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Publisher Confirms

Prerequisites

This tutorial assumes RabbitMQ is installed and running on localhost on the standard port (5672). In case you use a different host, port or credentials, connections settings would require adjusting.

Where to get help

If you're having trouble going through this tutorial you can contact us through the mailing list or RabbitMQ community Slack.

Publisher confirms are a RabbitMQ extension to implement reliable publishing. When publisher confirms are enabled on a channel, messages the client publishes are confirmed asynchronously by the broker, meaning they have been taken care of on the server side.

(using php-amqplib)

Overview

In this tutorial we're going to use publisher confirms to make sure published messages have safely reached the broker. We will cover several strategies to using publisher confirms and explain their pros and cons.

Enabling Publisher Confirms on a Channel

Publisher confirms are a RabbitMQ extension to the AMQP 0.9.1 protocol, so they are not enabled by default. Publisher confirms are enabled at the channel level with the confirm_select method:

$channel = $connection->channel();
$channel->confirm_select();

This method must be called on every channel that you expect to use publisher confirms. Confirms should be enabled just once, not for every message published.

Strategy #1: Publishing Messages Individually

Let's start with the simplest approach to publishing with confirms, that is, publishing a message and waiting synchronously for its confirmation:

while (thereAreMessagesToPublish()) {
    $data = "Hello World!";
    $msg = new AMQPMessage($data);
    $channel->basic_publish($msg, 'exchange');
    // uses a 5 second timeout
    $channel->wait_for_pending_acks(5.000);
}

In the previous example we publish a message as usual and wait for its confirmation with the $channel::wait_for_pending_acks(int|float) method. The method returns as soon as the message has been confirmed. If the message is not confirmed within the timeout or if it is nack-ed (meaning the broker could not take care of it for some reason), the method will throw an exception. The handling of the exception usually consists in logging an error message and/or retrying to send the message.

Different client libraries have different ways to synchronously deal with publisher confirms, so make sure to read carefully the documentation of the client you are using.

This technique is very straightforward but also has a major drawback: it significantly slows down publishing, as the confirmation of a message blocks the publishing of all subsequent messages. This approach is not going to deliver throughput of more than a few hundreds of published messages per second. Nevertheless, this can be good enough for some applications.

Are Publisher Confirms Asynchronous?

We mentioned at the beginning that the broker confirms published messages asynchronously but in the first example the code waits synchronously until the message is confirmed. The client actually receives confirms asynchronously and unblocks the call to wait_for_pending_acks accordingly. Think of wait_for_pending_acks as a synchronous helper which relies on asynchronous notifications under the hood.

Strategy #2: Publishing Messages in Batches

To improve upon our previous example, we can publish a batch of messages and wait for this whole batch to be confirmed. The following example uses a batch of 100:

$batch_size = 100;
$outstanding_message_count = 0;
while (thereAreMessagesToPublish()) {
    $data = ...;
    $msg = new AMQPMessage($data);
    $channel->basic_publish($msg, 'exchange');
    $outstanding_message_count++;
    if ($outstanding_message_count === $batch_size) {
        $channel->wait_for_pending_acks(5.000);
        $outstanding_message_count = 0;
    }
}
if ($outstanding_message_count > 0) {
    $channel->wait_for_pending_acks(5.000);
}

Waiting for a batch of messages to be confirmed improves throughput drastically over waiting for a confirm for individual message (up to 20-30 times with a remote RabbitMQ node). One drawback is that we do not know exactly what went wrong in case of failure, so we may have to keep a whole batch in memory to log something meaningful or to re-publish the messages. And this solution is still synchronous, so it blocks the publishing of messages.

Strategy #3: Handling Publisher Confirms Asynchronously

The broker confirms published messages asynchronously, one just needs to register a callback on the client to be notified of these confirms:

$channel = $connection->channel();
$channel->confirm_select();

$channel->set_ack_handler(
    function (AMQPMessage $message){
        // code when message is confirmed
    }
);

$channel->set_nack_handler(
    function (AMQPMessage $message){
        // code when message is nack-ed
    }
);

There are 2 callbacks: one for confirmed messages and one for nack-ed messages (messages that can be considered lost by the broker). Each callback has AMQPMessage $message parameter with returned message, so you don't need to handle sequence numbers (delivery tag) to understand which message this callback belongs to.

Summary

Making sure published messages made it to the broker can be essential in some applications. Publisher confirms are a RabbitMQ feature that helps to meet this requirement. Publisher confirms are asynchronous in nature but it is also possible to handle them synchronously. There is no definitive way to implement publisher confirms, this usually comes down to the constraints in the application and in the overall system. Typical techniques are:

  • publishing messages individually, waiting for the confirmation synchronously: simple, but very limited throughput.
  • publishing messages in batch, waiting for the confirmation synchronously for a batch: simple, reasonable throughput, but hard to reason about when something goes wrong.
  • asynchronous handling: best performance and use of resources, good control in case of error, but can be involved to implement correctly.

Production [Non-]Suitability Disclaimer

Please keep in mind that this and other tutorials are, well, tutorials. They demonstrate one new concept at a time and may intentionally oversimplify some things and leave out others. For example topics such as connection management, error handling, connection recovery, concurrency and metric collection are largely omitted for the sake of brevity. Such simplified code should not be considered production ready.

Please take a look at the rest of the documentation before going live with your app. We particularly recommend the following guides: Publisher Confirms and Consumer Acknowledgements, Production Checklist and Monitoring.

Getting Help and Providing Feedback

If you have questions about the contents of this tutorial or any other topic related to RabbitMQ, don't hesitate to ask them on the RabbitMQ mailing list.

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1 "Hello World!"

The simplest thing that does something

2 Work queues

Distributing tasks among workers (the competing consumers pattern)

3 Publish/Subscribe

Sending messages to many consumers at once

4 Routing

Receiving messages selectively

5 Topics

Receiving messages based on a pattern (topics)

6 RPC

Request/reply pattern example

7 Publisher Confirms

Reliable publishing with publisher confirms