What Is Apache Kafka? Main Benefits, Use Cases, And Functionalities
Kafka is software that was originally built by LinkedIn (and now managed by the Apache Software Foundation). It allows different applications to reliably send and receive streams of data in real-time.
For example, imagine you have a lot of users interacting with your app. Kafka lets you gather all those user events and make them available for other applications to process. Or you could stream IoT data from sensors to Kafka, and from there to data storage and analytics tools.
Some key things Kafka offers:
- It’s distributed, meaning it can run across multiple servers. This lets it scale to handle tons of data.
- It stores streams of data safely and replicates them for fault tolerance. So if a server goes down, you won’t lose data.
- It processes data as it arrives, in real-time. This lets you take action on data instantly.
- It integrates well with lots of different technologies. For example, there are Kafka connectors for most databases and cloud services.
Overall, Kafka acts as a central “data hub” that reliably routes real-time data between applications and systems. Pretty handy!
Main Benefits of Apache Kafka
There are several key benefits that make Apache Kafka a great choice for building data streaming platforms and pipelines:
High Throughput and Scalability
Kafka is designed to be massively scalable and provides extremely high throughput for publishing and subscribing to data streams. It can handle hundreds of megabytes of data per second.
Data strеams arе partitionеd and distributеd ovеr a clustеr of sеrvеrs. This allows Kafka to scalе horizontally simply by adding morе sеrvеrs.
Kafka is optimizеd for fast data strеaming with low latеncy. Mеssagеs arе immеdiatеly addеd to a partition and availablе for procеssing by consumеrs.
For rеal-timе applications likе mеtrics monitoring or fraud dеtеction, thе low latеncy of Kafka еnablеs nеar rеal-timе data procеssing.
Durability and Fault Tolerance
Kafka provides durability for published data streams through replication and retention.
Streams are also retained for a configurable retention period. This acts as a replayable data store allowing applications to rewind and reprocess if needed.
If any application fails, Kafka continues working without issues and streams can be consumed when the application recovers. This makes the overall pipeline fault tolerant.
Real-Time Data Processing
With Kafka Streams, Kafka allows transforming and processing data streams in real-time as they occur. This enables powerful stream processing applications.
For example, you could filter, enrich or aggregate real-time application metrics as they stream through Kafka. The processed streams can be routed to different systems.
Flexibility & Extensibility
Kafka has a simple pub-sub API that makes it easy to integrate with other data systems. Kafka Connect provides integration to stream data between Kafka and other stores like MySQL, MongoDB, etc.
Kafka Streams allows for stream processing applications. The ecosystem has support for many development languages and frameworks.
These make Kafka flexible to adapt to diverse streaming data needs.
Use Cases of Apache Kafka
Here are some popular use cases of Apache Kafka and scenarios where it provides significant benefits:
Kafka is a great fit for powering real-time analytics on streaming data. Events published to Kafka topics can be consumed by stream processing frameworks like Apache Spark, Apache Flink, etc to enable real-time data analysis and decision making.
For example, analyzing trends on user clicks, product purchases or IoT sensor data. Streaming analytics on data from Kafka enables fresh insights and monitoring of business operations.
Real-Time Data Pipelines
Kafka is commonly used to build scalable real-time data pipelines from diverse sources into data warehouses, lakes, and other systems. Kafka provides the foundational messaging layer for assembling such pipelines with its publish-subscribe model.
Events can be streamed from applications, databases, mobile devices, sensors etc into Kafka. After filtering and processing, data can be streamed out to Hadoop, data warehouses, Elasticsearch and more for business reporting and analysis.
Microservices architectures are powered by event streaming between services. Kafka provides a buffer and communication channel between microservices by decoupling event producers and consumers.
For example, order events can be published to an Order Kafka topic which can be consumed by Order, Payment, Inventory and Delivery microservices independently. This asynchronous event streaming helps build robust, scalable microservices.
Kafka is useful for collecting and aggregating logs from different servers and applications into a centralized place. This allows logs to be streamed to Kafka topics and consumed for monitoring, analytics, and archiving purposes.
Log aggregation with Kafka enables real-time monitoring of operational issues across products and services. It also facilitates analysis of historical trends in logs using tools like Elasticsearch.
IoT Data Processing
The massive amounts of data generated by Internet of Things sensors and devices needs to be handled in real-time. Kafka provides an ideal platform for gathering high velocity data streams from IoT devices and processing this data.
IoT data can be ingested into Kafka topics and consumed by stream processing applications to filter, transform and analyze it. This enables real-time IoT use cases such as predictive maintenance across factory equipment.
Now let’s look at Kafka’s core capabilities and how it is able to provide these benefits.
Functionalities of Apache Kafka
Kafka provides a distributed, partitioned and fault-tolerant publish-subscribe messaging system.
Kafka producers publish data to topics. Producers can publish messages to multiple brokers and partitions asynchronously, supporting Kafka’s high throughput. Reliable message delivery is handled by the Kafka producers transparently.
Consumers subscribe to Kafka topics and process published messages through these topics. Consumers can read messages in order or out of order from the topic. Kafka provides high performance in delivering millions of messages per second to consumers.
The Kafka brokers form the core of a Kafka cluster. Brokers receive messages published by producers and make them available to consumers. The brokers store message data on disk as well as keep track of who is producing and consuming from which topics.
Topics provide a way to segment and categorize message streams. Producers write to topics and consumers subscribe to topic to receive messages. Topics are split into partitions for scalability. Data retention policies can be configured on topics.
Kafka Connect allows integrating Kafka with external systems like databases and key-value stores. It provides connectivity to import and export data streams through connector plugins. This enables building pipelines with ease.
The Kafka Streams API allows writing stream processing applications that consume from Kafka topics, filter and transform the data, and output to new topics. This facilitates complex real-time analytics directly on Kafka data.
That wraps up this overview by explaining what Apache Kafka is and how it can be useful. To summarize:
- Kafka provides a scalable pub-sub messaging system for streaming data between systems.
- High throughput, low latency, fault tolerance, and flexibility are among its advantages.
- Analytics, data pipelines, microservices, and log aggregation are common use cases.
- Topics, producers, consumers, brokers, and Kafka Connect APIs are all essential components.
I hope this post has helped you grasp Apache Kafka’s great potential for developing event streaming platforms. The Kafka ecosystem is rich in potential for enabling a wide range of real-time applications.