Message Queue Problem Overview
What problem do MOM (Message Oriented Middleware) solve? Scalability? Integration?
In which domain are they typically used and in which domains are they typically not used?
For example, say, is Google using such solution for it's main search engine or to power GMail?
What about big websites like Walmart, eBay, FedEx (pretty much a Java shop) and buy.com (pretty much an MS shop)? Does MOM solve a need there?
Does it make any sense when you're writing a Webapp where you control the server-side and have an homogenous environment (say tens of Amazon EC2 instances all running Linux + Java JVMs) there and where the clients are, well, Web browsers?
Does it make sense for desktop apps that need to communicate with a server?
Or is it 'only' for big enterprise stuff where you typically have a happy mix of countless of different systems that needs to communicate in a way or another?
I'm a bit confused as to what they're useful for and I think that with example of where they're appropriate and where they're not appropriate I could better understand their use.
Message Queue Solutions
Solution 1 - Message Queue
This is a great question.
The main uses of messaging are: scaling, offloading work, integration, monitoring, event handling, routing, networking, push, mobility, buffering, queueing, task sharing, alerts, management, logging, batch, data delivery, pubsub, multicast, audit, scheduling, ... and more. Basically: anything where you need data but don't want to make a database request. (Caching is another, longer story).
Another way of looking at this is to notice that many applications used to be built by assuming that users (people) would perform actions that would be fulfilled by executing a transaction on a database (including reads, writes). But today, many actions are not user-initiated. Instead they are application-initiated. For example "tell me when the book that I want to buy is in stock". The best way to solve this class of problems is with messaging of some sort. Whether you call it middleware or web push or real time salad dressing does not matter. It's all messaging.
When you enable applications to initiate or react to events, then it is much easier to scale because your architecture can be based on loosely coupled components. It is also much easier to integrate those components if your messaging is based on a stable, scalable, serviceable tool, preferably using open standard APIs and protocols.
I hope this helps. We try to maintain a list of useful links about messaging here
Please get in touch with questions and comments on any of this, we are dead easy to find.
Solution 2 - Message Queue
To address your specific questions:
> In which domain are they typically used and in which domains are they typically not used?
Like databases, messaging systems crop up everywhere.
> For example, say, is Google using such solution for it's main search engine or to power GMail?
Google uses a lot of home grown technology, but a lot of their open source contributions and known use cases suggest that messaging is (or should be) central to some of the main services.
> What about big websites like Walmart, eBay, FedEx (pretty much a Java shop) and buy.com (pretty much an MS shop)? Does MOM solve a need there?
Very much so.
An example use case is scaling web page requests. When the user makes a web request, the web server puts it onto a queue for background processing. This means that the web server can keep working while the request is processed. It also means that the web server does not need to know how the request is handled, making system maintenance, upgrade and rollback much simpler because the main parts are 'decoupled'.
So, anyway, the web request gets processed by a back end service, or possibly by many services, eg 'look up book titles', 'draw shopping cart', 'get advertisement', 'check user account'... Finally all the results get put onto another queue, ready for collection and user response by the web server. Typically the system will include a timeout of around 100ms so that any late requests just get thrown away. The user sees anything that got processed in the time interval. This is one reason why some large ecommerce sites have pages that appear to load in stages.
There are many more use cases...
> Does it make any sense when you're writing a Webapp where you control the server-side and have an homogenous environment (say tens of Amazon EC2 instances all running Linux + Java JVMs) there and where the clients are, well, Web browsers?
Definitely. If you have an unknown, or unbounded, number of users, server side instances, and application latencies, then it makes sense to use messaging, even if just as a scalable substrate for non-blocking RPC.
> Does it make sense for desktop apps that need to communicate with a server?
In lots of cases. One very common case is when the server pushes events to the desktop app, eg game event, tweets, price feeds in finance, system alerts....
> Or is it 'only' for big enterprise stuff where you typically have a happy mix of countless of different systems that needs to communicate in a way or another?
Definitely not only for those 'legacy integration' cases but they are important too. At RabbitMQ, the biggest customers we have in terms of pure scale or message volume are cloud providers and big web application providers.
Solution 3 - Message Queue
I will answer only one answer, from prior experience - take a look at this middle-ware that is employed by big companies here - middle-ware has one purpose - to glue dis-connected systems (written in disparate languages) together so that they can interact with one another and streamline the business process - Entera as I have had experience with, creates a middle layer in which the unix box using processes written in C, interact with the mainframe system (DB2, COBOL) via a front-end written in PowerBuilder (I am not naming the company!).
From the description I have given, Entera is a middle-ware which hosts a number of things - smooth integration of the flow of data regardless of the endian format, ability for different languages to talk to the middle-ware broker (a broker is a CORBA or DCE like process, that conforms to 'The Open Group) that listens on a particular port) and is specified by an IDL which makes a process appear to be local - if you understand the terminology used in Remoting under Microsoft's .NET Framework, you are not far off the mark! The middle-ware generates stubs which are linked at compile-time and manages the creation of the process, hosting it off a port, multi-threading at run-time, and also, the modern front-ends (such as .NET, Java, PowerBuilder even the unspeakable VB6...ok...VB.NET for the purists out there) can interact by opening a connection to the specified port on a particular IP address, and using the stubs generated, can interact with it directly.
Obviously, from what was described you can see how the legacy systems can have new life breathed into it and thus scalability of the process, the major downside of this is the cost factor which can run into thousdands of dollars. Big companies who uses mainframes as their back-end processing systems for billing/invoicing, who generate a huge revenue can obviously afford such an expensive product - to them it would seem like throwing pennies into a pool of water...because of the use of middle-ware which prolongs the business process, and breathe new life into it, can extend the business by a good number of years into the future without worrying about 'legacy' tag attached to it.
Incidentally, I carried this out as part of my thesis for my BSc. in Information Systems which covered this commercial front-end. There was an open source version of the middle-ware available on sourceforge called FreeDCE, but development efforts have declined or stopped.
Edit: @cocotwo: That is exactly what middle-ware does as you said it is a plumbing tool...message oriented middle-ware is not really heard of AFAIK because I would imagine, the processes (functions) would need to be called as if they are locally visible within the application domain of the front-end to make it easy to interact with.
Using messages may have its advantages over RPC calls in that the messages are queued in a safe-holding area in the event that a network disconnection occurs - there may be some data caching going on within that aspect to allow the front-end to continue regardless...it would be useful in the instances of 'updating a status of a particular billing/invoice number' - a one-way write-data to the back-end via the middle-ware.
Ok, big companies would have advanced systems infrastructure in that technicians are constantly around the clock to ensure a smooth delivery of data-flow so that would have to be factored in. The company that I worked with had IBM Global Support contract to fulfill in order to ensure a maximum uptime 99% with 6 nine's after the decimal point...with hot-swapping/balanced-clusters/mirroring systems in place...
Whereas with RPC, if the disconnection occurs, the front-end would have to be restarted or would have to handle the disconnection event. It really depends if the message-queueing middle-ware handles each message in real-time and pass back results to the front-end immediately...
This is where each (Message-queueing and RPC related middle-ware) have their strengths and weaknesses...and also the cost mitigation factor such as support, maximum up-time, development efforts and training - that's a biggie here as middle-ware are really proprietary (despite following the 'The Open Group' layout/standards) and complex to setup and to glue the whole thing together via scripts.
Solution 4 - Message Queue
Good answers and discussion here. Our consulting team has two preferred "messaging" solutions: RabittMQ and NXTera a high speed RPC middleware, the contemporary version of Entera mentioned above. My partners and I have developed several solutions using RabittMQ, it is the best tool available in that space right now. Additionally, I happen to work for the company that makes NXTera/Entera.
From experience I can clearly say that both of these products meet the need for reliability and low maintenance as discussed above. There are situations where a messaging service, like RabittMQ, is the right choice -- where Publish and subscribe, certified delivery, Queuing or store-and-forward are required.
In other cases, RPC's (remote procedure calls) are the best and fastest solutions for transactional and distributed processing for enterprise or cloud-based applications. When it is right to use an RPC, but SOAP/.NET (yes these are RPC implementations) are too slow, expensive or complex, a lightwieght high speed RPC middleware like NXTera/Entera is the right choice for us.
There is some use case overlap between RPC middleware and message oriented middleware, and where there are you can use either successfully. But both are strong and dependable choices.
The large companies I work with use both RPC and MoM side-by-side. As far as Internet companies, Google (Protocol Buffers) and Facebook (Thrift) show that RPC's have a roll to play in modern web and cloud-based development.