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An AWS SQS-based queue processor, for highly distributed job engines.

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The shortest introduction possible

In your environment, set SQS_QUEUE_URL. Then, define a job class:

class MyJob
  def run'output', 'a') { ... }

Then submit the job:


and to start processing, in your commandline handler:

#!/usr/bin/env ruby
require 'my_applicaion'

To add arguments to the job

class JobWithArgs
  include Sqewer::SimpleJob
  attr_accessor :times

  def run
Sqewer.submit!( 20))

Submitting jobs from other jobs (the job will go to the same queue the parent job came from):

class MyJob
  def run(worker_context)

The messages will only be deleted from SQS once the job execution completes without raising an exception.


Ruby 2.6+, version 2 of the AWS SDK. You can also run Sqewer backed by a SQLite database file, which can be handy for development situations.

Job storage

Jobs are (by default) stored in SQS as JSON blobs. A very simple job ticket looks like this:

{"_job_class": "MyJob", "_job_params": null}

When this ticket is being picked up by the worker, the worker will do the following:

job =

So the smallest job class has to be instantiatable, and has to respond to the run message.

Jobs with arguments and parameters

Job parameters can be passed as keyword arguments. Properties in the job ticket (encoded as JSON) are directly translated to keyword arguments of the job constructor. With a job ticket like this:

  "_job_class": "MyJob",
  "_job_params": {"ids": [1,2,3]}

the worker will instantiate your MyJob class with the ids: keyword argument:

job = [1,2,3])

Note that at this point only arguments that are raw JSON types are supported:

  • Hash
  • Array
  • Numeric
  • String
  • nil/false/true

If you need marshalable Ruby types there instead, you might need to implement a custom Serializer.


The module Sqewer::SimpleJob can be included to a job class to add some features, specially dealing with attributes, see more details here.

Jobs spawning dependent jobs

If your run method on the job object accepts arguments (has non-zero arity ) the ExecutionContext will be passed to the run method.

job = [1,2,3])

The execution context has some useful methods:

  • logger, for logging the state of the current job. The logger messages will be prefixed with the job's inspect.
  • submit! for submitting more jobs to the same queue

A job submitting a subsequent job could look like this:

class MyJob
  def run(ctx)

Job submission

In general, a job object that needs some arguments for instantiation must return a Hash from it's to_h method. The hash must include all the keyword arguments needed to instantiate the job when executing. For example:

class SendMail
  def initialize(to:, body:)

  def run()

  def to_h
    {to: @to, body: @body}

Or if you are using ks gem ( you could inherit your Job from it:

class SendMail < Ks.strict(:to, :body)
  def run

Job marshaling

By default, the jobs are converted to JSON and back from JSON using the Sqewer::Serializer object. You can override that object if you need to handle job tickets that come from external sources and do not necessarily conform to the job serialization format used internally. For example, you can handle S3 bucket notifications:

class CustomSerializer < Sqewer::Serializer
  # Overridden so that we can instantiate a custom job
  # from the AWS notification payload.
  # Return "nil" and the job will be simply deleted from the queue
  def unserialize(message_blob)
    message = JSON.load(message_blob)
    return if message['Service'] # AWS test
    return if message['Records']

    super # as default

Or you can override the serialization method to add some metadata to the job ticket on job submission:

class CustomSerializer < Sqewer::Serializer
  def serialize(job_object)
    json_blob = super
    parsed = JSON.load(json_blob)
    parsed['_submitter_host'] = Socket.gethostname

If you return nil from your unserialize method the job will not be executed, but will just be deleted from the SQS queue.

Starting and running the worker

The very minimal executable for running jobs would be this:

#!/usr/bin/env ruby
require 'my_applicaion'

This will connect to the queue at the URL set in the SQS_QUEUE_URL environment variable, and use all the default parameters. The CLI module will also set up a signal handler to terminate the current jobs cleanly if the commandline app receives a USR1 and TERM.

You can also run a worker without signal handling, for example in test environments. Note that the worker is asynchronous, it has worker threads which do all the operations by themselves.

worker =
# ...and once you are done testing

Configuring the worker

One of the reasons this library exists is that sometimes you need to set up some more things than usually assumed to be possible. For example, you might want to have a special logging library:

worker =

Or you might want a different job serializer/deserializer (for instance, if you want to handle S3 bucket notifications coming into the same queue):

worker =

You can also elect to inherit from the Worker class and override some default constructor arguments:

class CustomWorker < Sqewer::Worker
  def initialize(**kwargs)
    super(serializer:, ..., **kwargs)

The Sqewer::CLI module that you run from the commandline handler application can be started with your custom Worker of choice:

custom_worker = special_logger)

Threads versus processes

sqewer uses threads. If you need to run your job from a forked subprocess (primarily for memory management reasons) you can do so from the run method. Note that you might need to apply extra gymnastics to submit extra jobs in this case, as it is the job of the controlling worker thread to submit the messages you generate. For example, you could use a pipe. But in a more general case something like this can be used:

class MyJob
  def run
    pid = fork do
      SomeRemoteService.reconnect # you are in the child process now
      ActiveRAMGobbler.fetch_stupendously_many_things.each do |...|

    _, status = Process.wait2(pid)

    # Raise an error in the parent process to signal Sqewer that the job failed
    # if the child exited with a non-0 status
    raise "Child process crashed" unless status.exitstatus &&

Execution and serialization wrappers (middleware)

You can wrap job processing in middleware. A full-featured middleware class looks like this:

class MyWrapper
  # Surrounds the job instantiation from the string coming from SQS.
  def around_deserialization(serializer, msg_id, msg_payload, msg_attributes)
    # msg_id is the receipt handle, msg_payload is the message body string, msg_attributes are the message's attributes

  # Surrounds the actual job execution
  def around_execution(job, context)
    # job is the actual job you will be running, context is the ExecutionContext.

You need to set up a MiddlewareStack and supply it to the Worker when instantiating:

stack =
stack <<
w = stack)

Execution guarantees

As a queue worker system, Sqewer makes a number of guarantees, which are as solid as the Ruby's ensure clause.

  • When a job succeeds (raises no exceptions), it will be deleted from the queue
  • When a job submits other jobs, and succeeds, the submitted jobs will be sent to the queue
  • When a job, or any wrapper routing of the job execution, raises any exception, the job will not be deleted
  • When a submit spun off from the job, or the deletion of the job itself, cause an exception, the job will not be deleted

Use those guarantees to your advantage. Always make your jobs horizontally repeatable (if two hosts start at the same job at the same time), idempotent (a job should be able to run twice without errors), and traceable (make good use of logging).

Usage with Rails via ActiveJob

This gem includes a queue adapter for usage with ActiveJob in Rails 5+. The functionality is well-tested and should function for any well-conforming ActiveJob subclasses.

To run the default sqewer worker setup against your Rails application, first set it as the executing backend for ActiveJob in your Rails app configuration, set your SQS_QUEUE_URL in the environment variables, and make sure you can access it using your default (envvar-based or machine role based) AWS credentials. Then, set sqewer as the adapter for ActiveJob:

class Application < Rails::Application
  config.active_job.queue_adapter = :sqewer

and then run

$ bundle exec sqewer_rails

in your rails source tree, via a foreman Procfile or similar. If you want to run your own worker binary for executing the jobs, be aware that you have to eager-load your Rails application's code explicitly before the Sqewer worker is started. The worker is threaded and any kind of autoloading does not generally play nice with threading. So do not forget to add this in your worker code:


For handling error reporting within your Sqewer worker, set up a middleware stack as described in the documentation.

ActiveJob feature support matrix

Compared to the matrix of features as seen in the official ActiveJob documentation sqewer has the following support for various ActiveJob options, in comparison to the builtin ActiveJob adapters:

|                   | Async | Queues | Delayed    | Priorities | Timeout | Retries |
| sqewer            | Yes   | No     | Yes        | No         | No      | Global  |
|       //          |  //   |  //    |  //        | //         |  //     | //      |
| Active Job Async  | Yes   | Yes    | Yes        | No         | No      | No      |
| Active Job Inline | No    | Yes    | N/A        | N/A        | N/A     | N/A     |

Retries are set up globally for the entire SQS queue. There is no specific queue setting per job, since all the messages go to the queue available to Sqewer.submit!.

There is no timeout handling, if you need it you may want to implement it within your jobs proper. Retries are handled on Sqewer level for as many deliveries as your SQS settings permit.

Delay handling

Delayed execution is handled via a combination of the delay_seconds SQS parameter and the _execute_after job key (see the serializer documentation in Sqewer for more). In a nutshell - if you postpone a job by less than 900 seconds, the standard delivery delay option will be used - and the job will become visible for workers on the SQS queue only after this period.

If a larger delay is used, the job will receive an additional field called _execute_after, which will contain a UNIX timestamp in seconds of when it must be executed at the earliest. In addition, the maximum permitted SQS delivery delay will be set for it. If the job then gets redelivered, Sqewer will automatically put it back on the queue with the same maximum delay, and will continue doing so for as long as necessary.

Note that this will incur extra receives and sends on the queue, and even though it is not substantial, it will not be free. We think that this is an acceptable workaround for now, though. If you want a better approach, you may be better off using a Rails scheduling system and use a cron job or similar to spin up your enqueue for the actual, executable background task.

Frequently asked questions (A.K.A. why is it done this way)

This document tries to answer some questions that may arise when reading or using the library. Hopefully this can provide some answers with regards to how things are put together.

Why separate new and run methods instead of just perform?

Because the job needs access to the execution context of the worker. It turned out that keeping the context in global/thread/class variables was somewhat nasty, and jobs needed access to the current execution context to enqueue the subsequent jobs, and to get access to loggers (and other context-sensitive objects). Therefore it makes more sense to offer Jobs access to the execution context, and to make a Job a command object.

Also, Jobs usually use their parameters in multiple smaller methods down the line. It therefore makes sense to save those parameters in instance variables or in struct members.

Why keyword constructors for jobs?

Because keyword constructors map very nicely to JSON objects and provide some (at least rudimentary) arity safety, by checking for missing keywords and by allowing default keyword argument values. Also, we already have some products that use those job formats. Some have dozens of classes of jobs, all with those signatures and tests.

Why no weighted queues?

Because very often when you want to split queues servicing one application it means that you do not have enough capacity to serve all of the job types in a timely manner. Then you try to assign priority to separate jobs, whereas in fact what you need are jobs that execute roughly at the same speed - so that your workers do not stall when clogged with mostly-long jobs. Also, multiple queues introduce more configuration, which, for most products using this library, was a very bad idea (more workload for deployment).

Why so many configurable components?

Because sometimes your requirements differ just-a-little-bit from what is provided, and you have to swap your implementation in instead. One product needs foreign-submitted SQS jobs (S3 notifications). Another product needs a custom Logger subclass. Yet another product needs process-based concurrency on top of threads. Yet another process needs to manage database connections when running the jobs. Have 3-4 of those, and a pretty substantial union of required features will start to emerge. Do not fear - most classes of the library have a magic .default method which will liberate you from most complexities.

Why multithreading for workers?

Because it is fast and relatively memory-efficient. Most of the workload we encountered was IO-bound or even network-IO bound. In that situation it makes more sense to use threads that switch quickly, instead of burdening the operating system with too many processes. An optional feature for one-process-per-job is going to be added soon, for tasks that really warrant it (like image manipulation). For now, however, threads are working quite OK.

Why no Celluloid?

Because I found that a producer-consumer model with a thread pool works quite well, and can be created based on the Ruby standard library alone.

Contributing to the library

  • Check out the latest master to make sure the feature hasn't been implemented or the bug hasn't been fixed yet.
  • Check out the issue tracker to make sure someone already hasn't requested it and/or contributed it.
  • Fork the project.
  • Start a feature/bugfix branch.
  • Commit and push until you are happy with your contribution.
  • Make sure to add tests for it. This is important so I don't break it in a future version unintentionally.
  • Run your tests against a real SQS queue. You will need your tests to have permissions to create and delete SQS queues.
  • Please try not to mess with the Rakefile, version, or history. If you want to have your own version, or is otherwise necessary, that is fine, but please isolate to its own commit so I can cherry-pick around it.


Copyright (c) 2016 WeTransfer. See LICENSE.txt for further details.


SQS queue processor engine






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