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What is a Consumer in NATS Jetstream?

NATS JetStream is a powerful and flexible messaging system designed for secure, distributed, and scalable data streaming. One of the critical components in JetStream is the concept of a “consumer.” Understanding what a consumer is and how it functions within JetStream is essential for effectively utilizing the platform.

Definition of a Consumer

In NATS JetStream, a consumer is an entity or application that subscribes to a stream of messages. Consumers are responsible for processing or acting on these messages as they are received. They offer a way to manage the consumption of messages, ensuring that data is processed reliably and efficiently.

Types of Consumers

There are two primary types of consumers in NATS JetStream:

  1. Push Consumers: Push consumers receive messages as soon as they are available in the stream. The JetStream server sends (or “pushes”) messages to the consumer’s subject, allowing real-time processing. This type of consumer is useful when the application needs to handle messages with low latency.

  2. Pull Consumers: Pull consumers, on the other hand, fetch (or “pull”) messages from the stream on demand. This approach is useful when the consuming application needs to control the flow of messages or process them in batches. Pull consumers can be particularly effective for high-throughput scenarios where on-demand processing is required.

Consumer Configuration and Management

Consumers in JetStream are highly configurable. Key configuration parameters include:

  • Durable Name: A name that uniquely identifies the consumer. When set, the consumer state persists across restarts, allowing for reliable message processing.
  • Filter Subject: Specifies a subject filter to limit the messages delivered to the consumer. This is useful for routing specific messages to particular consumers.
  • Acknowledgment Policy: Consumers can be configured to require acknowledgments for messages. This ensures that messages are not considered processed until acknowledged, improving reliability.
  • Start Sequence or Time: Consumers can specify where to start consuming messages from—either by sequence number or a timestamp—facilitating replay or skipping ahead in the stream.

Durable vs Ephemeral Consumers

Consumers can also be classified based on their persistence:

  • Durable Consumers: These consumers maintain their state, such as the position in the stream, even after the consumer or application restarts. Durable consumers are ideal for applications that require reliable message processing and state recovery.
  • Ephemeral Consumers: Ephemeral consumers do not save their state. They are temporary and exist only for the duration of the connection. These are useful for transient applications or when state persistence is not critical.

Benefits of Using Consumers in NATS JetStream

Utilizing consumers in JetStream offers several advantages:

  • Scalability: Allows for distributed message processing across multiple consumers, aiding horizontal scalability.
  • Reliability: Durable consumers ensure that message processing can resume smoothly after interruptions.
  • Flexibility: Support for both push and pull semantics enables various application requirements and use cases.
  • Performance: Optimized for low-latency message delivery and high-throughput scenarios.


Consumers are a foundational concept in NATS JetStream, providing the mechanisms needed to reliably and efficiently consume messages from streams. By understanding the different types of consumers and their configurations, users can leverage JetStream’s full potential for durable, scalable, and flexible data streaming solutions.