What is activemq
June 4, 2020

What is Apache ActiveMQ?

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ActiveMQ is a popular messaging service. Here, we break down:

What Is ActiveMQ?

ActiveMQ is a popular open source Java message-oriented middleware (MoM). 

What Are Apache ActiveMQ Brokers?

Apache ActiveMQ brokers are implementations of the Java Messaging Service, or JMS. JMS is a Java specification which allows applications to send data back and forth between one another in an easy and standard way.

Before messaging systems like ActiveMQ, it was difficult — if not impossible — to “federate” applications that:

  • Were written in disparate languages.
  • Resided on heterogeneous platforms.
  • Used different data structures and protocols.
apache activemq

An early goal of Java was to present a language with the power of C which was not hindered by its cross-platform issues. JMS arose out of a growing need to federate very different systems with each other. 

Before ActiveMQ, that meant building the source code against native tooling and libraries. Alternatives were outright porting or rewriting the application on separate operating systems.  

What Is the Difference Between JMS and ActiveMQ?

ActiveMQ is a JMS provider. A JMS provider forms the software framework for facilitating the use of JMS concepts inside an application. A single node of ActiveMQ which allows clients to connect to it and use these messaging concepts is called an “ActiveMQ Broker.”

So, ActiveMQ is a message broker that implements JMS. Using ActiveMQ is important for many businesses — especially enterprises.

Enterprises feel this disparity with business actions such as mergers and acquisitions. This creates the need to maintain an increasingly heterogeneous collection of business applications. As your enterprise grows, so does the need to allow all of these platforms to share data. A number of architectural patterns exist today which help to solve this problem.

Other JMS Providers

Some other examples of JMS providers are: 

  • HornetQ.
  • RabbitMQ.
  • SonicMQ.
  • Windows Azure Messaging.
Apachemq broker

ActiveMQ Is Just One Part of Your Stack

ActiveMQ is just one part of your open source stack. You're likely leveraging other technologies. And there are still more open source technologies you can benefit from. Build your organization's ideal open source stack. Use the OpenLogic Stack Builder to get a custom report from our experts of your stack.

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ActiveMQ Architecture Overview

ActiveMQ's anatomy consists of data patterns called messages, queues, and topics.

Messages are just what they sound like, payloads of data that can be shipped between various systems. These payloads can have headers and properties associated with them that can:

  • Categorize them.
  • Control various portions of their routing.
  • Facilitate moving the payloads around a connected network of applications.

Here's a basic JMS structure, such as ActiveMQ:

how activemq works

The payload itself can be any Java object in a pure-Java implementation. But it is typically some form of text message. Note that the text could be a markup format such as XML or JSON as well. The purpose of a messaging system is to move these payloads between heterogeneous systems in a standard way. 

ActiveMQ as an Enterprise-Class Messaging Solution

An enterprise-class messaging solution can do this while also maintaining data integrity, guaranteeing no data loss, considering high availability, security, recoverability, and other common enterprise concerns.

The applications themselves within our network are thought of as endpoints. And there are two categories of them. Inbound endpoints which are used to read or receive messages are called consumers, and outbound ones meant to send data into the messaging system are called producers. This is handled programmatically. The endpoint is defined in the context of the program that is interacting with the messaging system. 

How ActiveMQ Messages Work

Once messages make their way into the system, they are arranged into two patterns: queues and topics. Queues are FIFO (first-in, first out) pipelines of messages produced and consumed by brokers and clients. Producers create messages and push them onto these queues. Then those messages are polled and collected by consumer applications, one message at a time.
 
Topics are subscription-based message broadcast channels. When a producing application sends a message, multiple recipients who are ‘subscribed’ to that topic receive a broadcast of the message. This producing application is sometimes called a ‘publisher’ in the context of topic messaging,

All of these components are just parts of the JMS specification, but aren’t any one piece of software in particular. To realize the specification in real life, we can create a vendor-specific implementation of the JMS spec, known as a JMS provider. 

Key Functions of ActiveMQ

Over and above JMS, ActiveMQ provides additional functionality such as:

  • A native ActiveMQ connection factory object for Java.
  • Powerful observability features with its detailed JMX metrics and statistics engine.
  • Support for extended dashboarding through Jolokia and HawtIO.
  • JAAS security.
  • Support for multiple connection protocols.
  • Native HA and DR capabilities.
  • Built-in functionality for both horizontal and vertical scale.

Apache ActiveMQ 5 vs. Apache ActiveMQ 6

Apache ActiveMQ 5 implements the JMS 1.1 spec. ActiveMQ 6 (Artemis) will implement JMS 2.0.

In addition to the JMS concepts described above, ActiveMQ also providers persistence. This allows messages to be “replayed” should a broker crash. Along with that, durability allows topic subscribers to receive broadcast messages when connectivity to the broker has been interrupted.

Should You Use ActiveMQ?

ActiveMQ is a mature and well-adopted platform. 1,000s of companies use it. It's by far the most flexible OSS message broker available. As if that’s not enough, it also ships with Apache Camel and shares developers and committers with the Apache Camel product. This gives it a tremendous level of sophistication in terms of designing complex messaging patterns.

ActiveMQ Is the Ideal Messaging Solution

Apache ActiveMQ is free and open source under the permissive Apache 2.0 ASF license. It is backed by a prolific and responsive developer community and was envisioned by some of the early creators of the now ubiquitous Enterprise Integration Pattern (EIP) architecture.  

Putting together these patterns with JMS makes it easy to understand how ActiveMQ works. ActiveMQ brokers themselves support a number of connection protocols, allowing them to provide highly normalized connection points between applications coded in different languages, such as Java, C++, .NET, PHP, and others. 

This makes ActiveMQ an ideal free messaging solution for enterprises. Users commonly migrate to ActiveMQ from commercial middleware such as WebSphereMQ, Oracle AQ, TIBCO EMS, and/or MSMQ.

Scale of ActiveMQ Data

ActiveMQ can be tuned for massive scale, supporting large data sets, such as those generated by the CERN large hadron collider. Its configuration can support numerous traffic and implementation models and has a powerful statistics and metrics engine, exposing crucial details about the health of the broker and the amount and size of message traffic and client status. These metrics can be consumed by popular monitoring frameworks, making ActiveMQ a highly observable solution.

Get More Out of ActiveMQ

Though not the only free messaging solution available, Apache ActiveMQ stands out for balancing its versatility with enterprise-readiness. You can adopt ActiveMQ quickly. It will be accessible to anyone comfortable with JMS. ActiveMQ’s prolific community will ensure the products continued viability. And ActiveMQ 6 promises to extend this usefulness into the next generation of enterprise messaging solutions.  

Looking to get started with Apache ActiveMQ? Connect with one of our open source architects to get answers to your questions and to learn more about migration, innovation, cost-savings, and much more. Connect with an expert today to learn how we can help you get the most out of ActiveMQ.

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