Working with RabbitMQ queues and consumers from Ruby with Bunny

About this guide

This guide covers everything related to queues in the AMQP 0.9.1 specification, common usage scenarios and how to accomplish typical operations using Bunny.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License (including images and stylesheets). The source is available on Github.

What version of Bunny does this guide cover?

This guide covers Bunny 2.6.x and later versions.

Queues in AMQP 0.9.1: Overview

What are AMQP Queues?

Queues store and forward messages to consumers. They are similar to mailboxes in SMTP. Messages flow from producing applications to exchanges that route them to queues and finally, queues deliver the messages to consumer applications (or consumer applications fetch messages as needed).

Note that unlike some other messaging protocols/systems, messages are not delivered directly to queues. They are delivered to exchanges that route messages to queues using rules known as bindings.

AMQP 0.9.1 is a programmable protocol, so queues and bindings alike are declared by applications.

Concept of Bindings

A binding is an association between a queue and an exchange. Queues must be bound to at least one exchange in order to receive messages from publishers. Learn more about bindings in the Bindings guide.

Queue Attributes

Queues have several attributes associated with them:

  • Name
  • Exclusivity
  • Durability
  • Whether the queue is auto-deleted when no longer used
  • Other metadata (sometimes called X-arguments)

These attributes define how queues can be used, their life-cycle, and other aspects of queue behavior.

Queue Names and Declaring Queues

Every AMQP queue has a name that identifies it. Queue names often contain several segments separated by a dot ".", in a similar fashion to URI path segments being separated by a slash "/", although almost any string can represent a segment (with some limitations - see below).

Before a queue can be used, it has to be declared. Declaring a queue will cause it to be created if it does not already exist. The declaration will have no effect if the queue does already exist and its attributes are the same as those in the declaration. When the existing queue attributes are not the same as those in the declaration a channel-level exception is raised. This case is explained later in this guide.

Explicitly Named Queues

Applications may pick queue names or ask the broker to generate a name for them.

To declare a queue with a particular name, for example, "images.resize", use the Bunny::Channel#queue method:

ch.queue("images.resize", :exclusive => false, :auto_delete => true)

The same example in context:

require "bunny"

conn = Bunny.new
conn.start

ch   = conn.create_channel
q    = ch.queue("images.resize", :exclusive => false, :auto_delete => true)

Server-named queues

To ask an AMQP broker to generate a unique queue name for you, pass an empty string as the queue name argument. A generated queue name (like amq.gen-JZ46KgZEOZWg-pAScMhhig) will be assigned to the Bunny::Queue instance that the method returns:

ch.queue("", :exclusive => true)

The same example in context:

require "bunny"

conn = Bunny.new
conn.start

ch   = conn.create_channel
q    = ch.queue("", :exclusive => true)

Note that, while it is common to declare server-named queues as :exclusive, it is not necessary.

Reserved Queue Name Prefix

Queue names starting with "amq." are reserved for server-named queues and queues for internal use by the broker. Attempts to declare a queue with a name that violates this rule will result in a channel-level exception with reply code 403 (ACCESS_REFUSED) and a reply message similar to this:

ACCESS_REFUSED - queue name 'amq.queue' contains reserved prefix 'amq.*'

This error results in the channel that was used for the declaration being forcibly closed by RabbitMQ. If the program subsequently tries to communicate with RabbitMQ using the same channel without re-opening it then Bunny will raise a Bunny::ChannelAlreadyClosed error.

Queue Re-Declaration With Different Attributes

When queue declaration attributes are different from those that the queue already has, a channel-level exception with code 406 (PRECONDITION_FAILED) will be raised. The reply text will be similar to this:

PRECONDITION_FAILED - parameters for queue 'bunny.examples.channel_exception' in vhost '/' not equivalent

This error results in the channel that was used for the declaration being forcibly closed by RabbitMQ. If the program subsequently tries to communicate with RabbitMQ using the same channel without re-opening it then Bunny will raise a Bunny::ChannelAlreadyClosed error. In order to continue communications in the same program after such an error, a different channel would have to be used.

Queue Life-cycle Patterns

According to the AMQP 0.9.1 specification, there are two common message queue life-cycle patterns:

  • Durable queues that are shared by many consumers and have an independent existence: i.e. they will continue to exist and collect messages whether or not there are consumers to receive them.
  • Temporary queues that are private to one consumer and are tied to that consumer. When the consumer disconnects, the message queue is deleted.

There are some variations of these, such as shared message queues that are deleted when the last of many consumers disconnects.

Let us examine the example of a well-known service like an event collector (event logger). A logger is usually up and running regardless of the existence of services that want to log anything at a particular point in time. Other applications know which queues to use in order to communicate with the logger and can rely on those queues being available and able to survive broker restarts. In this case, explicitly named durable queues are optimal and the coupling that is created between applications is not an issue.

Another example of a well-known long-lived service is a distributed metadata/directory/locking server like Apache Zookeeper, Google's Chubby or DNS. Services like this benefit from using well-known, not server-generated, queue names and so do any other applications that use them.

A different sort of scenario is in "a cloud setting" when some kind of worker/instance might start and stop at any time so that other applications cannot rely on it being available. In this case, it is possible to use well-known queue names, but a much better solution is to use server-generated, short-lived queues that are bound to topic or fanout exchanges in order to receive relevant messages.

Imagine a service that processes an endless stream of events — Twitter is one example. When traffic increases, development operations may start additional application instances in the cloud to handle the load. Those new instances want to subscribe to receive messages to process, but the rest of the system does not know anything about them and cannot rely on them being online or try to address them directly. The new instances process events from a shared stream and are the same as their peers. In a case like this, there is no reason for message consumers not to use queue names generated by the broker.

In general, use of explicitly named or server-named queues depends on the messaging pattern that your application needs. Enterprise Integration Patterns discusses many messaging patterns in depth and the RabbitMQ FAQ also has a section on use cases.

Declaring a Durable Shared Queue

To declare a durable shared queue, you pass a queue name that is a non-blank string and use the :durable option:

ch.queue("images.resize", :durable => true, :auto_delete => false)

The same example in context:

require "bunny"

conn = Bunny.new
conn.start

ch   = conn.create_channel
q    = ch.queue("images.resize", :durable => true, :auto_delete => false)

Declaring a Temporary Exclusive Queue

To declare a server-named, exclusive, auto-deleted queue, pass "" (an empty string) as the queue name and use the :exclusive option:

ch.queue("", :exclusive => true)

The same example in context:

require "bunny"

conn = Bunny.new
conn.start

ch   = conn.create_channel
q    = ch.queue("", :exclusive => true)

Exclusive queues may only be accessed by the current connection and are deleted when that connection closes. The declaration of an exclusive queue by other connections is not allowed and will result in a channel-level exception with the code 405 (RESOURCE_LOCKED)

Exclusive queues will be deleted when the connection they were declared on is closed.

Checking if a Queue Exists

Sometimes it's convenient to check if a queue exists. To do so, at the protocol level you use queue.declare with passive seto to true. In response RabbitMQ responds with a channel exception if the queue does not exist.

Bunny provides a convenience method, Bunny::Session#queue_exists?, to do this:

conn = Bunny.new
conn.start

conn.queue_exists?("logs.info")

Binding Queues to Exchanges

In order to receive messages, a queue needs to be bound to at least one exchange. Most of the time binding is explcit (done by applications). Please note: All queues are automatically bound to the default unnamed RabbitMQ direct exchange with a routing key that is the same as the queue name (see Exchanges and Publishing guide for more details).

To bind a queue to an exchange, use the Bunny::Queue#bind method:

q = ch.queue("", :exclusive => true)
x = ch.fanout("logging.events")

q.bind(x)

The same example in context:

require "bunny"

conn = Bunny.new
conn.start

ch   = conn.create_channel
q = ch.queue("", :exclusive => true)
x = ch.fanout("logging.events")

q.bind(x)

Subscribing to receive messages ("push API")

To request that the server starts a consumer (queue subscription) to enable an application to process messages as they arrive in a queue, one uses the Bunny::Queue#subscribe or Bunny::Queue#subscribe_with methods.

Consumers last as long as the channel that they were declared on, or until the client cancels them (unsubscribes).

Consumers have a number of events that they can react to:

  • Message delivery
  • Consumer registration confirmation
  • Consumer cancellation

Consumer Tags

Consumers are identified by unique strings called consumer tags. The Bunny::Queue#subscribe method can take a :consumer_tag argument or let RabbitMQ generate one

q.subscribe(:consumer_tag => "unique_consumer_001")

Handling Messages With a Block

A message handler will process messages that RabbitMQ pushes to the consumer. One way to define a handler is:

q = ch.queue("", :exclusive => true)
q.subscribe(:block => true, :manual_ack => true) do |delivery_info, properties, payload|
  puts "Received #{payload}, message properties are #{properties.inspect}"
end

The same example in context:

require "bunny"

conn = Bunny.new
conn.start

ch   = conn.create_channel
q = ch.queue("", :exclusive => true)
q.subscribe(:block => true, :manual_ack => true) do |delivery_info, properties, payload|
  puts "Received #{payload}, message properties are #{properties.inspect}"
end

The block should accept three arguments:

  • Delivery information (can be used to acknowledge messages, for example; will be covered later)
  • Message properties (metadata)
  • Message payload (body)

Both delivery information and message properties can be treated as Hash-like objects or structures. For example, to get delivery tag, you can use either

delivery_info[:delivery_tag]

or

delivery_info.delivery_tag

Blocking or Non-Blocking Behavior

The subscribe method will not block the calling thread by default. If you want to block the thread, pass :block => true to Bunny::Queue#subscribe. In Bunny 0.9.0 and later, network activity and dispatch of delivered messages to consumers happens in separate threads that Bunny maintains internally, so it does not have to block the thread that calls Bunny::Queue#subscribe. However, it may be convenient to do so in long-running consumer applications.

Accessing Message Delivery Information

The delivery_info parameter in the example above provides access to message delivery information:

  • Consumer tag this delivery is for
  • Delivery tag
  • Whether or not message is redelivered
  • Name of exchange message came from
  • Message routing key

Message delivery information can be treated as a Hash-like object or structure. For example, to get routing key, you can use either

delivery_info[:routing_key]

or

delivery_info.routing_key

Accessing Message Properties (Metadata)

The properties parameter in the example above provides access to message metadata:

  • Message content type
  • Message content encoding
  • Message delivery mode (persistent or not)
  • Message priority
  • Producer application id

Message properties can be treated as a Hash-like object or structure. For example, to get message type, you can use either

properties[:type]

or

properties.type

An example to demonstrate how to access some of those attributes:

require 'bunny'

connection = Bunny.new
connection.start

ch = connection.create_channel
q = ch.queue('', :exclusive => true)
x  = ch.default_exchange

# set up the consumer
q.subscribe(:exclusive => true, :manual_ack => false) do |delivery_info, properties, payload|
  puts properties.content_type # => "application/octet-stream"
  puts properties.priority     # => 8

  puts properties.headers["time"] # => a Time instance

  puts properties.headers["coordinates"]["latitude"] # => 59.35
  puts properties.headers["participants"]            # => 11
  puts properties.headers["venue"]                   # => "Stockholm"
  puts properties.headers["true_field"]              # => true
  puts properties.headers["false_field"]             # => false
  puts properties.headers["nil_field"]               # => nil
  puts properties.headers["ary_field"].inspect       # => ["one", 2.0, 3, [{ "abc" => 123}]]

  puts properties.timestamp      # => a Time instance
  puts properties.type           # => "kinda.checkin"
  puts properties.reply_to       # => "a.sender"
  puts properties.correlation_id # => "r-1"
  puts properties.message_id     # => "m-1"
  puts properties.app_id         # => "bunny.example"

  puts delivery_info.consumer_tag # => a string
  puts delivery_info.redelivered? # => false
  puts delivery_info.delivery_tag # => 1
  puts delivery_info.routing_key  # => server generated queue name prefixed with "amq.gen-"
  puts delivery_info.exchange     # => ""
end

# publishing
x.publish("hello",
          :routing_key => "#{q.name}",
          :app_id      => "bunny.example",
          :priority    => 8,
          :type        => "kinda.checkin",
          # headers table keys can be anything
          :headers     => {
            :coordinates => {
              :latitude  => 59.35,
              :longitude => 18.066667
            },
            :time         => Time.now,
            :participants => 11,
            :venue        => "Stockholm",
            :true_field   => true,
            :false_field  => false,
            :nil_field    => nil,
            :ary_field    => ["one", 2.0, 3, [{"abc" => 123}]]
          },
          :timestamp      => Time.now.to_i,
          :reply_to       => "a.sender",
          :correlation_id => "r-1",
          :message_id     => "m-1")

sleep 1.0
connection.close

The full list of message delivery information parameters is:

  • :consumer_tag
  • :delivery_tag
  • :redelivered
  • :exchange
  • :routing_key

The full list of message properties parameters (note that most of them are optional and may not be present) is:

  • :content_type (always present)
  • :content_encoding
  • :headers
  • :delivery_mode (always present)
  • :priority (always present)
  • :correlation_id
  • :reply_to
  • :expiration
  • :message_id
  • :timestamp
  • :type
  • :user_id
  • :app_id
  • :cluster_id

Consumer Instances

Starting with version 0.9, Bunny provides a new Bunny::Consumer class which takes the following positional arguments when instantiated:

  • channel (mandatory)
  • queue (mandatory)
  • consumer_tag (default = "")
  • no_ack (default = true)
  • exclusive (default = false)
  • arguments (default = {})

To create a consumer object:

class ExampleConsumer < Bunny::Consumer
  def cancelled?
    @cancelled
  end

  def handle_cancellation(_)
    @cancelled = true
  end
end

connection = Bunny.new
connection.start

ch = connection.create_channel
q = ch.queue("testq")

consumer = ExampleConsumer.new(ch, q, "my_example_consumer", false, false, {:test_arg => 'test'})

or

consumer = ExampleConsumer.new(ch, q)

If the consumer_tag is empty then Bunny will generate one that looks something like bunny-1357204208000-17043847598, but it can also be set in the code:

consumer.consumer_tag = "another_example_consumer"

Bunny::Consumer implements a delivery handler and when the consumer consumes a message then the delivery information, message properties (metadata) and body (payload) are passed to it. In order to process consumed messages a block is passed to the consumer:

consumer.on_delivery do |delivery_info, metadata, payload|
  puts payload
end

Consumers may need to react to events other than message delivery. For example, consumers can be cancelled by RabbitMQ in some situations:

  • When a consumer is cancelled via the RabbitMQ Management UI
  • When the queue from which messages are consumed is deleted

To handle these consumer cancellation notification events, consumers have a cancellation handler (see the handle_cancellation method in the example below).

Registering Consumer Instances

To register a consumer and start consuming messages, pass a consumer object to the Bunny::Queue#subscribe_with method. Here is a full example:

require 'bunny'

# Define consumer subclass
class ExampleConsumer < Bunny::Consumer 
  def cancelled?
    @cancelled
  end

  def handle_cancellation(_)
    @cancelled = true
  end
end

connection = Bunny.new
connection.start

consumer = nil

ch1 = connection.create_channel

t = Thread.new do
  ch2 = connection.create_channel
  q = ch2.queue("testq")

  consumer = ExampleConsumer.new(ch2, q)

  # Pass block to consumer delivery handler
  consumer.on_delivery() do |delivery_info, metadata, payload|
    puts payload
  end

  # Register the consumer
  q.subscribe_with(consumer)
end
t.abort_on_exception = true

sleep 0.5

x = ch1.default_exchange

# Publish messages
x.publish('Hello', :routing_key => "testq")
x.publish('World', :routing_key => "testq")

sleep 0.5

# Delete the queue triggering the consumer cancellation handler
ch1.queue("testq").delete

sleep 0.5

puts 'Consumer has been cancelled' if consumer.cancelled?

sleep 2
connection.close

As with the Bunny::Queue#subscribe method, the Bunny::Queue#subscribe_with method can take a :block argument to block the calling thread:

q.subscribe_with(consumer, :block => true)

Using Multiple Consumers Per Queue

It is possible to have multiple non-exclusive consumers on queues. In that case, messages will be distributed between them according to prefetch levels of their channels (more on this later in this guide). If prefetch values are equal for all consumers, each consumer will get about the same number of messages.

Consumer Priorities

As of RabbitMQ 3.2, consumers that share a channel can have priorities.

To specify a priority with Bunny, use the :arguments option that Bunny::Queue#subscribe and Bunny::Queue#subscribe_with take:

q = ch.queue("a.queue")
q.subscribe(:manual_ack => true, :arguments => {"x-priority" => 5}) do |delivery_info, properties, payload|
  # ...
end
q.subscribe(:manual_ack => true, :arguments => {"x-priority" => 2}) do |delivery_info, properties, payload|
  # ...
end

Exclusive Consumers

Consumers can request exclusive access to the queue (meaning only this consumer can access the queue). This is useful when you want a long-lived shared queue to be temporarily accessible by just one application (or thread, or process). If the application employing the exclusive consumer crashes or loses the TCP connection to the broker, then the channel is closed and the exclusive consumer is cancelled.

To exclusively receive messages from the queue, pass the :exclusive option to Bunny::Queue#subscribe:

q = ch.queue("")
q.subscribe(:block => true, :manual_ack => true, :exclusive => true) do |delivery_info, properties, payload|
  # ...
end

or the positional exclusive parameter to your Bunny::Consumer subclass:

class ExampleConsumer < Bunny::Consumer
  def cancelled?
    @cancelled
  end

  def handle_cancellation(_)
    @cancelled = true
  end
end

# channel, queue, consumer tag, no_ack, exclusive
consumer = ExampleConsumer.new(ch, q, "", false, true)
q.subscribe_with(consumer)

Attempts to register another consumer on a queue that already has an exclusive consumer will result in a channel-level exception with reply code 403 (ACCESS_REFUSED) and a reply message similar to this:

ACCESS_REFUSED - queue 'queue name' in vhost '/' in exclusive use (Bunny::AccessRefused)

It is not possible to register an exclusive consumer on a queue that already has consumers.

Cancelling a Consumer

Sometimes there may be a requirement to cancel a consumer directly without deleting the queue that it is subscribed to. In AMQP 0.9.1 parlance, "cancelling a consumer" is often referred to as "unsubscribing". The Bunny::Consumer#cancel method can be used to do this. Here is a usage example :

require 'bunny'

connection = Bunny.new
connection.start

ch         = connection.create_channel
q          = ch.queue("", :auto_delete => true, :durable => false)

consumer   = q.subscribe(:block => false) do |_, _, payload|
  puts payload
end

puts "Consumer: #{consumer.consumer_tag} created"

sleep 1

# Cancel consumer
cancel_ok = consumer.cancel

puts "Consumer: #{cancel_ok.consumer_tag} cancelled"

ch.close

In the above example, you can see that the Bunny::Consumer#cancel method returns a cancel_ok reply from RabbitMQ which contains the consumer tag of the cancelled consumer.

Once a consumer is cancelled, messages will no longer be delivered to it, however, due to the asynchronous nature of the protocol, it is possible for "in flight" messages to be received after this call completes.

Message Acknowledgements

Consumer applications — applications that receive and process messages ‚ may occasionally fail to process individual messages, or will just crash. There is also the possibility of network issues causing problems. This raises a question — "When should the AMQP broker remove messages from queues?"

The AMQP 0.9.1 specification proposes two choices:

  • After broker sends a message to an application (using either basic.deliver or basic.get-ok methods).
  • After the application sends back an acknowledgement (using basic.ack AMQP method).

The former choice is called the automatic acknowledgement model, while the latter is called the explicit acknowledgement model. With the explicit model, the application chooses when it is time to send an acknowledgement. It can be right after receiving a message, or after persisting it to a data store before processing, or after fully processing the message (for example, successfully fetching a Web page, processing and storing it into some persistent data store).

Message Acknowledgements

If a consumer dies without sending an acknowledgement, the AMQP broker will redeliver it to another consumer, or, if none are available at the time, the broker will wait until at least one consumer is registered for the same queue before attempting redelivery.

The acknowledgement model is chosen when a new consumer is registered for a queue. By default, Bunny::Queue#subscribe will use the automatic model. To switch to the explicit model, the :manual_ack option should be used:

q = ch.queue("", :exclusive => true).subscribe(:manual_ack => true) do |delivery_info, properties, payload|
  # ...
end

To demonstrate how redelivery works, let us have a look at the following code example:

require "bunny"

puts "=> Subscribing for messages using explicit acknowledgements model"
puts

connection1 = Bunny.new
connection1.start

connection2 = Bunny.new
connection2.start

connection3 = Bunny.new
connection3.start

ch1 = connection1.create_channel

ch2 = connection2.create_channel

ch3 = connection3.create_channel

x   = ch3.direct("amq.direct")
q1  = ch1.queue("bunny.examples.acknowledgements.explicit", :auto_delete => false)
q1.purge

q1.bind(x).subscribe(:manual_ack => true, :block => false) do |delivery_info, properties, payload|
  # do some work
  sleep(0.2)

  # acknowledge some messages, they will be removed from the queue
  if rand > 0.5
    # FYI: there is a shortcut, Bunny::Channel.ack
    ch1.acknowledge(delivery_info.delivery_tag, false)
    puts "[consumer1] Got message ##{properties.headers['i']}, redelivered?: #{delivery_info.redelivered?}, ack-ed"
  else
    # some messages are not ack-ed and will remain in the queue for redelivery
    # when app #1 connection is closed (either properly or due to a crash)
    puts "[consumer1] Got message ##{properties.headers['i']}, SKIPPED"
  end
end

q2   = ch2.queue("bunny.examples.acknowledgements.explicit", :auto_delete => false)
q2.bind(x).subscribe(:manual_ack => true, :block => false) do |delivery_info, properties, payload|
  # do some work
  sleep(0.2)

  ch2.acknowledge(delivery_info.delivery_tag, false)
  puts "[consumer2] Got message ##{properties.headers['i']}, redelivered?: #{delivery_info.redelivered?}, ack-ed"
end

t1 = Thread.new do
  i = 0
  loop do
    sleep 0.5

    x.publish("Message ##{i}", :headers => { :i => i })
    i += 1
  end
end
t1.abort_on_exception = true

t2 = Thread.new do
  sleep 4.0

  connection1.close
  puts "----- Connection 1 is now closed (we pretend that it has crashed) -----"
end
t2.abort_on_exception = true


sleep 10.0
connection2.close
connection3.close

So what is going on here? This example uses three AMQP connections to imitate three applications, one producer and two consumers. Each connection opens a single channel. The consumers share a queue and the producer publishes messages to the queue periodically using an amq.direct exchange.

Both "applications" subscribe to receive messages using the explicit acknowledgement model. The RabbitMQ broker by default will send each message to the next consumer in sequence (this kind of load balancing is known as round-robin). This means that some messages will be delivered to consumer #1 and some to consumer #2.

To demonstrate message redelivery we make consumer #1 randomly select which messages to acknowledge. After 4 seconds we disconnect it (to imitate a crash). When that happens, the RabbitMQ broker redelivers unacknowledged messages to consumer #2 which acknowledges them unconditionally. After 10 seconds, this example closes all outstanding connections and exits.

An extract of output produced by this example:

=> Subscribing for messages using explicit acknowledgements model

[consumer1] Got message #0, redelivered?: false, ack-ed
[consumer2] Got message #1, redelivered?: false, ack-ed
[consumer1] Got message #2, redelivered?: false, ack-ed
[consumer2] Got message #3, redelivered?: false, ack-ed
[consumer1] Got message #4, SKIPPED
[consumer2] Got message #5, redelivered?: false, ack-ed
[consumer1] Got message #6, SKIPPED
----- Connection 1 is now closed (we pretend that it has crashed) -----
[consumer2] Got message #4, redelivered?: true, ack-ed
[consumer2] Got message #6, redelivered?: true, ack-ed
[consumer2] Got message #7, redelivered?: false, ack-ed
[consumer2] Got message #8, redelivered?: false, ack-ed
[consumer2] Got message #9, redelivered?: false, ack-ed
[consumer2] Got message #10, redelivered?: false, ack-ed
[consumer2] Got message #11, redelivered?: false, ack-ed
[consumer2] Got message #12, redelivered?: false, ack-ed

As we can see, consumer #1 did not acknowledge two messages (labelled 4 and 6):

[consumer1] Got message #4, SKIPPED
[consumer1] Got message #6, SKIPPED
...

and then, once consumer #1 had "crashed", the messages were immediately redelivered to the consumer #2:

----- Connection 1 is now closed (we pretend that it has crashed) -----
[consumer2] Got message #4, redelivered?: true, ack-ed
[consumer2] Got message #6, redelivered?: true, ack-ed

To acknowledge a message use Bunny::Channel#acknowledge:

# FYI: there is a shortcut, Bunny::Channel.ack
ch1.acknowledge(delivery_info.delivery_tag, false)

Bunny::Channel#acknowledge takes two arguments: a message delivery tag and a flag that indicates whether or not we want to acknowledge multiple messages at once. Delivery tag is simply a channel-specific increasing number that the server uses to identify deliveries.

When acknowledging multiple messages at once, the delivery tag is treated as "up to and including". For example, if delivery tag = 5 that would mean "acknowledge messages 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5".

Please note: Acknowledgements are channel-specific. Applications MUST NOT receive messages on one channel and acknowledge them on another.

Also, a message MUST NOT be acknowledged more than once. Doing so will result in a channel-level exception with code 406 (PRECONDITION_FAILED) being raised. The reply text will be similar to this:

PRECONDITION_FAILED - unknown delivery tag

Rejecting messages

When a consumer application receives a message, processing of that message may or may not succeed. An application can indicate to the broker that message processing has failed (or cannot be accomplished at the time) by rejecting a message. When rejecting a message, an application can ask the broker to discard or requeue it.

To reject a message use the Bunny::Channel#reject method:

ch1.reject(delivery_info.delivery_tag)

in the example above, messages are rejected without requeueing (broker will simply discard them). To requeue a rejected message, use the second argument that Bunny::Queue#reject takes:

ch1.reject(delivery_info.delivery_tag, true)

Negative acknowledgements

Messages are rejected with the basic.reject AMQP method. However, there is one notable limitation that basic.reject has: there is no way to reject multiple messages, as you can do with acknowledgements. However, if you are using RabbitMQ, then there is a solution. RabbitMQ provides an AMQP 0.9.1 extension known as negative acknowledgements (nacks) and Bunny supports this extension. For more information, please refer to the RabbitMQ Extensions guide.

QoS — Prefetching messages

For cases when multiple consumers share a queue, it is useful to be able to specify how many messages each consumer can be sent at once before sending the next acknowledgement. This can be used as a simple load balancing technique to improve throughput if messages tend to be published in batches. For example, if a producing application sends messages every minute because of the nature of the work it is doing.

Imagine a website that takes data from social media sources like Twitter or Facebook during the Champions League (european soccer) final (or the Superbowl), and then calculates how many tweets mentioned a particular team during the last minute. The site could be structured as 3 applications:

  • A crawler that uses streaming APIs to fetch tweets/statuses, normalizes them and sends them in JSON for processing by other applications ("app A").
  • A calculator that detects what team is mentioned in a message, updates statistics and pushes an update to the Web UI once a minute ("app B").
  • A Web UI that fans visit to see the stats ("app C").

In this imaginary example, the "tweets per second" rate will vary, but to improve the throughput of the system and to decrease the maximum number of messages that the AMQP broker has to hold in memory at once, applications can be designed in such a way that application "app B", the "calculator", receives 5000 messages and then acknowledges them all at once. The broker will not send message 5001 unless it receives an acknowledgement.

In AMQP 0.9.1 parlance this is known as QoS or message prefetching. Prefetching is configured on a per-channel basis. To configure prefetching use the Bunny::Channel#prefetch method like so:

ch1 = connection1.create_channel
ch1.prefetch(10)

Note that the prefetch setting is ignored for consumers that do not use explicit acknowledgements.

How Message Acknowledgements Relate to Transactions and Publisher Confirms

In cases where you cannot afford to lose a single message, AMQP 0.9.1 applications can use one or a combination of the following protocol features:

  • Publisher confirms (a RabbitMQ-specific extension to AMQP 0.9.1)
  • Publishing messages as immediate
  • Transactions (noticeable overhead)

This topic is covered in depth in the Working With Exchanges guide. In this guide, we will only mention how message acknowledgements are related to AMQP transactions and the Publisher Confirms extension.

Let us consider a publisher application (P) that communications with a consumer (C) using AMQP 0.9.1. Their communication can be graphically represented like this:

-----       -----       -----
|   |   S1  |   |   S2  |   |
| P | ====> | B | ====> | C |
|   |       |   |       |   |
-----       -----       -----

We have two network segments, S1 and S2, either of which might fail. P is concerned with making sure that messages cross S1, while brokers B and C are concerned with ensuring that messages cross S2 and are only removed from the queue when they are processed successfully.

Message acknowledgements cover reliable delivery over S2 as well as successful processing. For S1, P has to use transactions (a heavyweight solution) or the more lightweight Publisher Confirms RabbitMQ extension.

Fetching messages when needed ("pull API")

The AMQP 0.9.1 specification also provides a way for applications to fetch (pull) messages from the queue only when necessary. For that, use the Bunny::Queue#pop function which returns a triple of [delivery_info, properties, payload]:

delivery_info, properties, payload = q.pop

The same example in context:

require "bunny"

conn = Bunny.new
conn.start

chann = conn.create_channel

q = chann.queue("test1")

exch = chann.default_exchange

exch.publish("Hello, everybody!", :routing_key => 'test1')

delivery_info, properties, payload = q.pop

puts "This is the message: " + payload + "\n\n"

conn.close

The message properties are the same as those provided for delivery handlers (see the "Push API" section above).

If the queue is empty, then [nil, nil, nil] will be returned.

Unbinding Queues From Exchanges

To unbind a queue from an exchange use the Bunny::Queue#unbind function:

q.unbind(x)

Note that trying to unbind a queue from an exchange that the queue was never bound to will result in a channel-level exception.

Querying the Number of Messages and Consumers for a Queue

It is possible to query the number of messages in a queue and the number of consumers it has by declaring the queue with the :passive attribute set. The response (queue.declare-ok AMQP method) will include the number of messages along with the number of consumers. However, Bunny provides a convenience method, Bunny::Queue#status, that returns a hash containing :message_count and :consumer_count. There are two further convenience methods that provide both pieces of information individually

  • Bunny::Queue#message_count
  • Bunny::Queue#consumer_count
require "bunny"

conn = Bunny.new
conn.start

ch = conn.channel

q = ch.queue("testq")

# Display message count
puts q.message_count

# Display consumer count
puts q.consumer_count

Please note: The message count DOES NOT include unacknowledged messages.

Purging queues

It is possible to purge a queue (remove all of the messages from it) using the Bunny::Queue#purge method:

require "bunny"

conn = Bunny.new
conn.start

ch = conn.channel

q = ch.queue("")

q.purge

Note that this example purges a newly declared queue with a unique server-generated name. When a queue is declared, it is empty, so for server-named queues, there is no need to purge them before they are used.

Deleting Queues

Queues can be deleted either indirectly or directly. To delete a queue indirectly you can include either of the following two arguments in the queue declaration:

  • :exclusive => true
  • :auto_delete => true

If the exclusive flag is set to true then the queue will be deleted when the connection that was used to declare it is closed.

If the auto_delete flag is set to true then the queue will be deleted when there are no more consumers subscribed to it. The queue will remain in existence until at least one consumer accesses it.

To delete a queue directly, use the Bunny::Queue#delete method:

require "bunny"

conn = Bunny.new
conn.start

ch = conn.channel

q = ch.queue("")

q.delete

When a queue is deleted, all of the messages in it are deleted as well.

Queue Durability vs Message Durability

See Durability guide

See RabbitMQ Extensions guide

Wrapping Up

In RabbitMQ, queues can be client-named or server-named. It is possible to either subscribe for messages to be pushed to consumers (register a consumer) or pull messages from the client as needed. Consumers are identified by consumer tags.

For messages to be routed to queues, queues need to be bound to exchanges.

Most methods related to queues are found in three Bunny namespaces:

  • Bunny::Channel
  • Bunny::Consumer
  • Bunny::Queue

The documentation is organized as a number of guides, covering various topics.

We recommend that you read the following guides first, if possible, in this order:

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