Scaling with Event Hubs

There are two factors which influence scaling with Event Hubs.

  • Throughput units
  • Partitions

Throughput units

The throughput capacity of Event Hubs is controlled by throughput units. Throughput units are pre-purchased units of capacity. A single throughput lets you:

  • Ingress: Up to 1 MB per second or 1000 events per second (whichever comes first).
  • Egress: Up to 2 MB per second or 4096 events per second.

Beyond the capacity of the purchased throughput units, ingress is throttled and a ServerBusyException is returned. Egress does not produce throttling exceptions, but is still limited to the capacity of the purchased throughput units. If you receive publishing rate exceptions or are expecting to see higher egress, be sure to check how many throughput units you have purchased for the namespace. You can manage throughput units on the Scale blade of the namespaces in the Azure portal. You can also manage throughput units programmatically using the Event Hubs APIs.

Throughput units are pre-purchased and are billed per hour. Once purchased, throughput units are billed for a minimum of one hour. Up to 20 throughput units can be purchased for an Event Hubs namespace and are shared across all event hubs in that namespace.

The Auto-inflate feature of Event Hubs automatically scales up by increasing the number of throughput units, to meet usage needs. Increasing throughput units prevents throttling scenarios, in which:

  • Data ingress rates exceed set throughput units.
  • Data egress request rates exceed set throughput units.

The Event Hubs service increases the throughput when load increases beyond the minimum threshold, without any requests failing with ServerBusy errors.

For more information about the auto-inflate feature, see Automatically scale throughput units.

Partitions

Event Hub organizes sequences of events into one or more partitions. As newer events arrive, they're added to the end of this sequence. A partition can be thought of as a "commit log."

Partitions hold event data containing the body of the event, a user-defined property bag describing the event, and metadata such as its offset in the partition, its number in the stream sequence, and the service-side timestamp at which it was accepted.

Diagram that displays the older to newer sequence of
events.

Event Hubs is designed to help with processing of large volumes of events, and partitioning helps with that in two ways:

First, even though Event Hubs is a PaaS service, there's a physical reality underneath, and maintaining a log that preserves the order of events requires that these events are being kept together in the underlying storage and its replicas and that results in a throughput ceiling for such a log. Partitioning allows for multiple parallel logs to be used for the same Event Hub and therefore multiplying the available raw IO throughput capacity.

Second, your own applications must be able to keep up with processing the volume of events that are being sent into an Event Hub. It may be complex and requires substantial, scaled-out, parallel processing capacity. The rationale for partitions is the same as above: The capacity of a single process to handle events is limited, and therefore you need several processes, and partitions are how your solution feeds those processes and yet ensures that each event has a clear processing owner.

Event Hubs retains events for a configured retention time that applies across all partitions. Events are automatically removed when the retention period has been reached. If you specify a retention period of one day, the event will become unavailable exactly 24 hours after it has been accepted. You cannot explicitly delete events.

The allowed retention time is up to 7 days for Event Hubs Standard and up to 90 days for Event Hubs Dedicated. If you need to archive events beyond the allowed retention period, you can have them automatically stored in Azure Storage or Azure Data Lake by turning on the Event Hubs Capture feature, and if you need to search or analyze such deep archives, you can easily import them into Azure Synapse or other similar stores and analytics platforms.

The reason for Event Hubs' limit on data retention based on time is to prevent large volumes of historic customer data getting trapped in a deep store that is only indexed by a timestamp and only allows for sequential access. The architectural philosophy here is that historic data needs richer indexing and more direct access than the real-time eventing interface that Event Hubs or Kafka provide. Event stream engines are not well suited to play the role of data lakes or long-term archives for event sourcing.

Because partitions are independent and contain their own sequence of data, they often grow at different rates. In Event Hubs, that is no concern that requires administrative intervention as it would be, for instance, in Apache Kafka, but uneven distribution will lead to uneven load on your downstream event processors.

Event Hubs

The number of partitions is specified at creation and must be between 1 and 32 in Event Hubs Standard. The partition count can be up to 2000 partitions per Capacity Unit in Event Hubs Dedicated.

We recommend that you choose at least as many partitions as you expect to require in sustained throughput units (TU) during the peak load of your application for that particular Event Hub. You should calculate with a single partition having a throughput capacity of 1 TU (1 MByte in, 2 MByte out). You can scale the TUs on your namespace or the capacity units of your cluster independent of the partition count. An Event Hub with 32 partitions or an Event Hub with 1 partition incur the exact same cost when the namespace is set to 1 TU capacity.

Applications control the mapping of events to partitions in one of three ways:

  • By specifying partition key, which is consistently mapped (using a hash function) to one of the available partitions.
  • By not specifying a partition key, which enables to broker to randomly choose a partition for a given event.
  • By explicitly sending events to a specific partition.

Specifying a partition key enables keeping related events together in the same partition and in the exact order in which they were sent. The partition key is some string that is derived from your application context and identifies the interrelationship of the events.

A sequence of events identified by a partition key is a stream. A partition is a multiplexed log store for many such streams.

The partition count for an event hub in a dedicated Event Hubs cluster can be increased after the event hub has been created, but the distribution of streams across partitions will change when it's done as the mapping of partition keys to partitions changes, so you should try hard to avoid such changes if the relative order of events matters in your application.

Setting the number of partitions to the maximum permitted value is tempting, but always keep in mind that your event streams need to be structured such that you can indeed take advantage of multiple partitions. If you need absolute order preservation across all events or only a handful of substreams, you may not be able to take advantage of many partitions. Also, many partitions make the processing side more complex.

While partitions can be sent to directly, it's not recommended. Instead, you can use higher level constructs introduced in the Event publishers section.

For more information about partitions and the trade-off between availability and reliability, see the Event Hubs programming guide and the Availability and consistency in Event Hubs article.

Partition key

You can use a partition key to map incoming event data into specific partitions for the purpose of data organization. The partition key is a sender-supplied value passed into an event hub. It is processed through a static hashing function, which creates the partition assignment. If you don't specify a partition key when publishing an event, a round-robin assignment is used.

The event publisher is only aware of its partition key, not the partition to which the events are published. This decoupling of key and partition insulates the sender from needing to know too much about the downstream processing. A per-device or user unique identity makes a good partition key, but other attributes such as geography can also be used to group related events into a single partition.

Next steps

You can learn more about Event Hubs by visiting the following links: