Amazon Simple Queue Service
Developer Guide

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Amazon SQS Short and Long Polling

The process of consuming messages from a queue depends on whether you use short or long polling. By default, Amazon SQS uses short polling, querying only a subset of its servers (based on a weighted random distribution) to determine whether any messages are available for a response.

Consuming Messages Using Short Polling

When you consume messages from a queue using short polling, Amazon SQS samples a subset of its servers (based on a weighted random distribution) and returns messages from only those servers. Thus, a particular ReceiveMessage request might not return all of your messages. However, if you have fewer than 1,000 messages in your queue, a subsequent request will return your messages. If you keep consuming from your queues, Amazon SQS samples all of its servers, and you receive all of your messages.

The following diagram shows the short-polling behavior of messages returned from a standard queue after one of your system components makes a receive request. Amazon SQS samples several of its servers (in gray) and returns messages A, C, D, and B from these servers. Message E isn't returned for this request, but is returned for a subsequent request.

                    Message Sampling using Short (Standard) Polling

Consuming Message Using Long Polling

When the wait time for the ReceiveMessage API action is greater than 0, long polling is in effect. Long polling helps reduce the cost of using Amazon SQS by eliminating the number of empty responses (when there are no messages available for a ReceiveMessage request) and false empty responses (when messages are available but aren't included in a response). For information about enabling long polling for a new or existing queue using the AWS Management Console or the AWS SDK for Java (and the CreateQueue, SetQueueAttributes, and ReceiveMessage actions), see the Configuring Long Polling for an Amazon SQS queue tutorial. For best practices, see Setting Up Long Polling.

Long polling offers the following benefits:

  • Eliminate empty responses by allowing Amazon SQS to wait until a message is available in a queue before sending a response. Unless the connection times out, the response to the ReceiveMessage request contains at least one of the available messages, up to the maximum number of messages specified in the ReceiveMessage action.

  • Eliminate false empty responses by querying all—rather than a subset of—Amazon SQS servers.


    You can confirm that a queue is empty when you perform a long poll and the ApproximateNumberOfMessagesDelayed, ApproximateNumberOfMessagesNotVisible, and ApproximateNumberOfMessagesVisible metrics are equal to 0 at least 1 minute after the producers stop sending messages (when the queue metadata reaches eventual consistency). For more information, see Available CloudWatch Metrics for Amazon SQS.

  • Return messages as soon as they become available.

Differences Between Long and Short Polling

Short polling occurs when the WaitTimeSeconds parameter of a ReceiveMessage request is set to 0 in one of two ways:

  • The ReceiveMessage call sets WaitTimeSeconds to 0.

  • The ReceiveMessage call doesn’t set WaitTimeSeconds, but the queue attribute ReceiveMessageWaitTimeSeconds is set to 0.