Suppose I have an IoT device which I'm about to control (lets say switch on/off) and monitor (e.g. collect temperature readings). It seems MQTT could be the right fit. I could publish messages to the device to control it and the device could publish messages to a broker to report temperature readings. So far so good.
The problems start to occur when I try to design the API to control the device.
Lets day the device subscribes to two topics:
Then I publish messages to these topics in some order. But given the fact that messaging is typically an asynchronous process there are no guarantees on the order of messages received by the device.
So in case two messages are published in the following order:
they could be received in the reversed order leaving the device turned on, which can have dramatic consequences, depending on the context.
Of course the API could be designed in some other way, for example there could be just one topic
and the payload of individual messages would carry the meaning of an individual message (on/off). So in case messages are published to this topic in a given order they are expected to be received in the exact same order on the device.
But what if the order of publishes to individual topics cannot be guaranteed? Suppose the following architecture of a system for IoT devices:
/ control service \
application -> broker -> control service -> broker -> IoT device
\ control service /
The components of the system are:
- an application which effectively controls the device by publishing messages to a broker
- a typical message broker
- a control service with some business logic
The important part is that as in most modern distributed systems the control service is a distributed, multi instance entity capable of processing multiple control messages from the application at a time. Therefore the order of messages published by the application can end up totally mixed when delivered to the IoT device.
Now given the fact that most MQTT brokers only implement QoS0 and QoS1 but no QoS2 it gets even more interesting as such control messages could potentially be delivered multiple times.
My point is that separate topics for control messages is a bad idea. The same goes for a single topic. In both cases there are no message delivery order guarantees.
The only solution to this particular issue that comes to my mind is message versioning so that old (out-dated) messages could simply be skipped when delivered after another message with more recent version property.
- Am I missing something?
- Is message versioning the only solution to this problem?