Tuesday, October 30, 2012

ActiveMQ: KahaDB Journal Files - More Than Just Message Content Bits

I recently came across an issue where the ActiveMQ KahaDB journal files were continually rolling despite the fact that only a small number of small persistent messages were occasionally being stored by the broker.  This behavior seemed very strange being that the message sizes being persisted were only a couple of kilobytes and there was a relatively small amount of messages actually on a queue.  In this scenario something was filling up the 32MB journal files, but I wasn't quite sure what it could be?  Were there other messages somewhere in the broker?  Did an index get corrupted that was actually causing messages to be written across multiple journal files?  It was pretty strange behavior but it can be explained fairly easily.  This post describes the actual cause of this behavior and I have created it to remind myself in the future that there is more in the journal file than just the message content bits.

The KahaDB journal files are used to store persistent messages that have been sent to the broker.  In addition to storing the message content, the journal files also store information on KahaDB commands and transactional information.  There are several commands for which information is stored; KahaAddMessageCommand, KahaCommitCommand, KahaPrepareCommand, KahaProducerAuditCommand, KahaRemoveDestinationCommand, KahaRemoveMessageCommand, KahaRollbackCommand, KahaSubscriptionCommand, and KahaTraceCommand.  In this particular case, it was the KahaProducerAuditCommand which was responsible for the behavior that was observed.  This command stores information about producer ids and message ids which is used for duplicate detection.  In this case information is stored in a map object which over time grows.  This information is then stored in the journal file each time a checkpoint is run, which by default is every 5 seconds.  Over time, this can begin to use up the space allocated by the journal file causing low volume smaller messages to roll to the next journal file which in turn prevents the broker from cleaning up journal files which still have referenced messages.  Eventually this situation can lead to Producer Flow Control being trigger by the broker's store limit which prevents producers from sending new messages into the broker.

This behavior can occur under the following conditions:
  • Persistent messages are being sent to a queue
  • The messages are not being consumed on a regular basis
  • The rate of messages being sent to the broker is low
These conditions allow for this behavior to be observed fairly easily.  As the persistent messages do not get consumed they remain referenced and prevent the journal files from being cleaned up.  The low message rate allows time to pass between each new message being stored in the journal file and in the meantime checkpoints are being run which cause KahaProducerAuditCommand information to space out the actual messages within the journal file.

For this use case you can disable the duplicate detection by essentially limiting the growth of the KahaProducerAuditCommand using the following configuration on the persistent adapter in the broker configuration:

       <kahaDB directory="${activemq.base}/data/kahadb" failoverProducersAuditDepth="0" maxFailoverProducersToTrack="0"/>  

 This is something to think about when designing your system.  Under normal circumstances, if you have consumers available to consume the persistent messages, this condition would probably never occur as the journal files roll and messages are consumed, the broker can begin to clean up old journal files.

There is currently an enhancement request at Apache which will also help resolve this issue.  AMQ-3833 has been opened to enhance the broker so it will only write the KahaProducerAuditCommand if a change has occurred since the last checkpoint.  This will help reduce the amount of data that is written to the journal files in between message storage.


  1. This is an excellent find! nice work

  2. thanks Jason...we are running into this now and I tried these configs in AMQ 5.7, but still have a single queue with a few hundred small messages holding up the removal of all the data files...using kahadb defaults otherwise...as soon as I purge this queue, it quickly removes the other files...going to try mKahaDB config next, but that seems like overkill.

    any other thoughts?