This topic describes the rolling upgrade strategy and how it can incur less downtime than other upgrade methods. It includes steps for running a rolling upgrade and a description of an experiment that illustrates the benefits of rolling upgrades in detail.


A rolling upgrade is a strategy for updating a distributed system.

In a rolling upgrade, each VM is updated in turn. After the update completes, the VM is started, and, after the specified processes are running, the update procedure begins for the next VM in the sequence.

In a Tanzu RabbitMQ cluster, each node runs on a separate VM. Rolling upgrades help to ensure availability by keeping at least one node up throughout the upgrade process.

Before v1.17.3, some upgrades required the whole cluster to be shut down. For example, when a major or minor version of Tanzu RabbitMQ was updated, or when a major version of the Erlang distribution was updated.

As of v1.17.3, upgrades are performed using a rolling upgrade strategy. The only case where a cluster is required to fully shut down as part of an upgrade is where the Erlang cookie for the cluster is changed. Due to ongoing development, VMware cannot guarantee that rolling upgrades will always be possible in the future. VMware recommends always checking the release notes for each version before upgrading.

Running a Rolling Upgrade for VMware Tanzu RabbitMQ for VMs

On a single canary node in the cluster, the following steps are carried out:

  • rabbitmqctl stop runs, stopping the Tanzu RabbitMQ server process and the Erlang VM.
  • The persistent disk is detached.
  • The VM is torn down for the node.
  • After 0–5 seconds the BOSH DNS service detects a failing health check for the node that has just gone down. It stops routing service traffic to the node.
  • BOSH requests a new VM from the underlying IaaS. It attaches the persistent disk from the old VM.
  • rabbitmq-server starts on the new VM. The node rejoins the cluster.
  • The new node registers with the BOSH DNS service and begins receiving traffic.

The above steps are then carried out on the remaining nodes in the cluster, one by one.

Example Rolling Upgrade Scenario

The experiment described below is an example of a rolling upgrade scenario.

In the experiment, an operator upgrades their platform to use a new version of VMware Tanzu RabbitMQ for VMs. They upgrade from v1.17.4 to v1.18.1.

This experiment is designed to show a system performing a rolling upgrade under a heavy load: there is substantial disk I/O with both the underlying Tanzu RabbitMQ and Erlang software upgrading to a newer version.

Without a rolling upgrade, the whole cluster must shut down, resulting in a service outage given publishers and consumers are unable to connect to the cluster. This experiment shows the extent of downtime associated with a rolling upgrade.

Note: The following is provided for example purposes only and is not intended to represent all upgrade situations. Your platform setup might have different results.

Configuration and Setup

Details of the configuration and setup of the experiment are detailed in the sections below.

Cluster Configuration

The IaaS used for this experiment is Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

The Tanzu RabbitMQ node VMs are configured with:

  • CPUs: 2
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • Disk: 8 GB
  • Persistent disk: 5 GB

Initially, RabbitMQ for Pivotal Cloud Foundry v1.17.4 was installed with a plan configured to build a three-node cluster with queues being mirrored. This environment was then upgraded to use Tanzu RabbitMQ v1.18.1.

App Configuration

The RabbitMQ Performance Tool for Cloud Foundry simulates the workload on the cluster. This is a Java app that tests throughput of Tanzu RabbitMQ.

This tool uses a resilient client with reconnection and retry logic. When the performance test is run, it creates a direct exchange and a queue. In addition, it creates the necessary consumers and producers and binds them to the newly created queue.

In this experiment, the performance test is configured to use durable and mirrored queues and persistent messages, which ensure that messages are persisted to disk.

A protocol extension called Publisher Confirms is enabled to ensure that there is no data loss.

This setup ensures that there is a backlog of messages to be read from disk and consumed at any point during the upgrade.

The publishers are configured to constantly produce messages in three different bursts:

  • 500 messages per second for 30 seconds
  • 750 messages per second for 15 seconds
  • 250 messages per second for 15 seconds

The publishers are expected to consume a total of 500 messages per second. Each message is a 50,000-byte JSON blob.

The equivalent app manifest for this test is as follows:

  - name: rabbitmq-perf-test
    path: ./target/pcf-perf-test-1.0-SNAPSHOT.jar
    memory: 2G
    health-check-type: process
    services: [rmq]
      VARIABLE_RATE: "500:30,750:15,250:15"
      CONSUMER_RATE: 500
      JSON_BODY: true
      SIZE: 50000
      SLOW_START: true
      FLAG: persistent
      CONFIRM: 30000

For more information about concepts mentioned above, see:

Concept More information in…
The RabbitMQ Performance Tool for Cloud Foundry the RabbitMQ PerfTest for Cloud Foundry repository in GitHub
Direct exchange the RabbitMQ documentation
Durable queues the RabbitMQ documentation
Mirrored queues the RabbitMQ documentation
Publisher Confirms protocol extension the RabbitMQ documentation


Tests show that downtime experienced during this rolling upgrade is significantly reduced compared to a similar upgrade where the cluster is fully shut down.

The metrics indicate that the downtime, in this case a publisher being unable to publish a message to a queue, is 5 seconds at maximum.

This is because the internal BOSH DNS record used to round-robin messages to the nodes in the cluster has a 5-second time to live (TTL). The messages are routed to nodes that have just been replaced. Because the tested app has retry logic, no service outage is observed.

For more information about creating resilient apps, see the workloads repository in GitHub.

In most cases, downtime is longer for a cluster under a greater load. When a node comes back up and rejoins the cluster, messages from the other nodes sync with the newly joined node. Queues on the newly joined node reject publishers and consumers until the messages are synced.

Cluster Configuration Considerations

There is downtime for a cluster without mirrored queues. This is because when the hosting node is down, the queue does not exist and any published messages are dropped unless the publisher uses the mandatory flag or the exchange is configured with an alternate exchange.

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