You have the option of either adding topics manually or having them be created automatically when data is first published to a non-existent topic. If topics are auto-created then you may want to tune the default topic configurations used for auto-created topics.
Topics are added and modified using the topic tool:
> bin/kafka-topics.sh --bootstrap-server broker_host:port --create --topic my_topic_name \ --partitions 20 --replication-factor 3 --config x=y
The replication factor controls how many servers will replicate each message that is written. If you have a replication factor of 3 then up to 2 servers can fail before you will lose access to your data. We recommend you use a replication factor of 2 or 3 so that you can transparently bounce machines without interrupting data consumption.
The partition count controls how many logs the topic will be sharded into. There are several impacts of the partition count. First each partition must fit entirely on a single server. So if you have 20 partitions the full data set (and read and write load) will be handled by no more than 20 servers (not counting replicas). Finally the partition count impacts the maximum parallelism of your consumers. This is discussed in greater detail in the concepts section.
Each sharded partition log is placed into its own folder under the Kafka log directory. The name of such folders consists of the topic name, appended by a dash (-) and the partition id. Since a typical folder name can not be over 255 characters long, there will be a limitation on the length of topic names. We assume the number of partitions will not ever be above 100,000. Therefore, topic names cannot be longer than 249 characters. This leaves just enough room in the folder name for a dash and a potentially 5 digit long partition id.
The configurations added on the command line override the default settings the server has for things like the length of time data should be retained. The complete set of per-topic configurations is documented here.