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Distributed Messaging System | System Design

Last Updated : 05 Jan, 2024
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In our fast-paced world, how we share information matters more than ever. Old-school messaging setups sometimes struggle to keep up with today’s tech demands. That’s where distributed messaging systems step in. They’re like a breath of fresh air, changing the game and making sure our messages get where they need to go, no matter what.


What is a Distributed Messaging System?

A Distributed Messaging System is like a smart way of sending messages and information. Instead of relying on just one place to handle all the messages, it spreads the work across many connected places.



It’s a bit like having a team of friends to help share your messages- if one friend is busy, others can step in. This way, even if something goes wrong in one part of the system, the messages can still get where they need to go. It’s a cool way to make sure communication stays smooth and reliable, especially in our-fast paced world of sharing information.

How Distributed Messaging System Works?

Imagine you have a group of friends planning a surprise party for another friend, and you need to share information with all of them. Instead of calling or texting each friend individually, you decide to use a distributed messaging system.


In this case:

  • Distributed: Instead of relying on a single person to pass on the information to everyone you distribute the task among your friends. Each friend is responsible for passing the message to few others.
  • Messaging System: You use a common method to communicate, like a group chat or a messaging app. This way, everyone gets updates in real-time and can see the entire conversation.

Now, let’s break it down:

  • Sender: You are the sender of the messages, sharing details about the party.
  • Recipients: Your friends are the recipients, and they are distributed, meaning each friend has a specific set of people to inform.
  • Messaging System: The group chat is the system you’re using for communication. Instead of calling or texting each person separately, you post messages in the group, and everyone who needs to know sees them.

In a technical sense, a distributed messaging system in the digital world works similarly. It involves multiple computers or servers working together to exchange information. This approach is efficient for tasks that involve a lot of communication, like coordination actions across a network or managing data in a way that allows different parts of a system to work together seamlessly.

Advantages of Using Distributed Messaging System

Using distributed system comes with some cool benefits. Let’s break them down:

  • No Single Point of Failure: In a regular system, if one part breaks, the whole thing might stop working. Distributed Systems are like having lots of backup plans. If one piece has a problem, the others keep things going. It’s like having a bunch of friends to help out, so you’re never stuck.
  • Handles Big Tasks Easily: Imagine you’re organizing a big party. One person can’t do everything, right? Distributed Systems are like having a team – each part does its job. So, whether it’s sending lots of messages or handling a ton of users, these systems can take on the challenge without breaking a sweat.
  • Faster and Smoother: Distributed Systems are like well-oiled machines. They’re designed to work together seamlessly, making things faster and smoother. It’s like upgrading from a slow bike to a high-speed train – your messages get where they need to go in no time.
  • Saves Resources: Think of a distributed system as being really smart about using resources. It doesn’t waste energy on unnecessary stuff. It’s like turning off the lights in the rooms you’re not using – efficient and saves resources.
  • Adapts to Growing Needs: Picture your favorite video game. As more players join, the game keeps up without slowing down. Distributed Systems are like that – they grow and adapt as more people join in. It’s like a party that gets bigger, but the music never stops.

Disadvantages of Using Distributed Messaging System

Using Distributed Systems is cool, but there are some downsides too. Let’s break them down:

  • Tricky Coordination: Imagine trying to organize a surprise party with lots of friends. In a distributed system, making sure everyone is on the same page can be a bit tricky. It’s like trying to get everyone to keep a secret – not always easy!
  • More Complex: Distributed systems are like solving a big puzzle. Because they involve many parts working together, they can be more complicated to set up and manage. It’s like having a lot of moving pieces that need careful attention.
  • Possible Hiccups: Since Distributed Systems have many parts, sometimes one part might not talk to another as expected. It’s like a miscommunication in a game of telephone – the message might not come out the way it started.
  • Security Concerns: Just like looking the front door to keep your home safe, keeping a distributed system secure can be a challenge. It’s like making sure every window and door is closed – if you miss one, there could be trouble.
  • Costs More: Building and maintaining a distributed system can be more expensive. It’s like upgrading from a basic plan to one with all the the fancy features – you get a lot, but it costs a bit more.

Use Cases of Distributed Messaging System

Distributed Messaging Systems are employed in a wide range of applications including:

  • Real-time Data Processing: Streaming data from sensors, IoT devices, or financial markets can be ingested and analyzed in real time using distributed messaging systems.
  • Event-Driven Architecture: Distributed Messaging Systems form the backbone of event-driven architectures, enabling applications to react to events in a timely and efficient manner.
  • Microservices Communication: Microservice-based architectures often rely on distributed messaging systems to facilitate communication between loosely couple services.
  • Asynchronous Task Queues: Distributed Messaging Systems can be used to implement asynchronous task queues, enabling applications to offload non-critical tasks for later execution.
  • Notification Systems: Distributed Messaging Systems are often used to power notification systems, ensuring that users receive timely updates and alerts.

Apache Kafka

Apace Kafka is a distributed streaming platform designed for building real-time data pipelines and streaming applications. It is known for its durability, fault-tolerance, and high throughput.

Key Concepts

  • Topics: Messages are categorized into topics, and producers publish messages to these topics.
  • Brokers: Kafka uses a distributed architecture with multiple brokers to store and manage the topics and partitions.
  • Partitions: Topics are divided into partitions, allowing parallel processing and horizontal scalability.
  • ZooKeeper: Kafka relies on Apache ZooKeeper for distributed coordination and management of broker metadata.


RabbitMQ is a message broker that implements the Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP). It is designed for reliability, high availability, and interoperability.

Key Concepts

  • Exchanges and Queues: Producers send messages to exchanges, and exchanges route messages to queues based on defined rules.
  • Bindings: Rules that define the relationship between the exchanges and queues.
  • Virtual Hosts: RabbitMQ allows the creation of virtual hosts to isolate messaging environments within a broker.
  • Brokers and Clustering: RabbitMQ supports clustering for high availability and scalability.

Apache ActiveMQ

Apache ActiveMQ is an open-source message broker that implements the Java Message Service (JMS) API. It supports various protocols, including AMQP and MQTT.

Key Concepts

  • Destinations: Messages are sent to and and consumed from destinations, which can be topics or queues.
  • Persistence: ActiveMQ provides options for message persistence to ensure data and durability.
  • Network of Brokers: ActiveMQ supports a network of brokers for distributed messaging across multiple instances.
  • Message Selectors: Consumers can use message selectors to filter messages based on specific criteria.

Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS)

Amazon SQS is a fully managed message queuing service provided by AWS. It offers scalable, reliable, and low-latency message queuing.

Key Concepts

  • Queues: SQS allows the creations of message queues, where producers send messages and consumers retrieve them.
  • Visibility Timeout: Messages are not immediately deleted after retrieval but remain invisible for a configurable period.
  • Long Polling: Consumers can use long polling to reduce the number of empty responses and enhance efficiency.
  • FIFO Queues: SQS provides FIFO (First-In-First-Out) queues to maintain the order of messages.

Apache Pulsar

Apache Pulsar is a distributed messaging and event streaming platform that provides durability, scalability, and multi-latency.

Key Concepts

  • Topics and Subscriptions: Pulsar uses topics for message storage, and consumers subscribe to topics with different subscriptions.
  • Brokers and Bookies: The architecture consists of brokers that handle serving and receiving messages, and bookies that manage storage.
  • Multi-Tenancy: Pulsar supports multi-tenancy, allowing multiple organizations to share a Pulsar cluster securely.
  • Schema Registry: Pulsar includes a schema registry for managing the schema of messages in a topic.

Here is a table summarizing the key characteristics of each system:




Use Cases

Apache Kafka

High throughput, low latency, scalability

Distributed Streaming Platform

Real-time data processing, stream analytics, log aggregation


Ease of use, reliability, flexibility

Message Broker

Task queueing microservice, communication asynchronous workflows

Amazon SQS

Fully managed, scalable, secure

Message queue service

Asynchronous tasks, event-driven architectures, batch processing

Apache Pulsar

Unified messaging model, high performance, scalability

Distributed Streaming platform

Real-time data processing, stream analytics, IoT applications


Distributed Messaging Systems have become an indispensable tool for building modern, scalable, and resilient applications. Their ability to decouple applications, ensure message delivery, and support a variety of messaging patterns makes them a versatile solution for a wide range of use cases. As application continue to grow in complexity and demand, distributed messaging systems are poised to play an even more critical role in the future of software architecture.

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