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Poison Pill Detection


BlazingMQ has a built-in bad message (“poison pill”) detection mechanism which auto detects and purges poison pill messages from the queue. This helps applications prevent a widespread outage in the scenario where a poison pill message is causing consumer applications to crash repeatedly.


Let’s understand the motivation in more detail. One can attach multiple consumers to a BlazingMQ queue. Additionally, any time a consumer goes away without confirming messages that were sent to it, BlazingMQ re-routes those messages to other consumer(s), if available. If a message is acting as a poison pill and crashing consumers, BlazingMQ will continue to re-route to that message to any available consumer, until that message is confirmed by a consumer, or is removed from the queue as a result of message TTL expiration or is manually purged from the queue. Typically, messages are configured with higher values of TTL (10 minutes or more), and purging a specific message or entire queue requires manual intervention. It is easy to see how a poison pill message can lead to widespread application outage by repeatedly bringing down consumers and keeping them down for an extended period of time.


BlazingMQ limits retransmissions of poison pill messages up to the limit specified in the BlazingMQ domain configuration (typical recommended value is five). Once the retransmission counter of a message reaches zero, the message is auto-purged from the queue. Additionally, the payload of the offending message is dumped in a file which can be inspected for troubleshooting purposes.


Note that this feature can introduce some additional latency in case BlazingMQ detects a message as potentially poisonous. BlazingMQ users might be aware that BlazingMQ delivers messages to consumer applications in batches for performance reasons. If one message in a batch is poisonous and causes a consumer to crash, BlazingMQ declares the entire batch as potentially poisonous, and a throttled delivery algorithm kicks in, which attempts to pinpoint the message which is actually poisonous. As the message continues to crash consumers and its transmission counter inches towards zero, the algorithm throttles the batch of messages aggressively to find the culprit. This throttling can introduce a delay of up to 5 seconds (configurable) in message transmission to consumers. Note that this feature does not introduce any throttling or overhead in the absence of consumer crashes.