Storage queues and Service Bus queues - compared and contrasted

This article analyzes the differences and similarities between the two types of queues offered by Microsoft Azure today: Storage queues and Service Bus queues. By using this information, you can compare and contrast the respective technologies and be able to make a more informed decision about which solution best meets your needs.


Azure supports two types of queue mechanisms: Storage queues and Service Bus queues.

Storage queues, which are part of the Azure storage infrastructure, feature a simple REST-based Get/Put/Peek interface, providing reliable, persistent messaging within and between services.

Service Bus queues are part of a broader Azure messaging infrastructure that supports queuing as well as publish/subscribe, and more advanced integration patterns. For more information about Service Bus queues/topics/subscriptions, see the overview of Service Bus.

While both queuing technologies exist concurrently, Storage queues were introduced first, as a dedicated queue storage mechanism built on top of Azure Storage services. Service Bus queues are built on top of the broader "messaging" infrastructure designed to integrate applications or application components that may span multiple communication protocols, data contracts, trust domains, and/or network environments.

Technology selection considerations

Both Storage queues and Service Bus queues are implementations of the message queuing service currently offered on Microsoft Azure. Each has a slightly different feature set, which means you can choose one or the other, or use both, depending on the needs of your particular solution or business/technical problem you are solving.

When determining which queuing technology fits the purpose for a given solution, solution architects and developers should consider the recommendations below. For more details, see the next section.

As a solution architect/developer, you should consider using Storage queues when:

  • Your application must store over 80 GB of messages in a queue, where the messages have a lifetime shorter than 7 days.
  • Your application wants to track progress for processing a message inside of the queue. This is useful if the worker processing a message crashes. A subsequent worker can then use that information to continue from where the prior worker left off.
  • You require server side logs of all of the transactions executed against your queues.

As a solution architect/developer, you should consider using Service Bus queues when:

  • Your solution must be able to receive messages without having to poll the queue. With Service Bus, this can be achieved through the use of the long-polling receive operation using the TCP-based protocols that Service Bus supports.
  • Your solution requires the queue to provide a guaranteed first-in-first-out (FIFO) ordered delivery.
  • You want a symmetric experience in Azure and on Windows Server (private cloud). For more information, see Service Bus for Windows Server.
  • Your solution must be able to support automatic duplicate detection.
  • You want your application to process messages as parallel long-running streams (messages are associated with a stream using the SessionId property on the message). In this model, each node in the consuming application competes for streams, as opposed to messages. When a stream is given to a consuming node, the node can examine the state of the application stream state using transactions.
  • Your solution requires transactional behavior and atomicity when sending or receiving multiple messages from a queue.
  • The time-to-live (TTL) characteristic of the application-specific workload can exceed the 7-day period.
  • Your application handles messages that can exceed 64 KB but will not likely approach the 256 KB limit.
  • You deal with a requirement to provide a role-based access model to the queues, and different rights/permissions for senders and receivers.
  • Your queue size will not grow larger than 80 GB.
  • You want to use the AMQP 1.0 standards-based messaging protocol. For more information about AMQP, see Service Bus AMQP Overview.
  • You can envision an eventual migration from queue-based point-to-point communication to a message exchange pattern that enables seamless integration of additional receivers (subscribers), each of which receives independent copies of either some or all messages sent to the queue. The latter refers to the publish/subscribe capability natively provided by Service Bus.
  • Your messaging solution must be able to support the "At-Most-Once" delivery guarantee without the need for you to build the additional infrastructure components.
  • You would like to be able to publish and consume batches of messages.

Comparing Storage queues and Service Bus queues

The tables in the following sections provide a logical grouping of queue features and let you compare, at a glance, the capabilities available in both Storage queues and Service Bus queues.

Foundational capabilities

This section compares some of the fundamental queuing capabilities provided by Storage queues and Service Bus queues.

Comparison Criteria Storage queues Service Bus Queues
Ordering guarantee No

For more information, see the first note in the “Additional Information” section.
Yes - First-In-First-Out (FIFO)

(through the use of messaging sessions)
Delivery guarantee At-Least-Once At-Least-Once

Atomic operation support No Yes

Receive behavior Non-blocking

(completes immediately if no new message is found)
Blocking with/without timeout

(offers long polling, or the "Comet technique")


(through the use of .NET managed API only)
Push-style API No Yes

OnMessage and OnMessage sessions .NET API.
Receive mode Peek & Lease Peek & Lock

Receive & Delete
Exclusive access mode Lease-based Lock-based
Lease/Lock duration 30 seconds (default)

7 days (maximum) (You can renew or release a message lease using the UpdateMessage API.)
60 seconds (default)

You can renew a message lock using the RenewLock API.
Lease/Lock precision Message level

(each message can have a different timeout value, which you can then update as needed while processing the message, by using the UpdateMessage API)
Queue level

(each queue has a lock precision applied to all of its messages, but you can renew the lock using the RenewLock API.)
Batched receive Yes

(explicitly specifying message count when retrieving messages, up to a maximum of 32 messages)

(implicitly enabling a pre-fetch property or explicitly through the use of transactions)
Batched send No Yes

(through the use of transactions or client-side batching)

Additional information

  • Messages in Storage queues are typically first-in-first-out, but sometimes they can be out of order; for example, when a message's visibility timeout duration expires (for example, as a result of a client application crashing during processing). When the visibility timeout expires, the message becomes visible again on the queue for another worker to dequeue it. At that point, the newly visible message might be placed in the queue (to be dequeued again) after a message that was originally enqueued after it.
  • The guaranteed FIFO pattern in Service Bus queues requires the use of messaging sessions. In the event that the application crashes while processing a message received in the Peek & Lock mode, the next time a queue receiver accepts a messaging session, it will start with the failed message after its time-to-live (TTL) period expires.
  • Storage queues are designed to support standard queuing scenarios, such as decoupling application components to increase scalability and tolerance for failures, load leveling, and building process workflows.
  • Service Bus queues support the At-Least-Once delivery guarantee. In addition, the At-Most-Once semantic can be supported by using session state to store the application state and by using transactions to atomically receive messages and update the session state.
  • Storage queues provide a uniform and consistent programming model across queues, tables, and BLOBs – both for developers and for operations teams.
  • Service Bus queues provide support for local transactions in the context of a single queue.
  • The Receive and Delete mode supported by Service Bus provides the ability to reduce the messaging operation count (and associated cost) in exchange for lowered delivery assurance.
  • Storage queues provide leases with the ability to extend the leases for messages. This allows the workers to maintain short leases on messages. Thus, if a worker crashes, the message can be quickly processed again by another worker. In addition, a worker can extend the lease on a message if it needs to process it longer than the current lease time.
  • Storage queues offer a visibility timeout that you can set upon the enqueueing or dequeuing of a message. In addition, you can update a message with different lease values at run-time, and update different values across messages in the same queue. Service Bus lock timeouts are defined in the queue metadata; however, you can renew the lock by calling the RenewLock method.
  • The maximum timeout for a blocking receive operation in Service Bus queues is 24 days. However, REST-based timeouts have a maximum value of 55 seconds.
  • Client-side batching provided by Service Bus enables a queue client to batch multiple messages into a single send operation. Batching is only available for asynchronous send operations.
  • Features such as the 200 TB ceiling of Storage queues (more when you virtualize accounts) and unlimited queues make it an ideal platform for SaaS providers.
  • Storage queues provide a flexible and performant delegated access control mechanism.

Advanced capabilities

This section compares advanced capabilities provided by Storage queues and Service Bus queues.

Comparison Criteria Storage queues Service Bus Queues
Scheduled delivery Yes Yes
Automatic dead lettering No Yes
Increasing queue time-to-live value Yes

(via in-place update of visibility timeout)

(provided via a dedicated API function)
Poison message support Yes Yes
In-place update Yes Yes
Server-side transaction log Yes No
Storage metrics Yes

Minute Metrics: provides real-time metrics for availability, TPS, API call counts, error counts, and more, all in real time (aggregated per minute and reported within a few minutes from what just happened in production. For more information, see About Storage Analytics Metrics.

(bulk queries by calling GetQueues)
State management No Yes

Microsoft.ServiceBus.Messaging.EntityStatus.Active, Microsoft.ServiceBus.Messaging.EntityStatus.Disabled, Microsoft.ServiceBus.Messaging.EntityStatus.SendDisabled, Microsoft.ServiceBus.Messaging.EntityStatus.ReceiveDisabled
Message auto-forwarding No Yes
Purge queue function Yes No
Message groups No Yes

(through the use of messaging sessions)
Application state per message group No Yes
Duplicate detection No Yes

(configurable on the sender side)
Browsing message groups No Yes
Fetching message sessions by ID No Yes

Additional information

  • Both queuing technologies enable a message to be scheduled for delivery at a later time.
  • Queue auto-forwarding enables thousands of queues to auto-forward their messages to a single queue, from which the receiving application consumes the message. You can use this mechanism to achieve security, control flow, and isolate storage between each message publisher.
  • Storage queues provide support for updating message content. You can use this functionality for persisting state information and incremental progress updates into the message so that it can be processed from the last known checkpoint, instead of starting from scratch. With Service Bus queues, you can enable the same scenario through the use of message sessions. Sessions enable you to save and retrieve the application processing state (by using SetState and GetState).
  • Dead lettering, which is only supported by Service Bus queues, can be useful for isolating messages that cannot be processed successfully by the receiving application or when messages cannot reach their destination due to an expired time-to-live (TTL) property. The TTL value specifies how long a message remains in the queue. With Service Bus, the message will be moved to a special queue called $DeadLetterQueue when the TTL period expires.
  • To find "poison" messages in Storage queues, when dequeuing a message the application examines the DequeueCount property of the message. If DequeueCount is greater than a given threshold, the application moves the message to an application-defined "dead letter" queue.
  • Storage queues enable you to obtain a detailed log of all of the transactions executed against the queue, as well as aggregated metrics. Both of these options are useful for debugging and understanding how your application uses Storage queues. They are also useful for performance-tuning your application and reducing the costs of using queues.
  • The concept of "message sessions" supported by Service Bus enables messages that belong to a certain logical group to be associated with a given receiver, which in turn creates a session-like affinity between messages and their respective receivers. You can enable this advanced functionality in Service Bus by setting the SessionID property on a message. Receivers can then listen on a specific session ID and receive messages that share the specified session identifier.
  • The duplication detection functionality supported by Service Bus queues automatically removes duplicate messages sent to a queue or topic, based on the value of the MessageId property.

Capacity and quotas

This section compares Storage queues and Service Bus queues from the perspective of capacity and quotas that may apply.

Comparison Criteria Storage queues Service Bus Queues
Maximum queue size 500 TB

(limited to a single storage account capacity)
1 GB to 80 GB

(defined upon creation of a queue and enabling partitioning – see the “Additional Information” section)
Maximum message size 64 KB

(48 KB when using Base64 encoding)

Azure supports large messages by combining queues and blobs – at which point you can enqueue up to 200GB for a single item.
256 KB or 1 MB

(including both header and body, maximum header size: 64 KB).

Depends on the service tier.
Maximum message TTL 7 days TimeSpan.Max
Maximum number of queues Unlimited 10,000

(per service namespace, can be increased)
Maximum number of concurrent clients Unlimited Unlimited

(100 concurrent connection limit only applies to TCP protocol-based communication)

Additional information

  • Service Bus enforces queue size limits. The maximum queue size is specified upon creation of the queue and can have a value between 1 and 80 GB. If the queue size value set on creation of the queue is reached, additional incoming messages will be rejected and an exception will be received by the calling code. For more information about quotas in Service Bus, see Service Bus Quotas.
  • In the Standard tier, you can create Service Bus queues in 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 GB sizes (the default is 1 GB). In the Premium tier, you can create queues up to 80 GB in size. In Standard tier, with partitioning enabled (which is the default), Service Bus creates 16 partitions for each GB you specify. As such, if you create a queue that is 5 GB in size, with 16 partitions the maximum queue size becomes (5 * 16) = 80 GB. You can see the maximum size of your partitioned queue or topic by looking at its entry on the Azure portal. In the Premium tier, only 2 partitions are created per queue.
  • With Storage queues, if the content of the message is not XML-safe, then it must be Base64 encoded. If you Base64-encode the message, the user payload can be up to 48 KB, instead of 64 KB.
  • With Service Bus queues, each message stored in a queue is composed of two parts: a header and a body. The total size of the message cannot exceed the maximum message size supported by the service tier.
  • When clients communicate with Service Bus queues over the TCP protocol, the maximum number of concurrent connections to a single Service Bus queue is limited to 100. This number is shared between senders and receivers. If this quota is reached, subsequent requests for additional connections will be rejected and an exception will be received by the calling code. This limit is not imposed on clients connecting to the queues using REST-based API.
  • If you require more than 10,000 queues in a single Service Bus namespace, you can contact the Azure support team and request an increase. To scale beyond 10,000 queues with Service Bus, you can also create additional namespaces using the Azure portal.

Management and operations

This section compares the management features provided by Storage queues and Service Bus queues.

Comparison Criteria Storage queues Service Bus queues
Management protocol REST over HTTP/HTTPS REST over HTTPS
Runtime protocol REST over HTTP/HTTPS REST over HTTPS

AMQP 1.0 Standard (TCP with TLS)

(.NET Storage Client API)

(.NET Service Bus API)
Native C++ Yes Yes
Java API Yes Yes
Node.js API Yes Yes
Arbitrary metadata support Yes No
Queue naming rules Up to 63 characters long

(Letters in a queue name must be lowercase.)
Up to 260 characters long

(Queue paths and names are case-insensitive.)
Get queue length function Yes

(Approximate value if messages expire beyond the TTL without being deleted.)

(Exact, point-in-time value.)
Peek function Yes Yes

Additional information

  • Storage queues provide support for arbitrary attributes that can be applied to the queue description, in the form of name/value pairs.
  • Both queue technologies offer the ability to peek a message without having to lock it, which can be useful when implementing a queue explorer/browser tool.
  • The Service Bus .NET brokered messaging APIs leverage full-duplex TCP connections for improved performance when compared to REST over HTTP, and they support the AMQP 1.0 standard protocol.
  • Names of Storage queues can be 3-63 characters long, can contain lowercase letters, numbers, and hyphens. For more information, see Naming Queues and Metadata.
  • Service Bus queue names can be up to 260 characters long and have less restrictive naming rules. Service Bus queue names can contain letters, numbers, periods, hyphens, and underscores.

Authentication and authorization

This section discusses the authentication and authorization features supported by Storage queues and Service Bus queues.

Comparison Criteria Storage queues Service Bus Queues
Authentication Symmetric key Symmetric key
Security model Delegated access via SAS tokens. SAS
Identity provider federation No Yes

Additional information

  • Every request to either of the queuing technologies must be authenticated. Public queues with anonymous access are not supported. Using SAS, you can address this scenario by publishing a write-only SAS, read-only SAS, or even a full-access SAS.
  • The authentication scheme provided by Storage queues involves the use of a symmetric key, which is a hash-based Message Authentication Code (HMAC), computed with the SHA-256 algorithm and encoded as a Base64 string. For more information about the respective protocol, see Authentication for the Azure Storage Services. Service Bus queues support a similar model using symmetric keys. For more information, see Shared Access Signature Authentication with Service Bus.


By gaining a deeper understanding of the two technologies, you will be able to make a more informed decision on which queue technology to use, and when. The decision on when to use Storage queues or Service Bus queues clearly depends on a number of factors. These factors may depend heavily on the individual needs of your application and its architecture. If your application already uses the core capabilities of Microsoft Azure, you may prefer to choose Storage queues, especially if you require basic communication and messaging between services or need queues that can be larger than 80 GB in size.

Because Service Bus queues provide a number of advanced features, such as sessions, transactions, duplicate detection, automatic dead-lettering, and durable publish/subscribe capabilities, they may be a preferred choice if you are building a hybrid application or if your application otherwise requires these features.

Next steps

The following articles provide more guidance and information about using Storage queues or Service Bus queues.