We can have more … EnMasse !

This morning, my working day started in a different way with an interesting news from AWS re:Invent 2017, the annual Amazon conference …

The news was about Amazon MQ, a new managed message broker service based on ActiveMQ 5.x with all the goodies that it provides in terms of supported protocols like MQTT, JMS, STOMP, … and … yes … AMQP 1.0 !

It seems that this news made Clemens Vaster (from Microsoft) happy as well 🙂

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Finally, even Amazon added support for a “real” messaging protocol which is enterprise ready and from my point of view … even IoT ready 🙂

Taking a look to the blog post about this new service, another project came to my mind … guess what ? EnMasse !

We can have more : EnMasse !

What the AmazonMQ provides is the possibility to create a new broker instance and then accessing to the console, creating queues, topics and so on. It’s great but … we can have more !

For this reason I decided to write, for the first time, something about EnMasse even if I had a lot of sessions in different conferences in the past, speaking about it.

EnMasse is an open source “messaging as a service” platform which simplifies the deployment of a messaging infrastructure both “on premise” and in the Cloud. It provides scalability and elasticity in order to address all the problems we can have when the number of connected clients increases (and decreases) even reaching big numbers like in an IoT scenario.

It supports all the well-known messaging patterns (request/reply, publish/subscribe and competing consumers) and up today two main protocols, AMQP 1.0 and MQTT (but adding the HTTP support is on the road-map).

It provides multi-tenancy having different tenants sharing the same infrastructure but being isolated each other. Finally, it provides security in terms of using TLS protocol for establishing connections (with clients and between internal components) other than authentication using Keycloak as the identity management system.

Store and forward or … direct ?

One of the main features it provides is the support for two different messaging mechanisms, “store and forward” and “direct messaging”.

The “store and forward” mechanism is exactly what the messaging brokers provide today. The broker takes the ownership of the message sent by a producer before forwarding this message to a consumer which is asking for it (connecting to a queue or a topic on the broker itself). It means that “storing” the message is the first step executed by the broker and “forwarding” is the next one which can happen later, only when a consumer will be online for getting the message : it allows asynchronous communication between clients and time decoupling. There is always a double contract between produce-broker and broker-consumer, so that the producer knows that the messages reached the broker but not the consumer (a new messages exchange on the opposite direction is needed for having something like an “acknowledgement” from the consumer).

The “direct messaging” mechanism is not something new because it means having a sort of “direct” communication between clients, so that the producer is able to send the message only when the consumer is online with a single contract between the parties : when the producer receives the “acknowledgement”, it means that the consumer has got the message. Of course, EnMasse provides this mechanism in a reliable way : it uses an AMQP 1.0 routers network (connected in a mesh) so that clients aren’t really connected in a direct way but through this mesh. Every router, unlike a broker, doesn’t take ownership of the message but just forwards it to the next hop in the network in order to reach the destination. When a router crashes, the network is automatically re-configured in order to determine a new path for reaching the consumer; it means that high availability is provided in terms of “path redundancy”. Furthermore, thanks to the AMQP 1.0 protocol, a producer doesn’t receive “credits” from a router to send messages if the consumer isn’t online or can’t process more messages.

EnMasse provides these messaging mechanisms using two open source projects : Apache Qpid Dispatch Router, for the router network, and ActiveMQ Artemis (so ActiveMQ 6.x and not 5.x like in the AmazonMQ) for the brokers side.

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I want to know only about “addresses” !

Comparing to the new AmazonMQ service, from a developers point of view, the interesting part is the abstraction layer that EnMasse adds to the underlying messaging infrastructure. You can create a new “address” using the console and specifying a type which can be :

  • queue : backed by a broker, for “store and forward” and for providing competing consumer pattern, asynchronous communication and so on.
  • topic : backed by a broker, for “store and forward” as well but for providing publish/subscribe pattern.
  • anycast : it’s something like a queue but in terms of “direct messaging”. A producer can send messages to such an address only when one or more consumers are listening on it and the routers network will deliver them in a competing consumer fashion.
  • multicast : it’s something like a topic but in terms of “direct messaging”, having a producer publishing messages to more consumers listening on the same address so that all of them receive the same message.

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The developer doesn’t have to worry about creating the broker, configuring the routers and so on; using the console and a few simple steps in the wizard, he will have a usable “address” for exchanging messages between clients.

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Good for microservices …

The interesting part of having the supported “direct messaging” mechanism is even, but not only, about the “micro-services” world. EnMasse can be used as a messaging infrastructure for handing request/reply and publish/subscribe between micro-services using an enterprise protocol like AMQP 1.0.

You can read more about building an AMQP 1.0 based API and a micro-services infrastructure in this article written by on of my colleague, Jakub Scholz.

Who orchestrate ? OpenShift and Kubernetes

Another aspect which makes EnMasse more appealing than other solutions is that it’s totally containerized and runs on the main containers orchestration platforms like Kubernetes and the enterprise OpenShift (using the OpenShift Origin project as well). It means that your messaging based (or IoT) solution can be deployed “on promise” and then easily moved to the Cloud without any changes to your applications (maybe just the addresses for establishing the connections from the clients).

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Conclusion

Of course, this blog post didn’t mean to be an exhaustive guide on what EnMasse is but just a brief introduction that I wanted to write for a long time. The Amazon news gave me this opportunity for showing you that you can really have more than just creating a broker in the Cloud and taking care of it 🙂

 

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