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Big data messaging with Kafka, Part 1

Sunil Patil | April 26, 2016
Build a continuous big data messaging system with Kafka.

A simple producer/consumer application

You've seen how Kafka works out of the box. Next, let's develop a custom producer/consumer application. The producer will retrieve user input from the console and send each new line as a message to a Kafka server. The consumer will retrieve messages for a given topic and print them to the console. The producer and consumer components in this case are your own implementations of and

Let's start by creating a class. This client class contains logic to read user input from the console and send that input as a message to the Kafka server.

We configure the producer by creating an object from the java.util.Properties class and setting its properties. The ProducerConfig class defines all the different properties available, but Kafka's default values are sufficient for most uses. For the default config we only need to set three mandatory properties:


BOOTSTRAP_SERVERS_CONFIG (bootstrap.servers) sets a list of host:port pairs used for establishing the initial connections to the Kakfa cluster in the host1:port1,host2:port2,... format. Even if we have more than one broker in our Kafka cluster, we only need to specify the value of the first broker's host:port. The Kafka client will use this value to make a discover call on the broker, which will return a list of all the brokers in the cluster. It's a good idea to specify more than one broker in the BOOTSTRAP_SERVERS_CONFIG, so that if that first broker is down the client will be able to try other brokers.

The Kafka server expects messages in byte[] key, byte[] value format. Rather than converting every key and value, Kafka's client-side library permits us to use friendlier types like String and int for sending messages. The library will convert these to the appropriate type. For example, the sample app doesn't have a message-specific key, so we'll use null for the key. For the value we'll use a String, which is the data entered by the user on the console.

To configure the message key, we set a value of KEY_SERIALIZER_CLASS_CONFIG on the org.apache.kafka.common.serialization.ByteArraySerializer. This works because null doesn't need to be converted into byte[]. For the message value, we set VALUE_SERIALIZER_CLASS_CONFIG on the org.apache.kafka.common.serialization.StringSerializer, because that class knows how to convert a String into a byte[].

Custom key/value objects

Similar to StringSerializer, Kafka provides serializers for other primitives such as int and long. In order to use a custom object for our key or value, we would need to create a class implementing org.apache.kafka.common.serialization.Serializer. We could then add logic to serialize the class into byte[]. We would also have to use a corresponding deserializer in our consumer code.


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