Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Kafka poll() vs heatbeat()

In older versions of Kafka, the consumer was responsible for polling the broker frequently to prove that it is still alive. If the consumer does not poll() within a specified time-limit, then the broker considers that consumer to be dead and starts re-balancing the messages to other consumers.

But in latest versions of Kafka Consumer, a dedicated background heartbeat thread is started. This heartbeat thread sends periodic heartbeats to the broker to say -"Hey, I am alive and kicking!..I am processing messages and will poll() soon again".

Thus the newer versions of Kafka decouple polling functionality and heartbeat functionality. So now we have two threads running, the heartbeat thread and the processing thread (polling thread).
The heartbeat frequency is defined by the property (default = 10 secs)

Since there is a separate heartbeat thread now, the authors of Kafka Consumer decided to set the default for the polling timeout as INTEGER_MAX. (attribute:
Hence no matter how long the processing takes (on the processing/polling thread), the Kafka broker will never consider the consumer to be dead. Only if no poll() request is received after INTERGER_MAX time, then the consumer would be considered dead.
Caveat: If your processing has a bug - (e.g. infinite loop, processing has called a third-party webservice and is stuck, etc.), then the consumer will never be pronounced dead and the messages will start getting piled up in that partition. Hence, it may be a good idea to set a realistic time for the polling() interval, so that we can rebalance the messages to other consumers. 

The following 2 stackoverflow discussions were extremely beneficial to us to help us understand the above.

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