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What is Apache Kafka®?

Apache Kafka is an open-source distributed streaming system used for stream processing, real-time data pipelines, and data integration at scale. Originally created to handle real-time data feeds at LinkedIn in 2011, Kafka quickly evolved from messaging queue to a full-fledged event streaming platform capable of handling over 1 million messages per second, or trillions of messages per day.

Founded by the original creators of Apache Kafka comes Confluent, hosting the most comprehensive Kafka tutorials, training, services, and support, as well as fully managed, cloud-native data streaming services built for any cloud, on at scale.

Why Kafka?

Kafka has numerous advantages. Today, Kafka is used by over 80% of the Fortune 100 across virtually every industry, for countless use cases big and small. It is the de facto technology developers and architects use to build the newest generation of scalable, real-time data streaming applications. While these can be achieved with a range of technologies available in the market, below are the main reasons Kafka is so popular.

High Throughput

Capable of handling high-velocity and high-volume data, Kafka can handle millions of messages per second.

High Scalability

Scale Kafka clusters up to a thousand brokers, trillions of messages per day, petabytes of data, hundreds of thousands of partitions. Elastically expand and contract storage and processing.

Low Latency

Can deliver these high volume of messages using a cluster of machines with latencies as low as 2ms

Permanent Storage

Safely, securely store streams of data in a distributed, durable, reliable, fault-tolerant cluster

High Availability

Extend clusters efficiently over availability zones or connect clusters across geographic regions, making Kafka highly available and fault tolerant with no risk of data loss.

How Kafka Works

Apache Kafka consists of a storage layer and a compute layer that combines efficient, real-time data ingestion, streaming data pipelines, and storage across distributed systems. In short, this enables simplified, data streaming between Kafka and external systems, so you can easily manage real-time data and scale within any type of infrastructure.

Real-Time Processing at Scale

An data streaming platform would not be complete without the ability to process and analyze data as soon as it's generated. The Kafka Streams API is a powerful, lightweight library that allows for on-the-fly processing, letting you aggregate, create windowing parameters, perform joins of data within a stream, and more. Perhaps best of all, it is built as a Java application on top of Kafka, keeping your workflow intact with no extra clusters to maintain.

Durable, Persistent Storage

An abstraction of a distributed commit log commonly found in distributed databases, Apache Kafka provides durable storage. Kafka can act as a 'source of truth', being able to distribute data across multiple nodes for a highly available deployment within a single data center or across multiple availability zones.

Publish + Subscribe

At its heart lies the humble, immutable commit log, and from there you can subscribe to it, and publish data to any number of systems or real-time applications. Unlike messaging queues, Kafka is a highly scalable, fault tolerant distributed system, allowing it to be deployed for applications like managing passenger and driver matching at Uber, providing real-time analytics and predictive maintenance for British Gas' smart home, and performing numerous real-time services across all of LinkedIn. This unique performance makes it perfect to scale from one app to company-wide use.

What is Kafka Used For?

Commonly used to build real-time streaming data pipelines and real-time streaming applications, today, there are hundreds of Kafka use cases. Any company that relies on, or works with data can find numerous benefits.

Data Pipelines

In the context of Apache Kafka, a streaming data pipeline means ingesting the data from sources into Kafka as it's created and then streaming that data from Kafka to one or more targets.

Stream Processing

Stream processing includes operations like filters, joins, maps, aggregations, and other transformations which enterprises leverage to power many use-cases. Kafka Streams is a stream processing library built for Apache Kafka enabling enterprises to process data in real-time.Learn more

Streaming Analytics

Kafka provides high throughput event delivery, and when combined with open-source technologies such as Druid can form a powerful Streaming Analytics Manager (SAM). Druid consumes streaming data from Kafka to enable analytical queries. Events are first loaded in Kafka, where they are buffered in Kafka brokers before they are consumed by Druid real-time workers.

Streaming ETL

Real-time ETL with Kafka combines different components and features such as Kafka Connect source and sink connectors to consume and produce data from/to any other database, application, or API, Single Message Transform (SMT) – an optional Kafka Connect feature, Kafka Streams for continuous data processing in real-time at scale.

Event-Driven Microservices

Apache Kafka is the most popular tool for microservices because it solves many of the issues of microservices orchestration while enabling attributes that microservices aim to achieve, such as scalability, efficiency, and speed. It also facilitates inter-service communication while preserving ultra-low latency and fault tolerance.

Apache Kafka in Action

Who Uses Kafka?

Airbnb logo
Goldman Sachs
New York Times

To Maximize Kafka, You Need Confluent

Founded by the original developers of Kafka, Confluent delivers the most complete distribution of Kafka with Confluent, improving Kafka with additional community and commercial features designed to enhance the streaming experience of both operators and developers in production, at massive scale.

You love Apache Kafka®, but not managing it. Confluent's cloud-native, complete, and fully managed service goes above & beyond Kafka so your best people can focus on what they do best - delivering value to your business.

Cloud Kafka


We’ve re-engineered Kafka to provide a best-in-class cloud experience, for any scale, without the operational overhead of infrastructure management. Confluent offers the only truly cloud-native experience for Kafka—delivering the serverless, elastic, cost-effective, highly available, and self-serve experience that developers expect.

Complete Kafka


Creating and maintaining real-time applications requires more than just open source software and access to scalable cloud infrastructure. Confluent makes Kafka enterprise ready and provides customers with the complete set of tools they need to build apps quickly, reliably, and securely. Our fully managed features come ready out of the box, for every use case from POC to production.

Kafka Everywhere


Distributed, complex data architectures can deliver the scale, reliability, and performance that unlocks use cases previously unthinkable, but they're incredibly complex to run. Confluent's complete, multi-cloud data streaming platform makes it easy to get data in and out of Kafka Connect, manage the structure of data using Confluent Schema Registry, and process it in real time using ksqlDB. Confluent meets our customers everywhere they need to be — powering and uniting real-time data across regions, clouds, and on-premises environments.

Get Started in Minutes

By integrating historical and real-time data into a single source of truth, Confluent makes it easy to build an entirely new category of modern, event-driven applications, gain a universal data pipeline, and unlock powerful new use cases with full scalability, security, and performance.

Try free with $400 in free credits to spend during your first four months.