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Chapter 15. Persistence

15.1. Configuring the bindings journal
15.2. Configuring the jms journal
15.3. Configuring the message journal
15.4. An important note on disabling disk write cache.
15.5. Installing AIO
15.6. Configuring HornetQ for Zero Persistence
15.7. Import/Export the Journal Data

In this chapter we will describe how persistence works with HornetQ and how to configure it.

HornetQ ships with a high performance journal. Since HornetQ handles its own persistence, rather than relying on a database or other 3rd party persistence engine it is very highly optimised for the specific messaging use cases.

A HornetQ journal is an append only journal. It consists of a set of files on disk. Each file is pre-created to a fixed size and initially filled with padding. As operations are performed on the server, e.g. add message, update message, delete message, records are appended to the journal. When one journal file is full we move to the next one.

Because records are only appended, i.e. added to the end of the journal we minimise disk head movement, i.e. we minimise random access operations which is typically the slowest operation on a disk.

Making the file size configurable means that an optimal size can be chosen, i.e. making each file fit on a disk cylinder. Modern disk topologies are complex and we are not in control over which cylinder(s) the file is mapped onto so this is not an exact science. But by minimising the number of disk cylinders the file is using, we can minimise the amount of disk head movement, since an entire disk cylinder is accessible simply by the disk rotating - the head does not have to move.

As delete records are added to the journal, HornetQ has a sophisticated file garbage collection algorithm which can determine if a particular journal file is needed any more - i.e. has all it's data been deleted in the same or other files. If so, the file can be reclaimed and re-used.

HornetQ also has a compaction algorithm which removes dead space from the journal and compresses up the data so it takes up less files on disk.

The journal also fully supports transactional operation if required, supporting both local and XA transactions.

The majority of the journal is written in Java, however we abstract out the interaction with the actual file system to allow different pluggable implementations. HornetQ ships with two implementations:

The standard HornetQ core server uses two instances of the journal:

  • Bindings journal.

    This journal is used to store bindings related data. That includes the set of queues that are deployed on the server and their attributes. It also stores data such as id sequence counters.

    The bindings journal is always a NIO journal as it is typically low throughput compared to the message journal.

    The files on this journal are prefixed as hornetq-bindings. Each file has a bindings extension. File size is 1048576, and it is located at the bindings folder.

  • JMS journal.

    This journal instance stores all JMS related data, This is basically any JMS Queues, Topics and Connection Factories and any JNDI bindings for these resources.

    Any JMS Resources created via the management API will be persisted to this journal. Any resources configured via configuration files will not. The JMS Journal will only be created if JMS is being used.

    The files on this journal are prefixed as hornetq-jms. Each file has a jms extension. File size is 1048576, and it is located at the bindings folder.

  • Message journal.

    This journal instance stores all message related data, including the message themselves and also duplicate-id caches.

    By default HornetQ will try and use an AIO journal. If AIO is not available, e.g. the platform is not Linux with the correct kernel version or AIO has not been installed then it will automatically fall back to using Java NIO which is available on any Java platform.

    The files on this journal are prefixed as hornetq-data. Each file has a hq extension. File size is by the default 10485760 (configurable), and it is located at the journal folder.

For large messages, HornetQ persists them outside the message journal. This is discussed in Chapter 23, Large Messages.

HornetQ can also be configured to page messages to disk in low memory situations. This is discussed in Chapter 24, Paging.

If no persistence is required at all, HornetQ can also be configured not to persist any data at all to storage as discussed in Section 15.6, “Configuring HornetQ for Zero Persistence”.

The bindings journal is configured using the following attributes in hornetq-configuration.xml

The jms config shares its configuration with the bindings journal.

The message journal is configured using the following attributes in hornetq-configuration.xml


Most disks contain hardware write caches. A write cache can increase the apparent performance of the disk because writes just go into the cache and are then lazily written to the disk later.

This happens irrespective of whether you have executed a fsync() from the operating system or correctly synced data from inside a Java program!

By default many systems ship with disk write cache enabled. This means that even after syncing from the operating system there is no guarantee the data has actually made it to disk, so if a failure occurs, critical data can be lost.

Some more expensive disks have non volatile or battery backed write caches which won't necessarily lose data on event of failure, but you need to test them!

If your disk does not have an expensive non volatile or battery backed cache and it's not part of some kind of redundant array (e.g. RAID), and you value your data integrity you need to make sure disk write cache is disabled.

Be aware that disabling disk write cache can give you a nasty shock performance wise. If you've been used to using disks with write cache enabled in their default setting, unaware that your data integrity could be compromised, then disabling it will give you an idea of how fast your disk can perform when acting really reliably.

On Linux you can inspect and/or change your disk's write cache settings using the tools hdparm (for IDE disks) or sdparm or sginfo (for SDSI/SATA disks)

On Windows you can check / change the setting by right clicking on the disk and clicking properties.

The Java NIO journal gives great performance, but If you are running HornetQ using Linux Kernel 2.6 or later, we highly recommend you use the AIO journal for the very best persistence performance.

It's not possible to use the AIO journal under other operating systems or earlier versions of the Linux kernel.

If you are running Linux kernel 2.6 or later and don't already have libaio installed, you can easily install it using the following steps:

Using yum, (e.g. on Fedora or Red Hat Enterprise Linux):

yum install libaio

Using aptitude, (e.g. on Ubuntu or Debian system):

apt-get install libaio

In some situations, zero persistence is sometimes required for a messaging system. Configuring HornetQ to perform zero persistence is straightforward. Simply set the parameter persistence-enabled in hornetq-configuration.xml to false.

Please note that if you set this parameter to false, then zero persistence will occur. That means no bindings data, message data, large message data, duplicate id caches or paging data will be persisted.

You may want to inspect the existent records on each one of the journals used by HornetQ, and you can use the export/import tool for that purpose. The export/import are classes located at the hornetq-core.jar, you can export the journal as a text file by using this command:

java -cp hornetq-core.jar org.hornetq.core.journal.impl.ExportJournal <JournalDirectory> <JournalPrefix> <FileExtension> <FileSize> <FileOutput>

To import the file as binary data on the journal (Notice you also require netty.jar):

java -cp hornetq-core.jar:netty.jar org.hornetq.core.journal.impl.ImportJournal <JournalDirectory> <JournalPrefix> <FileExtension> <FileSize> <FileInput>