Testing AMQP applications

About this guide

This guide covers unit testing of amqp-based applications, primarily using evented-spec.

Covered versions

This guide covers Ruby amqp gem 1.7.x and evented-spec gem 0.9.0 and later.


The AMQP 0.9.1 protocol is inherently asynchronous. Testing of asynchronous code is often more difficult than synchronous code. There are two approaches to it:

  • Stubbing out a big chunk of the environment
  • Using a "real" environment

The former is risky because your application becomes divorced from the actual behavior of other applications. The latter approach is more reliable but at the same time more tedious, because there is a certain amount of incidental complexity that a "real" environment carries.

However, a lot of this complexity can be eliminated with tools and libraries. The evented-spec gem is one of those tools. It grew out of the necessity to test amqp Ruby gem and has proven to be both very powerful and easy to use. This guide covers the usage of that gem in the context of applications that use the amqp gem but can also be useful for testing EventMachine and Cool.io-based applications.

Using evented-spec

Setting up

To start using amqp all you need is to include { yard_link EventedSpec::AMQPSpec } module into your context and add { yard_link #done } calls to your examples:

{ gist 1027377 }

Testing in the Asynchronous Environment

Since we are using callback mechanisms in order to provide asynchrony, we have to deal with the situation when we expect a response and that response never comes. The usual solution includes setting a timeout which makes the given tests fail if they aren’t finished in a timely manner. When #done is called, your tests confirm successful ending of specs. Try removing done from the above example and see what happens. (spoiler: EventedSpec::SpecHelper::SpecTimeoutExceededError: Example timed out)

The #done method

The #done method call is a hint for evented-spec to consider the example finished. If this method is not called, example will be forcefully terminated after a certain period of time or "time out". This means there are two approaches to testing of asynchronous code:

  • Have timeout value high enough for all operations to finish (for example, expected number of messages is received).\
    • Call #done when some condition holds true (for example, message with a specific property or payload is received).

The latter approach is recommended because it makes tests less dependent on machine-specific throughput or timing. It is very common for continuous integration environments to use virtual machines that are significantly less powerful than the machines that developers use, so timeouts have to be carefully adjusted to work in both settings.

Default Connection Options and Timeout

It is sometimes desirable to use custom connection settings for your test environment as well as the default timeout value used. evented-spec lets you do this:

require 'spec_helper'
require 'evented-spec'

describe "Hello, world! example" do
  include EventedSpec::AMQPSpec

  default_options :vhost => "amqp_testing_vhost"
  default_timeout 1

  it "should pass" do

Available options are passed to {AMQP.connect} so it is possible to specify host, port, vhost, username and password arguments that your test suite needs.

Lifecycle Callbacks

evented-spec provides various callbacks similar to rspec’s before(:each) / after(:each). They are called amqp_before and amqp_after and happen right after connection is established or before connection is closed. It is a good place to put your channel initialization routines.

Full Example

Now that you’re filled in on the theory, it’s time to do something with all this knowledge. Below is a slightly modified version of one of the integration specs from the amqp suite. It sets up a default topic exchange and publishes various messages about sports events:

{ gist 1027478 }

A couple of things to notice: #done is invoked using an optional callback and optional delay, also instance variables behavior in hooks is the same as in "normal" rspec hooks.

Using #delayed

The amqp gem uses EventMachine under the hood. If you don’t know about EventMachine, you can read more about it on the official site. What’s important for us is that you cannot use sleep for delays. Why? Because all of the spec code is processed directly in the reactor thread, if you sleep in that thread, the reactor cannot send frames. What you need to use instead is the #delayed method. It takes delay time in seconds and a callback that it fires once the delay time has elapsed. Basic usage is either as a sleep replacement or to ensure a certain order of execution (although, the latter should not bother you too much). You can also use it to cleanup your environment after tests if needed.

In the following example, we declare two channels, then declare the same queue twice with the same name but different options (which raises a channel-level exception in AMQP):

require 'spec_helper'

describe AMQP do
  include EventedSpec::AMQPSpec
  default_timeout 5

  context "when queue is redeclared with different attributes across two channels" do
    let(:name)              { "amqp-gem.nondurable.queue" }
    let(:options)           {
      { :durable => false, :passive => false }
    let(:different_options) {
      { :durable => true, :passive => false }

    it "should trigger channel-level #on_error callback" do
      @channel = AMQP::Channel.new
      @channel.on_error do |ch, close|
        puts "This should never happen"
      @q1 = @channel.queue(name, options)

      # backwards compatibility, please consider against
      # using global error handlers in your programs!
      AMQP::Channel.on_error do |msg|
        puts "Global handler has fired: #{msg}"
        @global_callback_fired = true

      # Small delays to ensure the order of execution
      delayed(0.1) {
        @other_channel = AMQP::Channel.new
        @other_channel.on_error do |ch, close|
          @callback_fired = true
        puts "other_channel.id = #{@other_channel.id}"
        @q2 = @other_channel.queue(name, different_options)

      delayed(0.3) {

      done(0.4) {
        @callback_fired.should be_true
        @global_callback_fired.should be_true
        @other_channel.closed?.should be_true
end # describe AMQP

If you draw a timeline, various events happen at 0.0s, then at 0.1s, then at 0.3s and eventually at 0.4s.

Design For Testability

As the Integration With Objects section of the Getting Started with Ruby amqp gem and RabbitMQ demonstrates, good object-oriented design often makes it possible to test AMQP consumers in isolation without connecting to the broker or even starting the EventMachine event loop. All of the "Design for testability" practices apply to AMQP application testing.

Real world Examples

Please refer to the amqp gem test suite to see evented-spec in action.

How evented-spec Works

When you include the EventedSpec::AMQPSpec module, #it calls are wrapped in EventMachine.start and AMQP.connect calls, so you can start writing your examples as if you’re connected. Please note that you still need to open your own channel(s).

There is a lot more to evented-spec than described in this guide. evented-spec documentation covers that gem in more detail. For more code examples, see amqp Ruby gem test suite.