This page applies to Java Broker versions before 0.18. For the master copy of this documentation see the Other Queue Types section in the Java documentation

General Information

The Qpid M3 release introduces priority queues into the Java Messaging Broker, supporting JMS clients who wish to make use of priorities in their messaging implementation.

There are some key points around the use of priority queues in Qpid, discussed in the sections below.

Defining Priority Queues

You must define a priority queue specifically before you start to use it. You cannot subsequently change a queue to/from a priority queue (without deleting it and re-creating).

You define a queue as a priority queue in the virtualhost configuration file, which the broker loads at startup. When defining the queue, add a <priority>true</priority> element. This will ensure that the queue has 10 distinct priorities, which is the number supported by JMS.

If you require fewer priorities, it is possible to specify a <priorities>int</priorities> element (where int is a valid integer value between 2 and 10 inclusive) which will give the queue that number of distinct priorities. When messages are sent to that queue, their effective priority will be calculated by partitioning the priority space. If the number of effective priorities is 2, then messages with priority 0-4 are treated the same as "lower priority" and messages with priority 5-9 are treated equivalently as "higher priority".


Client configuration/messaging model for priority queues

There are some other configuration & paradigm changes which are required in order that priority queues work as expected.

Set low pre-fetch

Qpid clients receive buffered messages in batches, sized according to the pre-fetch value. The current default is 5000.

However, if you use the default value you will probably not see desirable behaviour with messages of different priority. This is because a message arriving after the pre-fetch buffer has filled will not leap frog messages of lower priority. It will be delivered at the front of the next batch of buffered messages (if that is appropriate), but this is most likely NOT what you need.

So, you need to set the prefetch values for your client (consumer) to make this sensible. To do this set the java system property max_prefetch on the client environment (using -D) before creating your consumer.

Setting the Qpid pre-fetch to 1 for your client means that message priority will be honoured by the Qpid broker as it dispatches messages to your client. A default for all client connections can be set via a system property:


The prefetch can be also be adjusted on a per connection basis by adding a 'maxprefetch' value to the connection url


There is a slight performance cost here if using the receive() method and you could test with a slightly higher pre-fetch (up to 10) if the trade-off between throughput and prioritisation is weighted towards the former for your application. (If you're using OnMessage() then this is not a concern.)

Single consumer per session

If you are using the receive() method to consume messages then you should also only use one consumer per session with priority queues. If you're using OnMessage() then this is not a concern.

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