable topic subscription, a network will retain the durability guarantee.
However networks cannot add durability when the source is non durable. Non durable topic subscriptions and temporary destinations (both queues and topics) are non durable by definition. When non durable
sources are networked, in the event of a failure, inflight messages can be lost.

Ordering

Total message ordering is not preserved with networks of brokers. Total ordering works with a single consumer but a networkBridge introduces a second consumer. In addition, network bridge consumers forward messages via producer.send(..), so they go from the head of the queue on the forwarding broker to the tail of the queue on the target. If single consumer moves between networked brokers, total order may be preserved if all messages always follow the consumer but this can be difficult to guarantee with large message backlogs.

When to use and not use Conduit subscriptions

ActiveMQ relies on information about active consumers (subscriptions) to pass messages around the network. A broker interprets a subscription from a remote (networked) broker in the same way as it would a subscription from a local client connection and routes a copy of any relevant message to each subscription. With Topic subscriptions and with more than one remote subscription, a remote broker would interpret each message copy as valid, so when it in turns routes the messages to its own local connections, duplicates would occur. Hence default conduit behavior consolidates all matching subscription information to prevent duplicates flowing around the network. With this default behaviour, N subscriptions on a remote broker look like a single subscription to the networked broker.

However - duplicate subscriptions is a useful feature to exploit if you are only using Queues. As the load balancing algorithm will attempt to share message load evenly, consumers across a network will equally share the message load only if the flag conduitSubscriptions=false. Here's an example. Suppose you have two brokers, A and B, that are connected to one another via a forwarding bridge. Connected to broker A, you have a consumer that subscribes to a queue called Q.TEST. Connected to broker B, you have two consumers that also subscribe to Q.TEST. All consumers have equal priority. Then you start a producer on broker A that writes 30 messages to Q.TEST. By default, (conduitSubscriptions=true), 15 messages will be sent to the consumer on broker A and the resulting 15 messages will be sent to the two consumers on broker B. The message load has not been equally spread across all three consumers because, by default, broker A views the two subscriptions on broker B as one. If you had set conduitSubscriptions to "false", then each of the three consumers would have been given 10 messages.

Duplex network connectors

By default a network bridge forwards messages on demand in one direction over a single connection. When dupex=true, the same connection is used for a network bridge in the opposite directions, resulting in a by directional bridge. The network bridge configuration is propagated to the other broker so the duplex bridge is an exact replica or the original.
Given two brokers, broker A and broker B, a duplex bridge on A to B is the same as a default bridge on A to B and a default bridge on B to A.
Note, if you want to configure more than one duplex network bridge between two brokers, to increase throughput or to partition topics and queues, you must provide unique names for each: eg:

Conduit subscriptions and consumer selectors

Conduit subscriptions ignore consumer selectors on the local broker and send all messages to the remote one. Selectors are then parsed on the remote brokers before messages are dispatched to consumers. This concept could create some problems with consuming on queues using selectors in a multi-broker network. Imagine a situation when you have a producing broker forwarding messages to two receiving brokers and each of these two brokers have a consumer with different selector. Since no selectors are evaluated on the producer broker side, you can end up with all messages going to only one of the brokers, so messages with certain property will not be consumed. If you need to support this use case, please turn off conduitSubscription feature.

Configuration Pitfalls

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Networks do not work as expected (they cannot dynamically respond to new consumers) if the advisorySupport broker property is disabled. A fully statically configured network is the only option if advisorySupport is disabled. Read more about it in the following section

Networks of brokers and advisories

Network of brokers relies heavily on advisory messages, as they are used under the hood to express interest in new consumers on the remote end. By default, when network connector starts it defines one consumer on the following topic ActiveMQ.Advisory.Consumer.> (let's ignore temporary destination for the moment). In this way, when consumer connects (or disconnects) to the remote broker, the local broker will get notified and will treat it as one more consumer it had to deal with.

This is all fine and well in small networks and environments whit small number of destinations and consumers. But as things starts to grow a default model (listen to everything, share everything) won't scale well. That's why there are many ways you can use to filter destinations that will be shared between brokers.

Dynamic networks

Let's start with dynamically configured networks. This means that we only want to send messages to the remote broker when there's a consumer there. If we want to limit this behavior only on certain destinations we will use dynamicallyIncludedDestinations, like

In earlier versions of ActiveMQ, the broker would still use the same advisory filter and express interest in all consumers on the remote broker. The actual filtering will be done during message dispatch. This is suboptimal solution in huge networks as it creates a lot of "advisory" traffic and load on the brokers. Starting with version 5.6, the broker will automatically create an appropriate advisory filter and express interest only in dynamically included destinations. For our example it will be ActiveMQ.Advisory.Consumer.Queue.include.test.foo,ActiveMQ.Advisory.Consumer.Topic.include.test.bar. This can dramatically improve behavior of the network in complex and high-load environments.

So what's to be done in older versions of the broker? Luckily, we can achieve the same thing with a bit more complicated configuration. The actual advisory filter that controls in which consumers we are interested is defined with the destinationFilter connector property. It's default value is >, which is concatenated to the ActiveMQ.Advisory.Consumer. prefix. So to achieve the same thing we would need to do the following

Note that first destination doesn't have the prefix because it's already implied. It's a bit more complicated to set and maintain, but it will work. And if you're using 5.6 or newer version of the broker just including desired destinations with dynamicallyIncludedDestinations should suffice.

This also explains why dynamic networks doesn't work if you turn off advisory support on the brokers. The brokers in this case cannot dynamically respond to new consumers.

Pure static networks

If you wish to completely protect the broker from any influence of consumers on the remote broker, or if you wish to use the brokers as a simple proxy and forward all messages to the remote side no matter if there are consumers there or not, static networks are something you should consider.

The staticBridge parameter is available since version 5.6 and it means that broker will not subscribe to any advisory topic on the remote broker, meaning it is not interested in any consumers there. Additionally, you need to add a list of destinations to staticallyIncludedDestinations. This will have the same effect as having an additional consumer on the destinations so messages will be forwarded to the remote broker as well. As there's no staticBridge parameter in the earlier versions of ActiveMQ, you can trick the broker by setting destinationFilter to listen to an unused advisory topic, like

If configured like this, broker will try to listen for new consumers on ActiveMQ.Advisory.Consumer.NO_DESTINATION, which will never have messages so it will be protected from information on remote broker consumers.

Example Configuration using NetworkConnector properties

This part of an example configuration for a Broker

It is possible to have more than one network connector between two brokers. Each network connector uses one underlying transport connection, so you may wish to do this to increase throughput, or have a more flexible configuration.
For example, if using distributed queues, you may wish to have equivalent weighting to queue receivers across the network, but only when the receivers are active - e.g.

N.B. You can only use wildcards in the excludedDestinations and dynamicallyIncludedDestinations properties.
N.B. Do not change the name of the bridge or the name of the Broker if you are using durable topic subscribers across the network. Internally ActiceMQ uses the network name and broker name to build a unique but repeatable durable subscriber name for the network.

Stuck Messages (version 5.6)

By default, it is not permissible for a message to be replayed back to the broker from which it came. This ensures that messages do not loop when duplex or by directional network connectors are configured. Occasionally it is desirable to allow replay for queues. Consider a scenario where a bidirectional bridge exists between a broker pair. Producers and Consumers get to randomly choose a broker using the failover transport. If one broker is restarted for maintenance, messages accumulated on that broker, that crossed the network bridge, will not be available to consumers till they reconnect to the broker. One solution to this problem is to force a client reconnect using rebalanceClusterClients. Another, is to allow replay of messages back to the origin as there is no local consumer on that broker.
There is a destination policy that allows this behavior for queues by configuring a conditionalNetworkBridgeFilterFactory with replayWhenNoConsumers=true. The conditionalNetworkBridgeFilterFactory provides an optional replayDelay based on the broker-in time.

N.B.: When using replayWhenNoConsumers=true for versions < 5.9, it is necessary to also disable the cursors duplicate detection using enableAudit=false as the cursor could mark the replayed messages as duplicates (depending on the time window between playing and replaying these messages over the network bridge). The problem is fully explained in this blog post.

Throttling a network consumer

The conditionalNetworkBridgeFilterFactory factory allows a rate limit to be specified for a destination, such that network consumer can be throttled. Prefetch for a network consumer is largely negated by the fact that a network consumer relays a message typically acks very quickly so even with a low prefetch and decreased priority a network consumer can starve a modestly quick local consumer. Throttling provides a remedy for this.

Trying out using a network of brokers

If you run the following commands in separate shells you'll have 2 brokers auto-discovering themselves and 2 clients using fixed-URLs

Or to try the same thing again using Zeroconf discovery you could try this

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