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Intro | Rationale | Installing | Configuration | API | Sources of inspiration

Routemaster is an opinionated event bus over HTTP, supporting event-driven / representational state notification architectures.

Routemaster aims to dispatch events with a median latency in the 50 - 100ms range, with no practical upper limit on throughput.

Routemaster comes with, and is automatically integration-tested against a Ruby client, routemaster-client.

For advanced bus consumers, routemaster-drain can perform filtering of event stream and preemptive caching of resources.

The basics

Routemaster lets publisher push events into topics, and subscribers receive events about topics they've subscribed to.

Pushing, receiving, and subscribing all happen over HTTP.

Events are (by default) delivered in ordered batches, ie. a given HTTP request to a subscriber contains several events, from all subscribed topics.


We built Routemaster because existing buses for distributed architectures aren't satisfactory to us; either they're too complex to host and maintain, don't support key features (persistence), or provide too much rope to hang ourselves with.

Remote procedure call as an antipattern

Routemaster is designed on purpose to not support RPC-style architectures, for instance by severely limiting payload contents.

It only supports notifying consumers about lifecycle (CRUD) changes to resources, and strongly suggests that consumers obtain their JSON out-of-band.

The rationale is that, much like it's all too easy to add non-RESTful routes to a web application, it's all too easy to damage a resource-oriented architecture by spreading concerns across applications, thus coupling them too tightly.

Leverage HTTP to scale

In web environments, the one type of server that scales well and can scale automatically with little effort is an HTTP server. As such, Routemaster heavily relies on HTTP.

Don't call us, we'll call you: Inbound events are delivered over HTTP so that the bus itself can scale to easily process a higher (or lower) throughput of events with consistent latency.

Outbound events are delivered over HTTP so that subscribers can scale their processing of events as easily.

We believe the cost in latency in doing so (as compared to lower-level messaging systems such as the excellent RabbitMQ) is offset by easier maintenance, more sound architecture (standards-only, JSON over HTTP), and better scalability.

Future versions of Routemaster may support (backwards-compatible) long-polling HTTP sessions to cancel out the latency cost.


The web is a harsh place. Subscribers may die, or be unreachable in many ways for various amounts of time.

Routemaster will keep buffering, and keep trying to push events to subscribers until they become reachable again.

Topics and Subscriptions

Topics are where the inbound events are sent. There should be one topic per domain concept, e.g. properties, bookings, users.

Only one client may publish/push to a topic (and it should be the authoritative application for the concept).

Each topic fans out to multiple subscriptions which are where the outbound events pile in. Each pulling client (subscriber) has exactly one subscription queue which aggregates events from multiple topics.

A subscriber can "catch up" event if it hasn't pulled events for a while (events get buffered in subscription queues).

Installing & Configuring

In order to have Routemaster receive connections from a publisher or a subscriber, their API tokens ("uuid") must be registered.

Registration is performed using the /api_token APIs using the ROUTEMASTER_ROOT_KEY API token, like so:

curl -s -X POST -u <root-key>

For further configuration options please check the provided .env files.


To get this application up and running you will need the following tools:

  • redis
    • brew install redis
    • Just let it run with default settings
    • If you want to run it manually - redis-server

Set your Redis server's URL for Routemaster using ROUTEMASTER_REDIS_URL. If you want to use another environment variable, set that and set the new environment variable's key as a value for REDIS_ENV_KEY environment variable.

Routemaster only accepts HTTPS calls. To get around this restriction on development, please install puma-dev.

Then proxy routemaster requests by running the following:

$ echo 17890 > ~/.puma-dev/routemaster

Now all your calls to should correctly arrive at

You will also need Routemaster to contact your app through HTTPS to deliver events. Follow the same steps above to proxy your app requests, i.e. for a Rails app that would be

$ echo 3000 > ~/.puma-dev/myapp

To run the Routemaster application locally you can use the foreman tool:

foreman start

This will start both the web server and ancillary processes. Keep in mind that the default web port that the web process will listen to is defined in the .env file. By default routemaster log level is set to DEBUG if this is too chatty you can easily configure this in the .env file

Advanced configuration


Routemaster can report various metrics to a third party services by setting the METRIC_COLLECTION_SERVICE variable to one of:

  • print (will log metrics to standard output; the default)
  • datadog (requires the DATADOG_API_KEY and DATADOG_APP_KEY to be set)

The following gauge metrics will be reported every 10 seconds:

  • subscriber.queue.batches (tagged by subscriber queue)
  • (tagged by subscriber)
  • jobs.count (tagged by queue and status)
  • redis.bytes_used, .max_mem, .low_mark, and .high_mark (the latter 3 begin the autodropper thresholds)
  • redis.used_cpu_user and .used_cpu_sys (cumulative CPU milliseconds used by the storage backend since boot)

as well as the following counter metrics:

  • events.published (tagged by topic)
  • events.autodropped (tagged by subscriber)
  • events.removed (idem)
  • events.added (idem)
  • delivery metrics, tagged by status ("success" or "failure") and by subscriber:
    • (one count per event)
    • delivery.batches (one count per batch)
    • delivery.time (sum of delivery times in milliseconds)
    • delivery.time2 (sum of delivery times squared)
  • latency metrics, tagged by subscriber:
    • latency.batches.count (number of batch first delivery attempts)
    • latency.batches.first_attempt (sum of times from batch creation to first delivery attempt)
    • latency.batches.last_attempt (sum of times from batch creation to successful delivery attempt)
  • process (tagged with status:start or :stop, and type:web or :worker), incremented when processes boot or shut down (cleanly)

Exception reporting

Routemaster can send exception traces to a 3rd party by setting the EXCEPTION_SERVICE variable to one of:

For the latter two, you will need to provide the reporting endpoint in EXCEPTION_SERVICE_URL

Note that event delivery failures will not normally be reported to the exception service, as they're not errors with Routemaster itself.

To check delivery failures, one can:

  • monitor the metrics with status:failure.
  • inspect the logs for failed to deliver.


Routemaster will, by default, permanently drop the oldest messages from queues when the amount of free Redis memory drops below a certain threshold. This guarantees that the bus will keep ingesting messages, and "clean up" behind listeners that are the latest / stale-est.

Autodrop is not intended to be "business as usual": it's an exceptional condition. It's there to address the case of the "dead subscriber". Say you remove a listening service from a federation but forget to unsubscribe: messages will pile up, and without autodrop the bus will eventually crash, bringing down the entire federation.

In a normal situation, this would be addressed earlier: an alert would be set on queue staleness, and queue size, and depending on the situation either the subscription would be removed or the Redis instance ramped up, for instance.

Set ROUTEMASTER_REDIS_MAX_MEM to the total amount of memory allocated to Redis, in bytes (100MB by default). This cannot typically be determined from a Redis client.

Set ROUTEMASTER_REDIS_MIN_FREE to the threshold, in bytes (10MB by default). If less than this value is free, the auto-dropper will remove messages until twice the treshold in free memory is available.

The auto-dropper runs every 30 seconds.

Scaling Routemaster out

  1. Allowing Routemaster to receive more events:
    This requires to scale the HTTP frontend. Procfile.
  2. Allowing Routemaster to deliver more events:
    This requires running multiple instances of the worker process. No auto-scaling mechanism is currently provided, so we recommend running the number of processes you'll require at peak.
    Note that event delivery is bounded by the ability of subscribers to process them. Poorly-written subscribers can cause timeouts in delivery, potentially causing buffering overflows.
  3. Allowing Routemaster to buffer more events:
    This requires scaling the underlying Redis server.

We recommend using HireFire to auto-scale the web and worker processes.

  • To scale the web processes, monitor the /pulse endpoint and scale up if it slows down beyond 50ms.
  • To scale the worker, we provide a special /pulse/scaling endpoint that will take 1s to respond when there are many queued jobs; we recommend to scale up when this endpoint it slow. See .env for configuration of thresholds.

Note that both endpoints require authentication.


Authentication, security.

Note that is preferable for all tokens to be prefixed with owning service and double hyphen. For example:

  • publishing-service-one--UUID1234XXX
  • subscribing-service-one--UUID1234XXX

Following that format of tokens will help ensure proper reporting of metrics.

All requests over non-SSL connections will be met with a 308 Permanent Redirect.

HTTP Basic is required for all requests. The password will be ignored, and the username should be a unique per client token.

All allowed clients are stored in Redis. A "root" token must be specified in the ROUTEMASTER_ROOT_KEY environment variable. This key has the permissions to add, delete, and list the client tokens. Other clients (publishers and subscribers) must use a token created by this user, at the /api_tokens endpoint (see below).

Listing allowed client tokens

Authenticating with the root key,

>> GET /api_tokens

<< [{ "name": <string>, "token": <string> }, ...]

Will return a 204 if no clients exist yet.

Adding a client

Authenticating with the root key,

>> POST /api_tokens
>> Content-Type: application/json
>> { "name": <string> }

<< { "name": <string>, "token": <string> }

Returns status 201, generates a new API token, and returns it.

Deleting a client

Authenticating with the root key,

>> DELETE /api_tokens/:token

Always returns status 204, and deletes the API token if it exists. Note that this does not cause the corresponding subscriber (if any) to become unsubscribed.

Publication (creating topics)

There is no need to explicitly create topics; they will be when pushing the first event to the bus.

ONLY ONE CLIENT CAN PUSH EVENTS TO A TOPIC: all but the first client to push to a given topic will see their requests met with errors.


>> POST /topics/:name
>> {
>>   type:      <string>,
>>   url:       <string>,
>>   timestamp: <integer>,
>>   data:      <anything>
>> }

:name is limited to 32 characters (lowercase letters and the underscore character).

<type> is one of create, update, delete, or noop.

The use case noop is to broadcast information about all entities of a concept, e.g. to newly created/connected subscribers. For instance, when connecting a new application for the first time, a typical use case is to perform an "initial sync". Given create, update, delete are only sent on changes in the lifecycle of the entity, this extra event can be sent for all currently existing entities.

<url> is the authoritative URL for the entity corresponding to the event (maximum 1024 characters, must use HTTPS scheme).

<timestamp> (optional) is an integer number of milliseconds since the UNIX epoch and represents when the event occured. If unspecified it'll be set by the bus on reception.

<data> (optional) is discouraged although not deprecated. It is intended when the RESN paradigm becomes impractical to implement — e.g. small, very frequently-changing representations that can't reasonably be fetched from the source and inconvenient to reify as changes in the domain (typically for storage reasons).

The response is always empty (no body). Possible statuses (besides authentication-related):

  • 204: Successfully pushed event
  • 400: Bad topic name, event type, invalid URL, or extra fields in the payload.
  • 403: Bad credentials, possibly another client is the publisher for this topic.


Subscription implicitly creates a queue for the client, which starts accumulating events.

From the client's perspective, the subscription is a singleton resource. A client can therefore only obtain events from their own subscription.

>> POST /subscription
>> {
>>   topics:   [<name>, ...],
>>   callback: <url>,
>>   uuid:     <token>,
>>   timeout:  <t>,
>>   max:      <n>
>> ]

Subscribes the client to receive events from the named topics. When events are ready, they will be POSTed to the <url> (see below), at most every <t> milliseconds (default 500). At most <n> events will be sent in each batch (default 100). The <token> will be used as an HTTP Basic username (not password) to the client for authentication.

The response is always empty. No side effect if already subscribed to a given topic. If a previously subscribed topic is not listed, it will be unsubscribed.

Possible statuses:

  • 204: Successfully subscribed to listed topics
  • 400: Bad callback, unknown topics, etc.
  • 404: No such topic


Clients receive an HTTPS request for new batches of events, they don't have to query for them. If the request completes successfully, the events will be deleted from the subscription queue. Otherwise, they will be resent at the next interval.

>> POST <callback>
>> [
>>   {
>>     topic: <string>,
>>     type:  <string>,
>>     url:   <string>,
>>     t:     <integer>,
>>     data:  <anything>
>>   },
>>   ...
>> ]

All fields values are as described when publishing events, with the following caveats:

  • On delivery, the timestamp field is always present; and named t instead of timestamp.
  • The data field will be omitted if unspecified or null on publication.

Possible response statuses:

  • 200, 204: Event batch is ackownledged, and will be deleted from the subscription queue.
  • Anything else: failure, batch to be sent again later.

Note that if the subscriber doesn't respond to the HTTP request within ROUTEMASTER_TIMEOUT (or if the bus can't connect to it within ROUTEMASTER_CONNECT_TIMEOUT), the delivery will be considered to have failed and will be re-attempted.

Removing topics

Publishers can delete a topic they're responsible for:

>> DELETE /topic/:name

This will cause subscribers to become unsubscribed for this topic, but will not cause events related to the topic to be removed from the queue.


Subscribers can either unregister themselves altogether:

>> DELETE /subscriber

or just for one topic:

>> DELETE /subscriber/topics/:topic


Routermaster provides monitoring endpoints:

>> GET /topics
<< [
<<   {
<<     name:      <topic>,
<<     publisher: <username>,
<<     events:    <count>
<<   }, ...
<< ]

<count> is the total number of events ever sent on a given topic.

>> GET /subscriptions
<< [
<<   {
<<     subscriber:  <username>,
<<     callback:    <url>,
<<     max_events:  <value>,
<<     timeout:     <value>,
<<     topics:      [<name>, ...],
<<     events: {
<<       sent:       <sent_count>,
<<       queued:     <queue_size>,
<<       oldest:     <staleness>,
<<     }
<<   }, ...
<< ]
  • <name>: the names of all topics routed into this subscriptions queue.
  • <sent_count>: total number of events ever sent on this topic.
  • <queue_size>: current number of events in the subscription queue.
  • <staleness>: timestamp (seconds since epoch) of the oldest pending event.

Monitoring resources can be queries by clients using a client token or the root token.

Routemaster does not, and will not include a UI for monitoring, as that would complexify its codebase too much (it's a separate concern, really).

Post-MVP Roadmap

Latency improvements:

  • Option to push events to subscribers over routermaster-initiated long-polling requests
  • Option to push events to subscribers over client-initiated long-polling requests

Reliability improvements:

  • Ability for subscribers to specify retention period and/or max events retained.


  • Separate monitoring application, with a UI, consuming the monitoring API and pushing to Statsd.

Data payloads:

  • Some use cases for transmitting (partial) representations over the event bus are valid (e.g. for audit trails, all intermediary representations must be know).

Support for sending-side autoscaling:

  • The watch currently is single-threaded, and running it in parallel loses the in-order delivery capability. We plan to address this with (optional) subscribed locking in the watch.
  • Support for HireFire-based autoscaling of watch processes.

Sources of inspiration


This project contains a Dockerfile and a Docker image is being built on every CI run to ensure smoother transition to a Docker-based architecture. Normally that step would not require any manual input from you as a developer but you may still want to manually check if your image builds or test any changes to the Dockerfile. Make sure you have Docker installed on your local machine and run the following command from the root of the project:

docker build -t routemaster .

If you want to get a shell on a Docker container built from this image, build the image first (see above), then run:

docker run --rm -it routemaster sh

To run routemaster locally with docker-compose, run:

docker-compose up

This will spin up redis, the routemaster background worker and the routemaster web worker on port 3000.