What Is Pub/Sub?

Pub/Sub is an asynchronous messaging service that decouples services that produce events from services that process events.

You can use Pub/Sub as messaging-oriented middleware or event ingestion and delivery for streaming analytics pipelines.

Pub/Sub offers durable message storage and real-time message delivery with high availability and consistent performance at scale. Pub/Sub servers run in all Google Cloud regions around the world.

To get started right away, try the Quickstart using Cloud Console. For a more comprehensive introduction, see Building a functioning Pub/Sub system.

To reduce costs, you can use Pub/Sub Lite. Pub/Sub Lite is a high-volume messaging service built for predictable traffic patterns. It offers global data access, zonal storage, and pre-provisioned capacity. If you publish 1 MiB-1 GiB of messages per second, Pub/Sub Lite might be an order of magnitude cheaper.

Core concepts

  • Topic: A named resource to which messages are sent by publishers.
  • Subscription: A named resource representing the stream of messages from a single, specific topic, to be delivered to the subscribing application. For more details about subscriptions and message delivery semantics, see the Subscriber Guide.
  • Message: The combination of data and (optional) attributes that a publisher sends to a topic and is eventually delivered to subscribers.
  • Message attribute: A key-value pair that a publisher can define for a message. For example, key iana.org/language_tag and value en could be added to messages to mark them as readable by an English-speaking subscriber.

Publisher-subscriber relationships

A publisher application creates and sends messages to a topic. Subscriber applications create a subscription to a topic to receive messages from it. Communication can be one-to-many (fan-out), many-to-one (fan-in), and many-to-many, as the following diagram shows.

Publishers A and B deliver messages to the same subscriber while Publisher C delivers messages to multiple subscribers.

Pub/Sub message flow

The following diagram is an overview of the components in the Pub/Sub system and how messages flow between them:

The main components in the Pub/Sub system include messages, topics, and subscriptions.
  1. A publisher application creates a topic in the Pub/Sub service and sends messages to the topic. A message contains a payload and optional attributes that describe the payload content.
  2. The service ensures that published messages are retained on behalf of subscriptions. A published message is retained for a subscription until it is acknowledged by any subscriber consuming messages from that subscription.
  3. Pub/Sub forwards messages from a topic to all of its subscriptions, individually.
  4. A subscriber receives messages either by Pub/Sub pushing them to the subscriber's chosen endpoint, or by the subscriber pulling them from the service.
  5. The subscriber sends an acknowledgement to the Pub/Sub service for each received message.
  6. The service removes acknowledged messages from the subscription's message queue.

Publisher and subscriber endpoints

Publishers can be any application that can make HTTPS requests to pubsub.googleapis.com: an App Engine app, a web service hosted on Google Compute Engine or any other third-party network, an app installed on a desktop or mobile device, or even a browser.

HTTP requests are made by publishers such as services, apps, or IoT devices, and subscribers such as microservices or data apps.

Pull subscribers can also be any application that can make HTTPS requests to pubsub.googleapis.com.

Push subscribers must be Webhook endpoints that can accept POST requests over HTTPS.

Common use cases

  • Balancing workloads in network clusters. For example, a large queue of tasks can be efficiently distributed among multiple workers, such as Google Compute Engine instances.
  • Implementing asynchronous workflows. For example, an order processing application can place an order on a topic, from which it can be processed by one or more workers.
  • Distributing event notifications. For example, a service that accepts user signups can send notifications whenever a new user registers, and downstream services can subscribe to receive notifications of the event.
  • Refreshing distributed caches. For example, an application can publish invalidation events to update the IDs of objects that have changed.
  • Logging to multiple systems. For example, a Google Compute Engine instance can write logs to the monitoring system, to a database for later querying, and so on.
  • Data streaming from various processes or devices. For example, a residential sensor can stream data to backend servers hosted in the cloud.
  • Reliability improvement. For example, a single-zone Compute Engine service can operate in additional zones by subscribing to a common topic, to recover from failures in a zone or region.

Pub/Sub integrations

The following diagram shows how Pub/Sub can integrate many components of Google Cloud.

Pub/Sub can integrate input from Cloud Logging and Compute Engine with endpoints such as Dataflow and App Engine.

Try it for yourself

If you're new to Google Cloud, create an account to evaluate how Pub/Sub performs in real-world scenarios. New customers also get $300 in free credits to run, test, and deploy workloads.

Try Pub/Sub free