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Dispatch Addressing

AMQP addresses are used to control the flow of messages across a network of routers. Addresses are used in a number of different places in the AMQP 1.0 protocol. They can be used in a specific message in the to and reply-to fields of a message's properties. They are also used during the creation of links in the address field of a source or a target.

Addresses designate various kinds of entities in a messaging network:

  • Endpoint processes that consume data or offer a service
  • Topics that match multiple consumers to multiple producers
  • Entities within a messaging broker:
    • Queues
    • Durable Topics
    • Exchanges

The syntax of an AMQP address is opaque as far as the router network is concerned. A syntactical structure may be used by the administrator that creates addresses, but the router treats them as opaque strings. Routers consider addresses to be mobile such that any address may be directly connected to any router in a network and may move around the topology. In cases where messages are broadcast to or balanced across multiple consumers, an address may be connected to multiple routers in the network.

Addresses have semantics associated with them. When an address is created in the network, it is assigned a set of semantics (and access rules) during a process called provisioning. The semantics of an address control how routers behave when they see the address being used.

Address semantics include the following considerations:

  • Routing pattern - direct, multicast, balanced
  • Routing mechanism - message routed, link routed
  • Undeliverable action - drop, hold and retry, redirect
  • Reliability - N destinations, etc.

Routing patterns

Routing patterns constrain the paths that a message can take across a network.

Pattern Description
Direct Direct routing allows for only one consumer to use an address at a time. Messages (or links) follow the lowest cost path across the network from the sender to the one receiver.
Multicast Multicast routing allows multiple consumers to use the same address at the same time. Messages are routed such that each consumer receives a copy of the message.
Balanced Balanced routing also allows multiple consumers to use the same address. In this case, messages (or links) are routed to exactly one of the consumers, and the network attempts to balance the traffic load across the set of consumers using the same address.

Routing mechanisms

The fact that addresses can be used in different ways suggests that message routing can be accomplished in different ways. Before going into the specifics of the different routing mechanisms, it would be good to first define what is meant by the term routing:

In a network built of multiple routers connected by connections (i.e., nodes and edges in a graph), routing determines which connection to use to send a message directly to its destination or one step closer to its destination.

Each router serves as the terminus of a collection of incoming and outgoing links. Some of the links are designated for message routing, and others are designated for link routing. In both cases, the links either connect directly to endpoints that produce and consume messages, or they connect to other routers in the network along previously established connections.

Message routing

Message routing occurs upon delivery of a message and is done based on the address in the message's to field.

When a delivery arrives on an incoming message-routing link, the router extracts the address from the delivered message's to field and looks the address up in its routing table. The lookup results in zero or more outgoing links onto which the message shall be resent.

Delivery Handling
pre-settled If the arriving delivery is pre-settled (i.e., fire and forget), the incoming delivery shall be settled by the router, and the outgoing deliveries shall also be pre-settled. In other words, the pre-settled nature of the message delivery is propagated across the network to the message's destination.
unsettled Unsettled delivery is also propagated across the network. Because unsettled delivery records cannot be discarded, the router tracks the incoming deliveries and keeps the association of the incoming deliveries to the resulting outgoing deliveries. This kept association allows the router to continue to propagate changes in delivery state (settlement and disposition) back and forth along the path which the message traveled.

Link routing occurs when a new link is attached to the router across one of its AMQP connections. It is done based on the target.address field of an inbound link and the source.address field of an outbound link.

Link routing uses the same routing table that message routing uses. The difference is that the routing occurs during the link-attach operation, and link attaches are propagated along the appropriate path to the destination. What results is a chain of links, connected end-to-end, from source to destination. It is similar to a virtual circuit in a telecom system.

Each router in the chain holds pairs of link termini that are tied together. The router then simply exchanges all deliveries, delivery state changes, and link state changes between the two termini.

The endpoints that use the link chain do not see any difference in behavior between a link chain and a single point-to-point link. All of the features available in the link protocol (flow control, transactional delivery, etc.) are available over a routed link-chain.