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Implement a Message Queue in Your Cloud Application

Republished with permission from our friends at the Rackspace Developer blog.

In this post, we will dive into the different message queues out there and how to implement a message queue in an application.

Which Queue Do I Use?

There are several queues to choose from, each with benefits and drawbacks.


The most popular is RabbitMQ, due to multiple operating system support (even Windows!) and a plethora of clients and tools that support RabbitMQ. RabbitMQ is written in Erlang and implements a common standard: the Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP). RabbitMQ queues messages on a central server, making it easy to deploy but a bit more interesting to scale.


Apache ActiveMQ is a message broker written in Java together with a full JMS client. However Apache ActiveMQ is designed to communicate over a number of protocols such as AMQP, Stomp and OpenWire together with supporting a number of different language specific clients.


ZeroMQ is typically deployed for clustered systems and/or supercomputing. It is a sockets library for messaging and is extremely fast. It gives you sockets that carry atomic messages across various transports like in-process, inter-process, TCP, and multicast. You can connect sockets N-to-N with patterns like fanout, pub-sub, task distribution, and request-reply. ZeroMQ does not follow a broker pattern like RabbitMQ or ActiveMQ, meaning ZeroMQ does not run on a single server or cluster of servers. A wealth of information about ZeroMQ is available in “Code Connected Volume 1 - Professional Edition” by Pieter Hinjens, the CEO of iMatrix.


Marconi is a new OpenStack project to create a multi-tenant cloud queuing service. The aim is to create an open alternative to Amazon’s SQS (producer-consumer) and SNS (pub-sub) services, for use in applications that run on OpenStack clouds. Marconi is currently in development.


IronMQ is an easy-to-use highly available message queuing service. IronMQ is for the person that doesn’t want to manage their own queue servers. They provide an endpoint where you create queues and messages with a highly available backend. IronMQ uses HTTPS to transport messages instead of AMQP.

Getting Started with a Message Queue and Workers

Integrating a message queue makes your application more scalable, almost by default. With a message queue in place, you can scale worker servers as needed to perform tasks. Let’s look at getting started with a message queue system. For this example, I am using RabbitMQ on Ubuntu 12.04. Since we also need a worker, I will be installing Celery as well.

Installing RabbitMQ and Celery

First you need to add the APT repository for RabbitMQ, then install the package itself:

echo "deb http://www.rabbitmq.com/debian/ testing main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list
wget http://www.rabbitmq.com/rabbitmq-signing-key-public.asc
sudo apt-key add rabbitmq-signing-key-public.asc
apt-get update
sudo apt-get install rabbitmq-server

pip install celery

RabbitMQ should be running and ready to handle messages to our worker, Celery. Now we need to set up a Celery application to perform some work. Create a file called tasks.py:

from celery import Celery

celery = Celery('tasks', broker='amqp://guest@localhost//')

def add(x, y):
    return x + y

In this file, we are defining a message broker (RabbitMQ) as well as defining a worker task that adds two numbers together. Next we need to make sure Celery is running, then try to run our task.

celery -A tasks worker --loglevel=info
>>> from tasks import add
>>> add.delay(4, 4)

Celery can store results in a database (or other backend systems) for lookup later. If you have multiple servers running workers looking for work from a Message Queue, you can truly see some scalability in your applications.

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