This tutorial is for Immutant 1.x. Go here for the 2.x documentation!

In this tutorial, we'll explore the messaging features available to your Clojure applications when deployed on Immutant. Because Immutant is built atop JBoss AS7, it includes the excellent HornetQ messaging service baked right in. Hence, there is nothing extra to install or configure in order for your applications to benefit from asynchronous messaging.

Destinations are either Queues or Topics

Two types of message destinations, or endpoints, are supported: queues and topics. A queue exhibits point-to-point semantics: a message sent to a queue will be delivered to a single recipient. A topic provides publish-subscribe semantics: messages sent to a topic will be delivered to all subscribed recipients. In both cases, the message producers have no direct knowledge of the message consumers.

Use the start function to create a messaging destination. A simple naming convention designates an endpoint as either a queue or a topic: if its name contains queue, it's a queue; if it contains topic, it's a topic.

(require '[immutant.messaging :as msg])
(msg/start "")   ; to start a queue
(msg/start "")   ; to start a topic

You can invoke start from anywhere in your application, e.g. the src/immutant/init.clj initialization file, as described in the deployment tutorial.

Note that you will need to call start for any destination you want to use, even if start has already been called in another coordinating application. Also note that start is idempotent - calling it more than once has no effect.

While start has a complement, stop, you needn't call it directly. It will be invoked when your application is undeployed. A call to stop will silently fail if the endpoint is in use by any other application. The last to leave will turn the lights out.

Only One Way to Produce Messages


Messages are sent to a destination, whether queue or topic, via a single function, publish, to which is passed the destination name and the message content, which can be just about anything. A number of optional key-value parameters may be passed as well.

  • :encoding may be either :clojure (the default), :json (useful with non-clojure consumers), :fressian (an efficient binary encoding) or :text (no encoding)
  • :priority may be an integer between 0-9, inclusive. Convenient keyword values :low, :normal, :high and :critical correspond to 0, 4, 7 and 9, respectively. 4 is the default.
  • :ttl time-to-live may be specified in milliseconds, after which time the message is discarded if not consumed. Default is 0, i.e. forever.
  • :properties is a hash of arbitrary message metadata upon which JMS selector expressions may be constructed to filter received messages.

Some examples:

;; A simple string
(msg/publish "" "simple string")
;; Notify everyone something interesting just happened
(msg/publish "" {:event "VISIT" :url "/sales-inquiry"})
;; Move this message to the front of the line
(msg/publish "" some-message :priority :high :ttl 1000)
;; Make messages as complex as necessary
(msg/publish "" {:a "b" :c [1 2 3 {:foo 42}]})
;; Make messages consumable by a Ruby app
(msg/publish "" {:a "b" :c [1 2 3 {:foo 42}]} :encoding :json)

Three Ways to Consume Messages


Block on a call to receive, passing a destination name and optionally, the following:

  • :timeout an expiration in milliseconds, after which nil is returned. Default is 0, i.e. wait forever
  • :selector a JMS expression used to filter messages according to the values of arbitrary :properties. For documentation on JMS selector syntax please see the javadoc for javax.jms.Message.


Pass a destination name and function to listen and the decoded content of a message sent to that destination will be passed to the function. Options include:

  • :concurrency the maximum number of listening threads that can simultaneouly call the function. Default is 1.
  • :selector same as :receive


Create a lazy sequence of messages via message-seq, which accepts the same options as receive.

Some examples:

;; Wait on a task
(let [task (msg/receive "")]
  (perform task))

;; Case-sensitive work queues?
(msg/listen "/queue/lower" #(msg/publish "/queue/upper" (.toUpperCase %)))

;; Contrived laziness
(let [messages (message-seq queue)]
  (doseq [i (range 4)] (publish queue i))
  (= (range 4) (take 4 messages)))

Synchronous request/respond

Immutant provides an implementation of the request/response pattern, a popular means of synchronous work distribution. Clients can publish a message, i.e. make a request, and then block awaiting a response without knowing exactly which consumer returns the response. For example,

(require '[immutant.messaging :as msg])

;; setup a responder
(msg/respond "" (partial apply +))

;; send a request
(let [result (msg/request "" [1 2 3])]
  (println @result)) ;; => 6

See the manual for more options and examples.