Ring Queue

Queues operate with first-in, first-out (FIFO) semantics which means that messages, in general, are added to the "tail" of the queue and removed from the "head." A "ring" queue is a special type of queue with a fixed size. The fixed size is maintained by removing the message at the head of the queue when the number of messages on the queue reaches the configured size.

For example, consider a queue configured with a ring size of 3 and a producer which sends the messages A, B, C, & D in that order. Once C is sent the number of messages in the queue will be 3 which is the same as the configured ring size. We can visualize the queue growth like this...

After A is sent:

head/tail -> | A |

After B is sent:

head -> | A |
tail -> | B |

After C is sent:

head -> | A |
        | B |
tail -> | C |

When D is sent it will be added to the tail of the queue and the message at the head of the queue (i.e. A) will be removed so the queue will look like this:

head -> | B |
        | C |
tail -> | D |

This example covers the most basic use case with messages being added to the tail of the queue. However, there are a few other important use cases involving:

  • Messages in delivery & rollbacks
  • Scheduled messages
  • Paging

However, before we get to those use cases let's look at the basic configuration of a ring queue.


There are 2 parameters related to ring queue configuration.

The ring-size parameter can be set directly on the queue element. The default value comes from the default-ring-size address-setting (see below).

   <address name="myRing">
         <queue name="myRing" ring-size="3" />

The default-ring-size is an address-setting which applies to queues on matching addresses which don't have an explicit ring-size set. This is especially useful for auto-created queues. The default value is -1 (i.e. no limit).

   <address-setting match="ring.#">

The ring-size may be updated at runtime. If the new ring-size is set lower than the previous ring-size the broker will not immediately delete enough messages from the head of the queue to enforce the new size. New messages sent to the queue will force the deletion of old messages (i.e. the queue won't grow any larger), but the queue will not reach its new size until it does so naturally through the normal consumption of messages by clients.

Messages in Delivery & Rollbacks

When messages are "in delivery" they are in an in-between state where they are not technically on the queue but they are also not yet acknowledged. The broker is at the consumer’s mercy to either acknowledge such messages or not. In the context of a ring queue, messages which are in-delivery cannot be removed from the queue.

This presents a few dilemmas.

Due to the nature of messages in delivery a client can actually send more messages to a ring queue than it would otherwise permit. This can make it appear that the ring-size is not being enforced properly. Consider this simple scenario:

  • Queue foo with ring-size="3"
  • 1 Consumer on queue foo
  • Message A sent to foo & dispatched to consumer
  • messageCount=1, deliveringCount=1
  • Message B sent to foo & dispatched to consumer
  • messageCount=2, deliveringCount=2
  • Message C sent to foo & dispatched to consumer
  • messageCount=3, deliveringCount=3
  • Message D sent to foo & dispatched to consumer
  • messageCount=4, deliveringCount=4

The messageCount for foo is now 4, one greater than the ring-size of 3! However, the broker has no choice but to allow this because it cannot remove messages from the queue which are in delivery.

Now consider that the consumer is closed without actually acknowledging any of these 4 messages. These 4 in-delivery, unacknowledged messages will be cancelled back to the broker and added to the head of the queue in the reverse order from which they were consumed. This, of course, will put the queue over its configured ring-size. Therefore, since a ring queue prefers messages at the tail of the queue over messages at the head it will keep B, C, & D and delete A (since A was the last message added to the head of the queue).

Transaction or core session rollbacks are treated the same way.

If you wish to avoid these kinds of situations and you're using the core client directly or the core JMS client you can minimize messages in delivery by reducing the size of consumerWindowSize (1024 * 1024 bytes by default).

Scheduled Messages

When a scheduled message is sent to a queue it isn't immediately added to the tail of the queue like normal messages. It is held in an intermediate buffer and scheduled for delivery onto the head of the queue according to the details of the message. However, scheduled messages are nevertheless reflected in the message count of the queue. As with messages which are in delivery this can make it appear that the ring queue's size is not being enforced. Consider this simple scenario:

  • Queue foo with ring-size="3"
  • At 12:00 message A sent to foo scheduled for 12:05
  • messageCount=1, scheduledCount=1
  • At 12:01 message B sent to foo
  • messageCount=2, scheduledCount=1
  • At 12:02 message C sent to foo
  • messageCount=3, scheduledCount=1
  • At 12:03 message D sent to foo
  • messageCount=4, scheduledCount=1

The messageCount for foo is now 4, one greater than the ring-size of 3! However, the scheduled message is not technically on the queue yet (i.e. it is on the broker and scheduled to be put on the queue). When the scheduled delivery time for 12:05 comes the message will put on the head of the queue, but since the ring queue's size has already been reach the scheduled message A will be removed.


Similar to scheduled messages and messages in delivery, paged messages don't count against a ring queue's size because messages are actually paged at the address level, not the queue level. A paged message is not technically on a queue although it is reflected in a queue's messageCount.

It is recommended that paging is not used for addresses with ring queues. In other words, ensure that the entire address will be able to fit into memory or use the DROP, BLOCK or FAIL address-full-policy.

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