Adam Johnson

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Celery, Rabbits, and Warrens

2019-07-02

Stunned by Rabbit?

Every time I pick up the Python job queue Celery after not using it for a while, I find I’ve forgotten exactly how RabbitMQ works. I find the Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP) concepts drop out of my head pretty quickly: Exchanges, Routing Keys, Bindings, Queues, Virtual Hosts…

I’ve repeatedly returned to the blog post “Rabbits and Warrens” by Jason J. W. Williams to refresh my mind on the concepts. I saved it into my Evernote on December 2014, but unfortunately it has gone offline since. Luckily it’s saved in the Web Archive.

If you use Celery with an AMQP backend, or RabbitMQ, it’s worth reading.

My Favourite Bit

Here’s the the extract that helps clarify things the most for me.

First, the basic AMQP building blocks:

There are four building blocks you really care about in AMQP: virtual hosts, exchanges, queues and bindings. A virtual host holds a bundle of exchanges, queues and bindings. Why would you want multiple virtual hosts? Easy. A username in RabbitMQ grants you access to a virtual host…in its entirety. So the only way to keep group A from accessing group B’s exchanges/queues/bindings/etc. is to create a virtual host for A and one for B. Every RabbitMQ server has a default virtual host named “/”. If that’s all you need, you’re ready to roll.

Jason then goes on to explain in straightforward language how they work together. The image at the end really clarifies things:

Queues are where your “messages” end up. They’re message buckets…and your messages sit there until a client (a.k.a. consumer) connects to the queue and siphons it off. However, you can configure a queue so that if there isn’t a consumer ready to accept the message when it hits the queue, the message goes poof. But we digress…

The important thing to remember is that queues are created programmatically by your consumers (not via a configuration file or command line program). That’s OK, because if a consumer app tries to “create” a queue that already exists, RabbitMQ pats it on the head, smiles gently and NOOPs the request. So you can keep your MQ configuration in-line with your app code…what a concept.

OK, so you’ve created and attached to your queue, and your consumer app is drumming its fingers waiting for a message…and drumming…and drumming…but alas no message. What happened? Well you gotta pump a message in first! But to do that you’ve got to have an exchange…

Exchanges are routers with routing tables. That’s it. End stop. Every message has what’s known as a “routing key”, which is simply a string. The exchange has a list of bindings (routes) that say, for example, messages with routing key “X” go to queue “timbuktu”. But we get slightly ahead of ourselves.

Your consumer application should create your exchanges (plural). Wait? You mean you can have more than one exchange? Yes, you can, but why? Easy. Each exchange operates in its own userland process, so adding exchanges, adds processes allowing you to scale message routing capacity with the number of cores in your server. As an example, on an 8-core server you could create 5 exchanges to maximize your utilization, leaving 3 cores open for handling the queues, etc.. Similarly, in a RabbitMQ cluster, you can use the same principle to spread exchanges across the cluster members to add even more throughput.

OK, so you’ve created an exchange…but it doesn’t know what queues the messages go in. You need “routing rules” (bindings). A binding essentially says things like this: put messages that show up in exchange “desert” and have routing key “ali-baba” into the queue “hideout”. In other words, a binding is a routing rule that links an exchange to a queue based on a routing key. It is possible for two binding rules to use the same routing key. For example, maybe messages with the routing key “audit” need to go both to the “log-forever” queue and the “alert-the-big-dude” queue. To accomplish this, just create two binding rules (each one linking the exchange to one of the queues) that both trigger on routing key “audit”. In this case, the exchange duplicates the message and sends it to both queues. Exchanges are just routing tables containing bindings.

Now for the curveball: there are multiple types of exchanges. They all do routing, but they accept different styles of binding “rules”. Why not just create one type of exchange for all style of rules? Because each rule style has a different CPU cost for analyzing if a message matches the rule. For example, a “topic” exchange tries to match a message’s routing key against a pattern like “dogs.*”. Matching that wildcard on the end takes more CPU than simply seeing if the routing key is “dogs” or not (e.g. a “direct” exchange). If you don’t need the extra flexibility of a “topic” exchange, you can get more messages/sec routed if you choose the “direct” exchange type. So what are the types and how do they route?

Fanout Exchange – No routing keys involved. You simply bind a queue to the exchange. Any message that is sent to the exchange is sent to all queues bound to that exchange. Think of it like a subnet broadcast. Any host on the subnet gets a copy of the packet. Fanout exchanges route messages the fastest.

Direct Exchange – Routing keys are involved. A queue binds to the exchange to request messages that match a particular routing key exactly. This is a straight match. If a queue binds to the exchange requesting messages with routing key “dog”, only messages labelled “dog” get sent to that queue (not “dog.puppy”, not “dog.guard”…only “dog”).

Topic Exchange – Matches routing keys against a pattern. Instead of binding with a particular routing key, the queue binds with a pattern string. The symbol # matches one or more words, and the symbol * matches any single word (no more, no less). So “audit.#” would match “audit.irs.corporate”, but “audit.*” would only match “audit.irs”. Our friends at RedHat have put together a great image to express how topic exchanges work:

The post goes on to explain persistence, durability, and some demo Python code.

Summary

Thanks to Jason for an explanation worth reblogging. Check out the full content on Web Archive, and if you need to learn more about RabbitMQ, Jason co-authored the book RabbitMQ in Action.

Enjoy,

—Adam


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Tags: celery, django