Features & Guarantees

NSQ is a realtime distributed messaging platform.

Features

  • support distributed topologies with no SPOF
  • horizontally scalable (no brokers, seamlessly add more nodes to the cluster)
  • low-latency push based message delivery (performance)
  • combination load-balanced and multicast style message routing
  • excel at both streaming (high-throughput) and job oriented (low-throughput) workloads
  • primarily in-memory (beyond a high-water mark messages are transparently kept on disk)
  • runtime discovery service for consumers to find producers (nsqlookupd)
  • transport layer security (TLS)
  • data format agnostic
  • few dependencies (easy to deploy) and a sane, bounded, default configuration
  • simple TCP protocol supporting client libraries in any language
  • HTTP interface for stats, admin actions, and producers (no client library needed to publish)
  • integrates with statsd for realtime instrumentation
  • robust cluster administration interface (nsqadmin)

Guarantees

As with any distributed system, achieving your goal is a matter of making intelligent tradeoffs. By being transparent about the reality of these tradeoffs we hope to set expectations about how NSQ will behave when deployed in production.

  • messages are not durable (by default)

    Although the system supports a “release valve” (--mem-queue-size) after which messages will be transparently kept on disk, it is primarily an in-memory messaging platform.

    --mem-queue-size can be set to 0 to to ensure that all incoming messages are persisted to disk. In this case, if a node failed, you are susceptible to a reduced failure surface (i.e. did the OS or underlying IO subsystem fail).

    There is no built in replication. However, there are a variety of ways this tradeoff is managed such as deployment topology and techniques which actively slave and persist topics to disk in a fault-tolerant fashion.

  • messages are delivered at least once

    Closely related to above, this assumes that the given nsqd node does not fail.

    This means, for a variety of reasons, messages can be delivered multiple times (client timeouts, disconnections, requeues, etc.). It is the client’s responsibility to perform idempotent operations or de-dupe.

  • messages received are un-ordered

    You cannot rely on the order of messages being delivered to consumers.

    Similar to message delivery semantics, this is the result of requeues, the combination of in-memory and on disk storage, and the fact that each nsqd node shares nothing.

    It is relatively straightforward to achieve loose ordering (i.e. for a given consumer its messages are ordered but not across the cluster as a whole) by introducing a window of latency in your consumer to accept messages and order them before processing (although, in order to preserve this invariant one must drop messages falling outside that window).

  • consumers eventually find all topic producers

    The discovery service (nsqlookupd) is designed to be eventually consistent. nsqlookupd nodes do not coordinate to maintain state or answer queries.

    Network partitions do not affect availability in the sense that both sides of the partition can still answer queries. Deployment topology has the most significant effect of mitigating these types of issues.