Broker: Bro’s Messaging Library


The Broker library is the successor to the Broccoli library. One of the main differences is that while Broccoli is a reimplementation of a communication protocol built in to Bro (i.e. Bro does not link against libbroccoli), Broker implements a standalone protocol and data model that Bro uses directly (i.e. Bro does link against libbroker). All applications that integrate the Broker library share the same capabilities for exchanging information with each other, so let’s go through some examples of what you can do.

Creating Endpoints and Peering Them Together

Connecting endpoints together is simple, just give them descriptive names and request they peer with each other.

#include <broker/broker.hh>
#include <broker/endpoint.hh>

int main()
    broker::endpoint first_endpoint("1st endpoint");
    broker::endpoint second_endpoint("2nd endpoint");
    return 0;

Endpoints don’t have to live in the same process, instead they can talk over TCP.

broker::endpoint first_endpoint("1st endpoint");
first_endpoint.listen(9999, "");
broker::endpoint second_endpoint("2nd endpoint");
second_endpoint.peer("", 9999);

The initiator of a remote peering will automatically try reconnecting if it cannot initially reach the remote side or if it ever becomes disconnected. The frequency at which it retries can be passed as the third parameter to the peer() call.

Sending Messages

Now that endpoints are connected, they can talk to each other.

first_endpoint.send("my_topic", broker::message{"hi", 42});

Any endpoints connected to “first_endpoint” will receive the message if they have advertised interest (covered below) in any prefix of “my_topic”.

Broker messages are a sequence of data items and a data item is a variant type whose storage may hold one of several data types. In the above code, the message contains the string, “hi”, and an unsigned 64-bit integer, 42. For all the possible data types allowed in Broker data/messages see the data API reference.

The third paramenter to the send() method are flags which tune the behavior of how the message is to be sent. By default, messages are allowed to be sent to the sending endpoint itself or to peer endpoints if they advertise interest in any prefix of the message’s topic string. There’s another flag, UNSOLICITED that can be used to send messages to peers even if they have not advertised interest in any prefix of the message’s topic string.

Receiving Messages

To receive messages from other endpoints, one needs to create a message queue which advertises interest in a topic prefix and then extract messages from the queue.

broker::message_queue my_queue("my", second_endpoint);

Here, the message queue is attached to the “second_endpoint” endpoint and subscribes to all messages that get sent with a topic string prefixed by “my”. Message subscriptions are prefix-based, e.g. the empty string will match messages sent with any topic and “a” will receive messages sent with either topic “alice” or “amy” but not “bob”.

Broker’s queue structures expose a file descriptor that signals read-readiness when the queue has content that can be retrieved. It can be used to integrate into event loops as usual.

pollfd pfd{my_queue.fd(), POLLIN, 0};
poll(&pfd, 1, -1);

for ( auto& msg : my_queue.want_pop() )
    std::cout << broker::to_string(msg) << std::endl;

Alternatively, there is a need_pop() method which blocks until at least one item is available in the queue. This is mostly for convenience, use with caution.

Either pop method retrieves all contents that have been received by the queue up to that point in time.

Monitor Connection Status

By default, Broker endpoints have queues attached to them which can be monitored to check the status of connections with peer endpoints.

broker::endpoint node0("node0");
broker::endpoint node1("node1");
broker::endpoint node2("node2");

for ( ; ; )
    auto conn_status = node0.outgoing_connection_status().need_pop();

    for ( auto cs : conn_status )
        if ( cs.status == broker::outgoing_connection_status::tag::established )
            std::cout << "established connection to: " << cs.peer_name << std::endl;
            std::cout << "connection error" << std::endl;

Applications should periodically check connection status queues for updates.

Tuning Access Control

By default, Broker endpoints do not restrict the message topics that it sends to peers and do not restrict what message queue topics and data store identifiers get advertised to peers. This is the default AUTO_PUBLISH | AUTO_ADVERTISE flags argument to the endpoint constructor.

If not using the AUTO_PUBLISH flag, one can use an endpoint’s publish() and unpublish() methods to manipulate the set of message topics (must match exactly) that are allowed to be sent to peer endpoints. These settings take precedence over the per-message PEERS flag supplied to send().

If not using the AUTO_ADVERTISE flag, one can use an endpoint’s advertise() and unadvertise() to manipulate the set of topic prefixes that are allowed to be advertised to peers. If an endpoint does not advertise a topic prefix, then the only way peers can send messages to it is via the UNSOLICITED flag to send() and choosing a topic with a matching prefix (i.e. full topic may be longer than receivers prefix, just the prefix needs to match).

Distributed Data Stores

There are three flavors of key-value data store interfaces: master, clone, and frontend.

A frontend is the common interface to query and modify data stores. That is, a clone is a specific type of frontend and a master is also a specific type of frontend, but a standalone frontend can also exist to e.g. query and modify the contents of a remote master store without actually “owning” any of the contents itself.

A master data store attached with one Broker endpoint can be cloned at peer endpoints which may then perform lightweight, local queries against the clone, which automatically stays synchronized with the master store. Clones cannot modify their content directly, instead they send modifications to the centralized master store which applies them and then broadcasts them to all clones.

Master and clone stores get to choose what type of storage backend to use. E.g. In-memory versus SQLite for persistence. Note that if clones are used, data store sizes should still be able to fit within memory regardless of the storage backend as a single snapshot of the master store is sent in a single chunk to initialize the clone.

Data stores also support expiration on a per-key basis either using an absolute point in time or a relative amount of time since the entry’s last modification time.

See the unit tests in tests/test_store* and the store/ API reference for more examples and details.

Copyright 2016, The Bro Project. Last updated on March 24, 2017. Created using Sphinx 1.4.8.