Apache ActiveMQ 5.4.0 was released in August, followed quickly in September by a 5.4.1 release. Not only were there tons of fixes in these releases, but there were also some really great new features including message scheduling, support for web sockets, new Unix control scripts, full message priority, producer message caching and cluster client updates and cluster client rebalancing just to name a few. In this blog post, I'm going to discuss the new cluster client updates and cluster client rebalancing features so that you get a taste of how they are used.
When using a network of brokers with ActiveMQ, the configuration of the brokers that form the network has always been rather static. The first step toward a more dynamic network of brokers was a feature I presented in a previous blog post titled How to Use Automatic Failover In an ActiveMQ Network of Brokers. In the event of a broker connection failure, the use of the failover transport for the network connections between brokers allows those connections to be automatically reestablished. This is a wonderful feature for sure, but it only got us part of the way toward a truly dynamic cluster of brokers.
Two new features in ActiveMQ 5.4 introduce the concept of making the cluster of brokers even more dynamic. These two items are the ability to:
- Update the clients in the cluster
- Rebalance the brokers in the cluster
Update Cluster Clients
In the past, when clients connected to brokers in the cluster, it was recommended to keep a comma-separated list of broker URIs in the failover transport configuration. Below is an example of this style of configuration:
The failover configuration example above lives on the client side and contains a static list of the URIs for each broker in the cluster. In the event that a broker in the cluster fails, the failover transport is what allows a client to automatically reconnect to another broker in that list of broker URIs. Unfortunately this style of configuration can be difficult to maintain because it is static. If you want to add another broker to the cluster, every client's failover transport configuration must be updated manually. Depending on the number of clients in your cluster, this could really be a maintenance headache. This is where the first new features comes to the rescue.
ActiveMQ 5.4 provides the ability to automatically update the clients in the cluster. That is, if a new broker joins or leaves the existing network of brokers, the clients' failover transport configurations no longer need to be manipulated manually. Using configuration options on the broker, you can tell the broker to update each client's failover transport configuration automatically. Below is an example of this new feature:
<broker brokerName="brokerA" ...>
<transportConnector name="tcp-connector" uri="tcp://192.168.0.23:61616" updateClusterClients="true" />
The configuration above is on the broker-side. Notice the new attribute in the <transportConnector> element named updateClusterClients=true. This attribute is used in conjunction with the failover transport on the client-side and it tells the broker to automatically update the client's failover transport configuration when the network topology changes. In addition to the updateClusterClients=true property, there are also a few others including:
- updateClusterClientsOnRemove - Updates a client when brokers are removed from the cluster.
- updateClusterFilter - A comma-separated list of regexes to match broker names that are part of the cluster. This allows flexibility for the inclusion/exclusion of brokers.
- updateURIsURL - Used to provide the path to a file containing a comma-separted list of broker URIs.
Rebalance Cluster Clients
The second new feature also builds upon the failover transport configuration, but for a slightly different purpose. Consider the fact that when a new broker is added to/removed from the cluster that clients cannot automatically take advantage of it. Even with the new ability to update the clients so that they have knowledge of the broker being added/removed, there was no way previously for them to actually use that broker unless a failure occurred. Well that's what this feature does.
ActiveMQ 5.4 allows clients to be automatically disconnected from their current broker and reconnect to a different broker. Here's an example to illustrate this feature. Let's say you have a cluster of three brokers: brokerA, brokerB and brokerC, each of which has some clients connected. When a new broker is added to the cluster, if the updateClusterClients property is set to true, then the clients will be notified about the new broker, but no action will be taken unless the rebalanceClusterClients property is set to true. When the rebalanceClusterClients property is set to true, the clients will be automatically be disconnected from their current broker in order to reconnect to another broker in the cluster. Below is an example configuration for the new rebalance property:
<broker brokerName="brokerA" ...>
<transportConnector name="tcp-connector" uri="tcp://192.168.0.23:61616" updateClusterClients="true" rebalanceClusterClients="true" />
Notice the new rebalanceClusterClients attribute in the <transportConnector> element. This property enables the clients to immediately take advantage of the new broker in the cluster. Instead of waiting for the next connection failure and a reconnect from the failover transport, the clients are told to reconnect immediately to another broker in their list.
Testing The New Features
Testing these two new features is pretty easy actually. Below are the steps I have used on a few occasions:
- Make sure that your clients are logging the broker URI to which they are connected for sending or receiving messages
- Configure each client to only have one broker URI in its failover transport configuration
- Configure the transport connector on the broker-side to set the updateClusterClients property to true and the rebalanceClusterClients property to true
- Start up the brokers in your cluster
- Start up the clients that connect to a broker in the cluster
- Add a new broker to the cluster and observe the following behavior:
The fact that each client reconnects to a new broker tells you that:
- The updateClusterClients property is working correctly because you should see the logging change from one broker URI to another. Remember that each client was started with only one broker URI in their failover transport config. The fact that they are reconnecting tells you that they are receiving notifications of changes to the cluster.
- The rebalanceClusterClients property is working properly because the clients reconnected.
These new features are quite powerful additions to the ActiveMQ network of brokers. They really advance ActiveMQ beyond the static configurations upon which we have all relied for many years now. Most likely the sys admins and dev ops folks will enjoy these features the most because they will no longer need to manually manage a static list of broker URIs for clients.
As I said earlier, many other great features were also introduced in ActiveMQ 5.4 and 5.4.1. So try them out yourself to see if they help to improve your application development.
Update: If you only set the updateClusterClients="true" and the rebalanceClusterClients="true" options, you will notice that when a broker in the network fails and is brought back up, the client connections to other brokers in the network are not automatically rebalanced. This is due to the lack of the updateClusterClientsOnRemove="true" option. After adding this option to the config, network broker clients are notified of broker failures which basically completes the circle and allows the automatic rebalancing to work as it should.