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An opinionated Datomic queue for building (more) reliable systems. Implements the transactional outbox pattern. Supports retries, backoff, ordering and more. On-prem only.


Clojars Project

1-minute example

(require '[com.github.ivarref.yoltq :as yq])

(def conn (datomic.api/connect "..."))

; Initialize system
(yq/init! {:conn conn})

; Add a queue consumer that will intentionally fail on the first attempt
(yq/add-consumer! :q
                 (let [cnt (atom 0)]
                   (fn [payload]
                     (when (= 1 (swap! cnt inc))
                       ; A consumer throwing an exception is considered a queue job failure
                       (throw (ex-info "failed" {})))
                     ; Anything else than a throwing exception is considered a queue job success
                     ; This includes nil, false and everything else.
                     (log/info "got payload" payload))))

; Start threadpool that picks up queue jobs

; Queue a job
@(d/transact conn [(yq/put :q {:work 123})])

; On your console you will see something like this:
; 17:29:54.598 DEBUG queue item 613... for queue :q is pending status :init
; 17:29:54.602 DEBUG queue item 613... for queue :q now has status :processing
; 17:29:54.603 DEBUG queue item 613... for queue :q is now processing
; 17:29:54.605 WARN  queue-item 613... for queue :q now has status :error after 1 try in 4.8 ms
; 17:29:54.607 WARN  error message was: "failed" for queue-item 613...
; 17:29:54.615 WARN  ex-data was: {} for queue-item 613...
; The item is so far failed...

; But after approximately 10 seconds have elapsed, the item will be retried:
; 17:30:05.596 DEBUG queue item 613... for queue :q now has status :processing
; 17:30:05.597 DEBUG queue item 613... for queue :q is now processing
; 17:30:05.597 INFO  got payload {:work 123}
; 17:30:05.599 INFO  queue-item 613... for queue :q now has status :done after 2 tries in 5999.3 ms
; And then it has succeeded.


Integrating with external systems that may be unavailable can be tricky. Imagine the following code:

(defn post-handler [user-input]
  (let [db-item (process user-input)
        ext-ref (clj-http.client/post ext-service {:connection-timeout 3000  ; timeout in milliseconds 
                                                   :socket-timeout     10000 ; timeout in milliseconds
                                                   ...})] ; may throw exception
    @(d/transact conn [(assoc db-item :some/ext-ref ext-ref)])))

What if the POST request fails? Should it be retried? For how long? Should it be allowed to fail? How do you then process failures later?

PS: If you do not set connection/socket-timeout, there is a chance that clj-http/client will wait for all eternity in the case of a dropped TCP connection.

The queue way to solve this would be:

(defn get-ext-ref [{:keys [id]}]
  (let [ext-ref (clj-http.client/post ext-service {:connection-timeout 3000  ; timeout in milliseconds 
                                                   :socket-timeout     10000 ; timeout in milliseconds
                                                   ...})] ; may throw exception
    @(d/transact conn [[:db/cas [:some/id id]

(yq/add-consumer! :get-ext-ref get-ext-ref {:allow-cas-failure? true})

(defn post-handler [user-input]
  (let [{:some/keys [id] :as db-item} (process user-input)]
    @(d/transact conn [db-item
                       (yq/put :get-ext-ref {:id id})])))

Here post-handler will always succeed as long as the transaction commits.

get-ext-ref may fail multiple times if ext-service is down. This is fine as long as it eventually succeeds.

There is a special case where get-ext-ref succeeds, but saving the new queue job status to the database fails. Thus get-ext-ref and any queue consumer should tolerate to be executed successfully several times.

For get-ext-ref this is solved by using the database function :db/cas (compare-and-swap) to achieve a write-once behaviour. The yoltq system treats cas failures as job successes when a consumer has :allow-cas-failure? set to true in its options.

How it works

Queue jobs

Creating queue jobs is done by @(d/transact conn [...other data... (yq/put :q {:work 123})]). Inspecting (yq/put :q {:work 123})] you will see something like this:

#:com.github.ivarref.yoltq{:id #uuid"614232a8-e031-45bb-8660-be146eaa32a2", ; Queue job id 
                           :queue-name :q, ; Destination queue                                 
                           :status :init, ; Status
                           :payload "{:work 123}", ; Payload persisted to the database with pr-str
                           :bindings "{}", ; Bindings that will be applied before executing consumer function
                           :lock #uuid"037d7da1-5158-4243-8f72-feb1e47e15ca", ; Lock to protect from multiple consumers
                           :tries 0, ; How many times the job has been executed
                           :init-time 4305758012289 ; Time of initialization (System/nanoTime)

This is the queue job as it will be stored into the database. You can see that the payload, i.e. the second argument of yq/put, is persisted into the database. Thus the payload must be pr-str-able (unless you have specified custom :encode and :decode functions that override this).

A queue job will initially have status :init. It will then transition to the following statuses:

  • :processing: When the queue job begins processing in the queue consumer function.
  • :done: If the queue consumer function returns normally.
  • :error: If the queue consumer function throws an exception.

Queue consumers

Queue jobs will be consumed by queue consumers. A consumer is a function taking a single argument, the payload. It can be added like this:

  :q ; Queue to consume  
  (fn [payload] (println "got payload:" payload)) ; Queue consumer function
  ; An optional map of queue opts
  {:allow-cas-failure? true ; Treat [:db.cas ...] failures as success. This is one way for the
                            ; consumer function to ensure idempotence.
   :valid-payload? (fn [payload] (some? (:id payload))) ; Function that verifies payload. Should return truthy for valid payloads.
                                                        ; The default function always returns true.
   :max-retries 10})        ; Specify maximum number of times an item will be retried. Default: 10000.
                            ; If :max-retries is given as 0, the job will ~always be retried, i.e.
                            ; 9223372036854775807 times (Long/MAX_VALUE).

The payload will be deserialized from the database using clojure.edn/read-string before invocation, i.e. you will get back what you put into yq/put.

The yoltq system treats a queue consumer function invocation as successful if it does not throw an exception. Any return value, be it nil, false, true, etc. is considered a success.

Listening for queue jobs

When (yq/start!) is invoked, a threadpool is started.

One thread is permanently allocated for listening to the tx-report-queue and responding to changes. This means that yoltq will respond and process newly created queue jobs fairly quickly. This also means that queue jobs in status :init will almost always be processed without any type of backoff.

The threadpool also schedules polling jobs that will check for various statuses regularly:

  • Jobs in status :error that have waited for at least :error-backoff-time (default: 5 seconds) will be retried.
  • Jobs that have been in :processing for at least :hung-backoff-time (default: 30 minutes) will be considered hung and retried.
  • Old :init-backoff-time (default: 1 minute) :init jobs that have not been processed. Queue jobs can be left in status :init during application restart/upgrade, and thus the need for this strategy.

Retry and backoff strategy

Yoltq assumes that if a queue consumer throws an exception for one item, it will also do the same for another item in the immediate future, assuming the remote system that the queue consumer represents is still down. Thus if there are ten failures for queue :q, it does not make sense to retry all of them at once.

The retry polling job that runs regularly (:poll-delay, default: every 10 seconds) thus stops at the first failure. Each queue have their own polling job, so if one queue is down, it will not stop other queues from retrying.

The retry polling job will continue to eagerly process queue jobs as long as it encounters only successes.

While the :error-backoff-time of default 5 seconds may seem short, in practice if there is a lot of failed items and the external system is still down, the actual backoff time will be longer.

Stuck threads and stale jobs

A single thread is dedicated to monitoring how much time a queue consumer spends on a single job. If this exceeds :max-execute-time (default: 5 minutes) the stack trace of the offending consumer will be logged as :ERROR.

If a job is found stale, that is if the database spent time exceeds :hung-backoff-time (default: 30 minutes), the job will either be retried or marked as :error. This case may happen if the application is shut down abruptly during processing of queue jobs.

Giving up

A queue job will remain in status :error once :max-retries (default: 10000) have been reached. If :max-retries is given as 0, the job will be retried 9223372036854775807 times before giving up. Ideally this should not happen. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Custom encoding and decoding

Yoltq will use pr-str and clojure.edn/read-string by default to encode and decode data. You may specify :encode and :decode either globally or per queue to override this behaviour. The :encode function must return a byte array or a string.

For example if you want to use nippy:

(require '[taoensso.nippy :as nippy])

; Globally for all queues:
  {:conn conn
   :encode nippy/freeze
   :decode nippy/thaw})

; Or per queue:
  :q ; Queue to consume  
  (fn [payload] (println "got payload:" payload)) ; Queue consumer function
  {:encode nippy/freeze
   :decode nippy/thaw}) ; Queue options, here with :encode and :decode


Yoltq supports specifying which partition queue entities should belong to. The default function is:

(defn default-partition-fn [_queue-name]
  (keyword "yoltq" (str "queue_" (.getValue (java.time.Year/now)))))

This is to say that there will be a single partition per year for yoltq. Yoltq will take care of creating the partition if it does not exist.

You may override this function, either globally or per queue, with the keyword :partition-fn. E.g.:

(yq/init! {:conn conn :partition-fn (fn [_queue-name] :my-partition)})

All configuration options

For an exhaustive list of all configuration options, see yq/default-opts.

Regular and REPL usage

For a regular system and/or REPL session you'll want to do:

(require '[com.github.ivarref.yoltq :as yq])

(yq/init! {:conn conn})

(yq/add-consumer! :q-one ...)
(yq/add-consumer! :q-two ...)

; Start yoltq system

; Oops I need another consumer. This works fine:
(yq/add-consumer! :q-three ...)

; When the application is shutting down:

You may invoke yq/add-consumer! and yq/init! on a live system as you like.

If you change :pool-size or :poll-delay you will have to (yq/stop!) and (yq/start!) to make changes take effect.

Queue job dependencies and ordering

It is possible to specify that one queue job must wait for another queue job to complete before it will be executed:

@(d/transact conn [(yq/put :a 
                           ; Payload:
                           {:id "a1"}
                           ; Job options:
                           {:id "a1"})])

@(d/transact conn [(yq/put :b 
                           ; Payload:
                           {:id "b1" :a-ref "a1"}
                           ; Jobs options:
                           {:depends-on [:a "a1"]})])

; depends-on may also be specified as a function of the payload when 
; adding the consumer:
(yq/add-consumer! :b 
                  (fn [payload] ...)
                  {:depends-on (fn [payload]
                                 [:a (:a-ref payload)])})

Here queue job b1 will not execute before a1 is :done.

Note that queue-name plus :id in job options must be an unique value. In the example above that means :a plus a1 must be unique.

When specifying :depends-on, the referred job must at least exist in the database, otherwise yq/put will throw an exception.

Other than this there is no attempt at ordering the execution of queue jobs. In fact the opposite is done in the poller to guard against the case that a single failing queue job could effectively take down the entire retry polling job.

Retrying jobs in the REPL

(require '[com.github.ivarref.yoltq :as yq])

; List jobs that are in state error:
(yq/get-errors :q)

; This will retry a single job that is in error, regardless 
; of how many times it has been retried earlier.
; If the job fails, you will get the full stacktrace on the REPL.
(yq/retry-one-error! :q)
; Returns a map containing the new state of the job.
; Returns nil if there are no (more) jobs in state error for this queue.


For testing you will probably want determinism over an extra threadpool by using the test queue:

(:require [clojure.test :refer :all]
  [com.github.ivarref.yoltq :as yq]
  [com.github.ivarref.yoltq.test-queue :as tq])

; Enables the test queue and disables the threadpool for each test.
; yq/start! and yq/stop! becomes a no-op.
(use-fixtures :each tq/call-with-virtual-queue!)

(deftest demo
         (let [conn ...]
           (yq/init! {:conn conn}) ; Setup
           (yq/add-consumer! :q identity)

           @(d/transact conn [(yq/put :q {:work 123})]) ; Add work

           ; tq/consume! consumes one job and asserts that it succeeds.
           ; It returns the return value of the consumer function
           (is (= {:work 123} (tq/consume! :q)))
           ; If you want to test the idempotence of your function, 
           ; you may force retry a consumer function:
           ; This may for example be useful to verify that the
           ; :db.cas logic is correct.
           (is (= {:work 123} (tq/force-retry! :q)))))

Logging and capturing bindings

Yoltq can capture and restore dynamic bindings. It will capture during yq/put and restore them when the consumer function is invoked. This is specified in the :capture-bindings setting. It defaults to ['#taoensso.timbre/*context*], i.e. the timbre log context, if available, otherwise an empty vector.

These dynamic bindings will be in place when yoltq logs errors, warnings etc. about failing consumer functions, possibly making troubleshooting easier.


Datomic does not have anything like for update skip locked. Thus consuming a queue should be limited to a single JVM process. This library will take queue jobs by compare-and-swapping a lock+state, process the item and then compare-and-swapping the lock+new-state. It does so eagerly, thus if you have multiple JVM consumers you will most likely get many locking conflicts. It should work, but it's far from optimal.


I did not find any alternatives for Datomic.

If I were using PostgreSQL or any other database that supports for update skip locked, I'd use a queue that uses this. For Clojure there is proletarian.

For Redis there is carmine.

Note: I have not tried these libraries myself.

Other stuff

If you liked this library, you may also like:

  • conformity: A Clojure/Datomic library for idempotently transacting norms into your database – be they schema, data, or otherwise.
  • datomic-schema: Simplified writing of Datomic schemas (works with conformity).
  • double-trouble: Handle duplicate Datomic transactions with ease.
  • gen-fn: Generate Datomic function literals from regular Clojure namespaces.
  • rewriting-history: A library to rewrite Datomic history.

Change log

2023-03-20 v0.2.64 diff

Added support for max-retries being 0, meaning the job should be retried forever (or at least 9223372036854775807 times).

Changed the default for max-retries from 100 to 10000.

2022-11-18 v0.2.63 diff

Added custom :encode and :decode support.

Added support for specifying :partifion-fn to specify which partition a queue item should belong to. It defaults to:

(defn default-partition-fn [_queue-name]
  (keyword "yoltq" (str "queue_" (.getValue (Year/now)))))

Yoltq takes care of creating the partition if it does not exist.

2022-11-15 v0.2.62 diff

Added function processing-time-stats:

(ns com.github.ivarref.yoltq)

(defn processing-time-stats
  "Gather processing time statistics.

  Optional keyword arguments:
  * :age-days —  last number of days to look at data from. Defaults to 30.
                 Use nil to have no limit.

  * :queue-name — only gather statistics for this queue name. Defaults to nil, meaning all queues.

  * :duration->long - Specify what unit should be used for values.
                      Must take a java.time.Duration as input and return a long.

                      Defaults to (fn [duration] (.toSeconds duration).
                      I.e. the default unit is seconds.

  Example return value:
  {:queue-a {:avg 1
             :max 10
             :min 0
             :p50 ...
             :p90 ...
             :p95 ...
             :p99 ...}}"
 [{:keys [age-days queue-name now db duration->long]
  :or   {age-days 30
         now      (ZonedDateTime/now ZoneOffset/UTC)
         duration->long (fn [duration] (.toSeconds duration))}}]

2022-09-07 v0.2.61 diff

Added function retry-stats:

(ns com.github.ivarref.yoltq)

(defn retry-stats
  "Gather retry statistics.

  Optional keyword arguments:
  * :age-days —  last number of days to look at data from. Defaults to 30.
  * :queue-name — only gather statistics for this queue name. Defaults to nil, meaning all queues.

  Example return value:
  {:queue-a {:ok 100, :retries 2, :retry-percentage 2.0}
   :queue-b {:ok 100, :retries 75, :retry-percentage 75.0}}

  From the example value above, we can see that :queue-b fails at a much higher rate than :queue-a.
  Assuming that the queue consumers are correctly implemented, this means that the service representing :queue-b
  is much more unstable than the one representing :queue-a. This again implies
  that you will probably want to fix the downstream service of :queue-b, if that is possible.
  [{:keys [age-days queue-name now]
    :or   {age-days 30
           now      (ZonedDateTime/now ZoneOffset/UTC)}}]

2022-08-18 v0.2.60 diff

Improved: Added config option :healthy-allowed-error-time:

    ; If you are dealing with a flaky downstream service, you may not want
    ; yoltq to mark itself as unhealthy on the first failure encounter with
    ; the downstream service. Change this setting to let yoltq mark itself
    ; as healthy even though a queue item has been failing for some time.
    :healthy-allowed-error-time    (Duration/ofMinutes 15)

2022-08-15 v0.2.59 diff


  • Race condition that made the following possible: stop! would terminate the slow thread watcher, and a stuck thread could keep stop! from completing!

2022-06-30 v0.2.58 diff

Slightly more safe EDN printing and parsing. Recommended reading: Pitfalls and bumps in Clojure's Extensible Data Notation (EDN)

2022-06-29 v0.2.57 diff

Added (get-errors qname) and (retry-one-error! qname).

Improved: unhealthy? will return false for the first 10 minutes of the application lifetime. This was done in order to push new code while a queue was in error in an earlier version of the code. In this way rolling upgrades are possible regardless if there are queue errors. Can you tell that this issue hit me? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

2022-06-22 v0.2.56 diff

Added support for :yoltq/queue-id metadata on functions. I.e. it's possible to write the following:

(defn my-consumer
  {:yoltq/queue-id :some-queue}

(yq/add-consumer! #'my-consumer ; <-- will resolve to :some-queue 

@(d/transact conn [(yq/put #'my-consumer ; <-- will resolve to :some-queue
                           {:id "a"})])

The idea here is that it is simpler to jump to var definitions than going via keywords, which essentially refers to a var/function anyway.

2022-03-29 v0.2.55 diff

Added: unhealthy? function which returns true if there are queues in error, or false otherwise.

2022-03-28 v0.2.54 diff

Fixed: Schedules should now be using milliseconds and not nanoseconds.

2022-03-28 v0.2.51 diff

  • Don't OOM on migrating large amounts of data.
  • Respect :auto-migrate? false.

2022-03-27 v0.2.48 diff

  • Auto migration is done in the background.
  • Only poll for current version of jobs, thus no races for auto migration.

2022-03-27 v0.2.46 diff

  • Critical bugfix that in some cases can lead to stalled jobs.
Started using (System/currentTimeMillis) and not (System/nanoTime)
when storing time in the database. 
  • Bump Clojure to 1.11.0.

2022-03-27 v0.2.41 diff

  • Added function healthy? that returns:
  true if no errors
  false if one or more errors
  nil if error-poller is yet to be executed.
  • Added default functions for :on-system-error and :on-system-recovery that simply logs that the system is in error (ERROR level) or has recovered (INFO level).

  • Added function queue-stats that returns a nicely "formatted" vector of queue stats, for example:

  [{:qname :add-message-thread, :status :done, :count 10274}
   {:qname :add-message-thread, :status :init, :count 30}
   {:qname :add-message-thread, :status :processing, :count 1}
   {:qname :send-message, :status :done, :count 21106}
   {:qname :send-message, :status :init, :count 56}]

2021-09-27 v0.2.39 diff

Added :valid-payload? option for queue consumers.

2021-09-27 v0.2.37 diff

Improved error reporting.

2021-09-24 v0.2.33

First publicly announced release.


Copyright © 2021-2022 Ivar Refsdal

This program and the accompanying materials are made available under the terms of the Eclipse Public License 2.0 which is available at

This Source Code may also be made available under the following Secondary Licenses when the conditions for such availability set forth in the Eclipse Public License, v. 2.0 are satisfied: GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version, with the GNU Classpath Exception which is available at

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