The greatest compliment you can give an author of a technical book is “This is the book I wish I had when I got started with this subject.” This is the goal we set for ourselves when we started writing this book. We looked back at our experience writing Kafka, running Kafka in production, and helping many companies use Kafka to build software architectures and manage their data pipelines and we asked ourselves, “What are the most useful things we can share with new users to take them from beginner to experts?” This book is a reflection of the work we do every day: run Apache Kafka and help others use it in the best ways.

We included what we believe you need to know in order to successfully run Apache Kafka in production and build robust and performant applications on top of it. We highlighted the popular use cases: message bus for event-driven microservices, stream-processing applications, and large-scale data pipelines. We also focused on making the book general and comprehensive enough so it will be useful to anyone using Kafka, no matter the use case or architecture. We cover practical matters such as how to install and configure Kafka and how to use the Kafka APIs, and we also dedicated space to Kafka’s design principles and reliability guarantees, and explore several of Kafka’s delightful architecture details: the replication protocol, controller, and storage layer. We believe that knowledge of Kafka’s design and internals is not only a fun read for those interested in distributed systems, but it is also incredibly useful for those who are seeking to make informed decisions when they deploy Kafka in production and design applications that use Kafka. The better you understand how Kafka works, the more you can make informed decisions regarding the many trade-offs that are involved in engineering.

One of the problems in software engineering is that there is always more than one way to do anything. Platforms such as Apache Kafka provide plenty of flexibility, which is great for experts but makes for a steep learning curve for beginners. Very often, Apache Kafka tells you how to use a feature but not why you should or shouldn’t use it. Whenever possible, we try to clarify the existing choices, the tradeoffs involved, and when you should and shouldn’t use the different options presented by Apache Kafka.

Who Should Read This Book

Kafka: The Definitive Guide was written for software engineers who develop applications that use Kafka’s APIs and for production engineers (also called SREs, devops, or sysadmins) who install, configure, tune, and monitor Kafka in production. We also wrote the book with data architects and data engineers in mind—those responsible for designing and building an organization’s entire data infrastructure. Some of the chapters, especially chapters 3, 4, and 11 are geared toward Java developers. Those chapters assume that the reader is familiar with the basics of the Java programming language, including topics such as exception handling and concurrency. Other chapters, especially chapters 2, 8, 9, and 10, assume the reader has some experience running Linux and some familiarity with storage and network configuration in Linux. The rest of the book discusses Kafka and software architectures in more general terms and does not assume special knowledge.

Another category of people who may find this book interesting are the managers and architects who don’t work directly with Kafka but work with the people who do. It is just as important that they understand the guarantees that Kafka provides and the trade-offs that their employees and coworkers will need to make while building Kafka-based systems. The book can provide ammunition to managers who would like to get their staff trained in Apache Kafka or ensure that their teams know what they need to know.

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We would like to thank the many contributors to Apache Kafka and its ecosystem. Without their work, this book would not exist. Special thanks to Jay Kreps, Neha Narkhede, and Jun Rao, as well as their colleagues and the leadership at LinkedIn, for cocreating Kafka and contributing it to the Apache Software Foundation.

Many people provided valuable feedback on early versions of the book and we appreciate their time and expertise: Apurva Mehta, Arseniy Tashoyan, Dylan Scott, Ewen Cheslack-Postava, Grant Henke, Ismael Juma, James Cheng, Jason Gustafson, Jeff Holoman, Joel Koshy, Jonathan Seidman, Matthias Sax, Michael Noll, Paolo Castagna, and Jesse Anderson. We also want to thank the many readers who left comments and feedback via the rough-cuts feedback site.

Many reviewers helped us out and greatly improved the quality of this book, so any mistakes left are our own.

We’d like to thank our O’Reilly editor Shannon Cutt for her encouragement and patience, and for being far more on top of things than we were. Working with O’Reilly is a great experience for an author—the support they provide, from tools to book signings is unparallel. We are grateful to everyone involved in making this happen and we appreciate their choice to work with us.

And we’d like to thank our managers and colleagues for enabling and encouraging us while writing the book.

Gwen wants to thank her husband, Omer Shapira, for his support and patience during the many months spent writing yet another book; her cats, Luke and Lea for being cuddly; and her dad, Lior Shapira, for teaching her to always say yes to opportunities, even when it seems daunting.

Todd would be nowhere without his wife, Marcy, and daughters, Bella and Kaylee, behind him all the way. Their support for all the extra time writing, and long hours running to clear his head, keeps him going.

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