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Mosquitto_pub/sub: Key Features, Limitations & Its Alternative

Mar 19, 2024
Mosquitto_pub/sub: Key Features, Limitations & Its Alternative

Introduction to Mosquitto_pub/sub

MQTT, a lightweight messaging protocol, is essential in IoT projects for device communication.

The Mosquitto features the mosquitto_pub and mosquitto_sub command-line utilities, designed to enhance MQTT testing and troubleshooting efforts. These tools allow efficient interaction with MQTT topics: mosquitto_pub for publishing messages and mosquitto_sub for subscribing to topics. This streamlined approach facilitates rapid development and debugging of MQTT-based applications.

Download the Mosquitto package, including the MQTT broker and client tools, from the official website: https://mosquitto.org/download/.

Advantages of Mosquitto_pub/sub

  • Essential Functionality for MQTT Testing: Mosquitto_pub/sub offers essential MQTT testing features suitable for various testing scenarios, including subscribing (sub) and publishing (pub) messages.


    mosquitto_sub -h broker.emqx.io -p 1883 -t 'testtopic/#'
    mosquitto_pub -h broker.emqx.io -p 1883 -t 'testtopic/1' -m 'hello'
  • Lightweight and User-Friendly: It is designed as a lightweight tool that is easy to install and start with and caters to rapid development needs.

  • Open Source with Community Support: Hosted on GitHub, benefitting from the vibrant community support inherent to open-source projects.

  • Full MQTT 5.0 Support: Embraces the MQTT 5.0 protocol, including all its latest features.

  • Debugging Mode: Supports for debugging mode aids developers in efficiently diagnosing and resolving issues.

Key Features of Mosquitto_pub/sub

Developed in C/C++, Mosquitto_pub/sub is part of the broader Mosquitto ecosystem and facilitates MQTT messaging with simple publish and subscribe capabilities, which is ideal for IoT projects. Below are some of its key features:

  • Integrated Broker and Client Tools: Mosquitto provides a comprehensive MQTT solution with an integrated broker and client utilities (sub and pub), simplifying the setup and management of MQTT communications.

  • Request-Response Command (mosquitto_rr): In addition to the primary sub and pub, Mosquitto includes mosquitto_rr for MQTT v5/3.1.1. This command utilizes the Request-Response feature for publishing a message and awaiting a response.


    mosquitto_rr -t request-topic -e response-topic -m message

    This client-side functionality enhances MQTT messaging by supporting direct request-response communication patterns, which is valuable for dynamic data exchange and IoT interactions.

  • Advanced TLS Support: Mosquitto_pub/sub extends essential TLS with the mosquitto-tls command for comprehensive SSL/TLS setup, emphasizing secure MQTT communications. It offers detailed guidance on generating and applying SSL certificates for encrypted connections and authentication, highlighting the necessity for unique certificate parameters for CA, servers, and clients to avoid conflicts. Utilizing mosquitto-tls enhances security, making Mosquitto a strong choice for secure MQTT deployments.

  • Enhanced Connection Features in Mosquitto_pub/sub: Mosquitto_pub/sub enriches MQTT communication with advanced networking capabilities.

    • -A bind-address allows specifying network interfaces for targeted traffic flow, enhancing data security and transmission efficiency, as in mosquitto_pub -A
    • -L, --url consolidates connection details into a single URL, streamlining setup processes, shown by mosquitto_sub -L mqtt://...
    • --proxy enables SOCKS5 proxy use, boosting privacy and offering network adaptability, demonstrated with mosquitto_sub --proxy socks5h://...

    These options expand control over MQTT network configurations, simplifying and securing communications.

  • Advanced Messaging Features in Mosquitto_pub/sub: Mosquitto_pub/sub introduces powerful options for message management.

    • --stdin-file | --file (pub) allows publishing from files or stdin, simplifying automation and handling large payloads, as seen in mosquitto_pub --file /path/to/message.txt...
    • --repeat (pub) enables periodic message republishing, which is helpful for regular updates or testing. Mosquitto_pub... -repeat 5 -repeat-delay 10 demonstrates this.
    • --filter-out | --random-filter (sub) offers message filtering based on topics or randomness, enhancing subscription relevance, shown with mosquitto_sub --filter-out 'testtopic/ignore

    These features streamline publishing and subscription, improving MQTT workflow efficiency.

Alongside key functionalities, Mosquitto_pub/sub offers additional options for refined message and subscription management, like handling retained messages, dynamic unsubscribing, enhanced output formatting, and more, enriching its utility for diverse MQTT tasks.

Applicable Scenarios of Mosquitto_pub/sub

Mosquitto_pub/sub is ideal for secure, efficient MQTT messaging, complementing the Mosquitto Broker. It's perfect for IoT security projects, offering TLS support and versatile networking. Beyond device communication, its strength lies in testing and development—facilitating detailed system testing with options like message filtering and automation.

  • Device Testing: Ensuring smart devices reliably publish and receive MQTT messages.
  • System Debugging: Using -repeat and --filter-out for iterative testing and fine-tuning of IoT platforms.

These features make Mosquitto_pub/sub a valuable tool for many MQTT applications, enhancing development processes and system functionality.

Limitation of Mosquitto_pub/sub

Mosquitto_pub/sub is a powerful tool for MQTT messaging but has certain limitations that might affect its use in some scenarios:

  • Feature Set: While it excels at basic publish/subscribe operations, it may lack the breadth of features for more advanced data handling and messaging patterns, such as detailed message filtering or support for multiple data formats beyond introductory text.
  • Bundled Installation: Mosquitto_pub/sub is part of the Mosquitto package, including the broker. This means users looking for a standalone client for testing purposes might inadvertently install the broker component, potentially introducing potentially unnecessary complexity into their setup.
  • Customization and Extensibility: Its customization options are primarily command-line arguments, which might not offer the flexibility needed for highly specialized use cases or integration into more complex systems.

Although Mosquitto_pub/sub is a reliable and lightweight tool that offers strong security features, its limitations imply that it may not be appropriate for users who have advanced requirements or require standalone client functionality. In such cases, users may need to explore other options or utilize workarounds to meet their specific needs.

MQTTX CLI: An Alternative to Mosquitto_pub/sub

MQTTX CLI, the command-line version of MQTTX, is a powerful open-source MQTT 5.0 CLI client tailored for fast development and debugging of MQTT services and applications. It offers a range of commands for publishing, subscribing, benchmarking, debugging mode, and simulating IoT data, establishing itself as a crucial tool for MQTT development.

As a pure client tool, MQTTX CLI doesn't include any MQTT Broker components. It supports native system installations, Docker, Homebrew, and npm, making it easily deployable across various operating systems.

Download it from: https://mqttx.app/downloads.

Advanced Features of MQTTX CLI

MQTTX CLI shares the same advantages with Mosquitto_pub/sub. Besides, it also supports a range of advanced features including:

  • Connect Command: Unlike Mosquitto_pub/sub, which focuses on the primary sub and pub functionalities, MQTTX CLI offers a direct connection command to test connectivity.


    mqttx conn -h 'broker.emqx.io' -p 1883 -u 'admin' -P 'public'

    This specialized command streamlines the process of verifying broker connections, making it a quick and efficient step for developers to ensure their setup is correctly configured before proceeding with further MQTT operations.

  • Configuration Management: MQTTX CLI introduces a powerful feature that supports the import and export of configurations. This feature allows users to save command parameters to a local file for future use.


    mqttx conn --save ../custom/mqttx-cli.json
    mqttx conn --config ../custom/mqttx-cli.json

    This enhances efficiency by enabling quick setup for different environments or projects through reusable configurations. The support for JSON and YAML formats, with a default path for ease of access, makes managing and utilizing multiple configurations straightforward and flexible.

  • Enhanced Output and Logging: MQTTX CLI enhances the user experience with clear, log-style output, providing precise insights into MQTT communications.


    ❯ mqttx sub -h broker.emqx.io -p 1883 -t 'testtopic/#'
    [3/1/2024] [3:59:44 PM] › …  Connecting...
    [3/1/2024] [3:59:45 PM] › ✔  Connected
    [3/1/2024] [3:59:45 PM] › …  Subscribing to testtopic/#...
    [3/1/2024] [3:59:45 PM] › ✔  Subscribed to testtopic/#
    [3/1/2024] [3:59:45 PM] › topic: testtopic/SMH/Yam/Home/GartenLicht/stat/POWER1
    qos: 0
    retain: true
    payload: { "msg": "hello" }

    The detailed and structured logging format simplifies identifying issues and enhances the overall development and debugging experience. This level of detail ensures that developers have all the necessary information at their fingertips, streamlining the troubleshooting process.

  • Benchmarking Tools: MQTTX CLI's connecting, subscribing, and publishing benchmarking tools enable detailed performance analysis directly out of the box.


    mqttx bench pub -h broker.emqx.io -t 'testtopic' -m 'hello' -c 100

    These tools allow for performance optimization by providing insights into the throughput and latency of MQTT operations, which is crucial for fine-tuning system performance.

  • Simulation Features: MQTTX CLI supports advanced simulation for MQTT applications, enabling users to either select from built-in scenarios or define custom scenarios through scripts.

    Example (Using a built-in scenario):

    mqttx simulate -h broker.emqx.io -p 1883 --scenario tesla -c 10

    Example (Using a custom script):

    mqttx simulate -h broker.emqx.io -p 1883 -c 10 --file ./customScenario.js

    It enables comprehensive testing environments by simulating detailed MQTT traffic patterns, which are crucial for assessing application resilience and performance across various scenarios. This helps ensure applications are well-prepared for their intended real-world use.

  • Data Pipeline: MQTTX CLI simplifies the management and pipelining of MQTT data, incorporating features like clean mode and integration with jq for straightforward data processing.

    Example (Extracting payload from an MQTT packet):

    mqttx sub -t topic --output-mode clean | jq '.payload'

    Example (Restructuring data with additional details):

    mqttx sub -t topic --output-mode clean | jq '{topic, payload, retain: .packet.retain, userProperties: .packet.properties.userProperties}'

    These examples demonstrate the ease with which MQTTX CLI, combined with jq and other utilities, can be used to construct efficient pipelines for retrieving and manipulating IoT data. This functionality dramatically aids in quickly and effectively building data pipelines, eliminating the need for complex coding to process MQTT data.

  • Versatile Data Formats: MQTTX CLI supports multiple data formats, including JSON, Hex, Base64, Protobuf, and CBOR, offering flexibility in data handling.


    mqttx sub -h broker.emqx.io -p 1883 -t 'testtopic/json/data' --format json

    This allows versatile data interpretation and manipulation, catering to a wide range of IoT application requirements.

Choosing the Right Tool for Your MQTT Project

In summary:

  • Mosquitto_pub/sub excels in scenarios requiring a lightweight, secure MQTT client and broker integration. Its strength lies in performance and enhanced security features, perfect for comprehensive MQTT solutions.
  • MQTTX CLI offers broader functionalities, focusing on user convenience and advanced configurations. It shines in environments that require diverse data handling and extensive customization.

For basic MQTT client tasks and scenarios that demand more advanced features, MQTTX CLI emerges as the preferable option. It provides a comprehensive and adaptable toolkit for modern IoT development challenges.

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