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Database based asynchronously priority queue system -- Extracted from Shopify
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Delated_job (or DJ) encapsulates the common pattern of asynchronously executing longer tasks in the background.

It is a direct extraction from Shopify where the job table is responsible for a multitude of core tasks. Amongst those tasks are:

  • sending massive newsletters
  • image resizing
  • http downloads
  • updating smart collections
  • updating solr, our search server, after product changes
  • batch imports
  • spam checks


To install as a gem, add the following to config/environment.rb:

config.gem 'delayed_job'

Rake tasks are not automatically loaded from gems, so you’ll need to add the following to your Rakefile:

  require 'delayed/tasks'
rescue LoadError
  STDERR.puts "Run `rake gems:install` to install delayed_job"

To install as a plugin:

script/plugin install git://

After delayed_job is installed, you will need to setup the backend.


delayed_job supports multiple backends for storing the job queue. There are currently implementations for Active Record, MongoMapper, and DataMapper.

Active Record

The default is Active Record, which requires a jobs table.

$ script/generate delayed_job
$ rake db:migrate


# config/initializers/delayed_job.rb
Delayed::Worker.backend = :mongo_mapper


# config/initializers/delayed_job.rb
Delayed::Worker.backend = :data_mapper

Queuing Jobs

Call #send_later(method, params) on any object and it will be processed in the background.

# without delayed_job

# with delayed_job
Notifier.send_later :deliver_signup, @user

If a method should always be run in the background, you can call #handle_asynchronously after the method declaration:

class Device
  def deliver
    # long running method
  handle_asynchronously :deliver

device =

Running Jobs

script/delayed_job can be used to manage a background process which will start working off jobs. Make sure you’ve run `script/generate delayed_job`.

$ RAILS_ENV=production script/delayed_job start
$ RAILS_ENV=production script/delayed_job stop

# Runs two workers in separate processes.
$ RAILS_ENV=production script/delayed_job -n 2 start
$ RAILS_ENV=production script/delayed_job stop

Workers can be running on any computer, as long as they have access to the database and their clock is in sync. Keep in mind that each worker will check the database at least every 5 seconds.

You can also invoke rake jobs:work which will start working off jobs. You can cancel the rake task with CTRL-C.

Custom Jobs

Jobs are simple ruby objects with a method called perform. Any object which responds to perform can be stuffed into the jobs table. Job objects are serialized to yaml so that they can later be resurrected by the job runner.

class NewsletterJob <, :emails)
  def perform
    emails.each { |e| NewsletterMailer.deliver_text_to_email(text, e) }
Delayed::Job.enqueue'lorem ipsum...', Customers.find(:all).collect(&:email))

You can also add an optional on_permanent_failure method which will run if the job has failed too many times to be retried:

class ParanoidNewsletterJob < NewsletterJob
  def perform
    emails.each { |e| NewsletterMailer.deliver_text_to_email(text, e) }

  def on_permanent_failure

Gory Details

The library evolves around a delayed_jobs table which looks as follows:

create_table :delayed_jobs, :force => true do |table|
  table.integer  :priority, :default => 0      # Allows some jobs to jump to the front of the queue
  table.integer  :attempts, :default => 0      # Provides for retries, but still fail eventually.
  table.text     :handler                      # YAML-encoded string of the object that will do work
  table.text   :last_error                   # reason for last failure (See Note below)
  table.datetime :run_at                       # When to run. Could be for immediately, or sometime in the future.
  table.datetime :locked_at                    # Set when a client is working on this object
  table.datetime :failed_at                    # Set when all retries have failed (actually, by default, the record is deleted instead)
  table.string   :locked_by                    # Who is working on this object (if locked)

On failure, the job is scheduled again in 5 seconds + N ** 4, where N is the number of retries.

The default Worker.max_attempts is 25. After this, the job either deleted (default), or left in the database with “failed_at” set.
With the default of 25 attempts, the last retry will be 20 days later, with the last interval being almost 100 hours.

The default Worker.max_run_time is 4.hours. If your job takes longer than that, another computer could pick it up. It’s up to you to
make sure your job doesn’t exceed this time. You should set this to the longest time you think the job could take.

By default, it will delete failed jobs (and it always deletes successful jobs). If you want to keep failed jobs, set
Delayed::Worker.destroy_failed_jobs = false. The failed jobs will be marked with non-null failed_at.

Here is an example of changing job parameters in Rails:

# config/initializers/delayed_job_config.rb
Delayed::Worker.destroy_failed_jobs = false
Delayed::Worker.sleep_delay = 60
Delayed::Worker.max_attempts = 3
Delayed::Worker.max_run_time = 5.minutes

Cleaning up

You can invoke rake jobs:clear to delete all jobs in the queue.

Mailing List

Join us on the mailing list at

How to contribute

If you find what looks like a bug:

  1. Check the GitHub issue tracker to see if anyone else has had the same issue.
  2. If you don’t see anything, create an issue with information on how to reproduce it.

If you want to contribute an enhancement or a fix:

  1. Fork the project on github.
  2. Make your changes with tests.
  3. Commit the changes without making changes to the Rakefile, VERSION, or any other files that aren’t related to your enhancement or fix
  4. Send a pull request.


  • 1.7.0: Added failed_at column which can optionally be set after a certain amount of failed job attempts. By default failed job attempts are destroyed after about a month.
  • 1.6.0: Renamed locked_until to locked_at. We now store when we start a given job instead of how long it will be locked by the worker. This allows us to get a reading on how long a job took to execute.
  • 1.5.0: Job runners can now be run in parallel. Two new database columns are needed: locked_until and locked_by. This allows us to use pessimistic locking instead of relying on row level locks. This enables us to run as many worker processes as we need to speed up queue processing.
  • 1.2.0: Added #send_later to Object for simpler job creation
  • 1.0.0: Initial release
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