Apache Kafka – Simple Tutorial


In this post I want to highlight my fascination with Kafka and its usage.

Kafka is a broker just like “RabbitMQ” or “JMS”. So what’s the difference?

Difference are:

  • It is distributed
  • it is fault tolerant – because of messages being replicated across the cluster
  • It does one thing and one thing only i.e. Transferring your messages and does it really well
  • Highly scalable due to its distributed nature
  • Tunable consistency
  • Parallel processing of messages unlike others which do sequential
  • Ordering guarantee per partition

How do you set it up?

Kafka is inherently distributed. So that means you are going to have multiple machine creating a Kafka cluster.

Kafka uses zookeeper for leader election among other things so you need to have zookeeper cluster already running somewhere. otherwise you can go to


You install Kafka on all the machines which will participate in Kafka Cluster and then open the ports where Kafka is running. Then provide configuration of all other machines in the cluster in each machine. e.g. if Kafka is running on machines K1,K2,K3 then K1 will have information of K2 and K3 and so son.

Yes its that simple

How does it work?

The way Kafka works is you create a topic, send a message and read message at the other end.

So if there are multiple machines how do you send message to Kafka? Well you keep a list of all the machines inside your code and then send message by high level Kafka Producer (which is a helper class in Kafka Driver). Kafka high level consumer class is available for reading messages.

Before you send a message create a topic first with a “replication factor”” which tells kafka hos many brokers will have the copy of this data

Some important terminologies related to Kafka are:

Topic – Where you publish message. You need to create beforehand

Partition – Number of consumers that can listen to a topic in parallel. Default is 1 but you can create hundreds

Ordering of Messages – Guaranteed for single partition

TTL – Time to live for messages on the disk – default 7 days

Group – Kafka guarantees that a message is only ever read by a single consumer in the group. so if you want that a message be delivered only once then just go and put all consumers in same group.

If you want to go deep here are some useful links



Apache Kafka – Simple Tutorial

Why Kafka?

Today Many companies in startup world are completely dependent on AWS infrastructure. Its a good strategy since you do not have to manage your own infrastructure and saves you from lot of headache.

Today we will discuss a bit about brokers available in AWS infrastructure. AWS has mainly 2 types of broker offering

a. SQS (Simple queue service) – More like ActiveMQ, RabbitMQ

b. Kinesis (Distributed, fault tolerant, highly scalable message broker) – less features but optimized for ingesting and delivering massive number of events at extremely low latency.

Design of Kinesis is inspired by Linked-in donated Kafka. Linked in processes billions of events per day using Kafka and it’s apache top level project which is being used in many highly scalable architecture.

I want to focus in this post on some of the key differences between Kinesis and Kafka. As stated in the beginning working with AWS infrastructure is a good thing but over-reliance on AWS infrastructure has some major problems.

a. You are vendor locked-in so tomorrow if you want to shift to Digital Ocean or even own infrastructure you will not be able to do so.

b. You are limited by the restrictions put by AWS like how many transactions you can do per unit of time

so, in the light of above 2 points I will try to explain where Kafka should be used instead of RabbitMQ and in-place of Kinesis

RabbitMQ Pros:

  • Simple to install and manage
  • Excellent routing capabilities based on rules
  • Decent performance
  • Cloud Installation also available (CloudAMQP)


  • Not-distributed
  • Unable to scale to high loads (due to non-distributed nature)

Kafka Pros:

  • Amazingly fast reads and writes (due to sequential reads and writes only)
  • Does one thing and one thing only i.e. to transfer messages reliably
  • Does provide load balancing of consumers via partitions of topic so real parallel-processing no ifs and buts
  • No restrictions on transaction numbers unlike Kinesis


  • Complicated to setup cluster compared to rabbitmq
  • Dependency on Zookeeper
  • No Routing

So bottom line

  • Use RabbitMQ for any simple use case
  • Use Kafka if you want insane scalability and you are ready to put effort in learning kafka topics and partitions
  • Use Kinesis if setting up kafka is not your cup of tea
Kafka Kinesis RabbitMQ
Routing Basic (Topic Based) Basic (Topic Based) Advanced (Exchange based)
Throughput Extremely high Extremely high
Latency Depends on region (Not available in some regions hence Http call) Very low High (Compared to other 2)
Ease of implementation Moderate..but setting up cluster requires effort Moderate (but identifying number of shards can be tough) Easy
Restrictions on transactions None 5 reads per seconds and 1000 write/sec/shard None
Types of applications High throughput High throughput Low to medium throughput

As always drop me an email if still confused about your use case

Happy Coding !!

Why Kafka?