Hardware cuts messaging latency

SolaceSystems is one relatively new company specialising in messaging middleware and content networking hardware. Solace equipment is being used as the foundation...

SolaceSystems is one relatively new company specialising in messaging middleware and content networking hardware. Solace equipment is being used as the foundation of Barclays Capital's new, enterprise-wide high-speed messaging platform.

The hardware from Solace works as an accelerator to speed up message processing. Pat Payton, managing director and head of IBD, sales, research and core services IT at Barclays Capital, says: "By embedding the messaging middleware in hardware, Solace is allowing us to better compete in the next decade with a fully flexible, state-of-the-art infrastructure."

Why is hardware acceleration so important? According to Solace Systems, if 10 traders are interested in IBM's share price, a unique IBM quote will be sent separately to each trader. This represents a fan-out of 10. Doing this in software is very slow. Instead, SolaceSystems does all of its TCP processing in hardware, using a massively parallel architecture, which it says is quick enough to support the low-latency, high-volume environments required on trading desks.

Maureen Fleming, program director, business process management and middleware at IDC, says: "Messaging appliances promise to improve both the cost-performance ratio and manageability of messaging and are an important next step in the evolution of this mission critical technology."

Tervela is another company making a purpose-built, hardware-accelerated messaging device, with its TMX Message Switch.

Tervela has partnered with Arista Networks, a provider of low-latency, 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) and cloud networking services to offer high-speed messaging as a cloud-based service.

The pair provide a unified communications platform which they claim is not only capable of responding to the need for high-performance messaging in modern financial applications, but also facilitates a set of infrastructure-based services to address the unique challenges of the financial services sector.

SolaceSystems and Tervla have now been joined by IBM and Tibco. In November 2008 IBM unveiled its hardware product, WebSphere DataPower Low Latency Appliance XM70. IBM says the XM70 delivers predictive, low-latency messaging and routing for data distribution using a purpose-built, hardware appliance. According to IBM, the appliance provides network-based, low-latency multicast and unicast messaging, protocol bridging, and dynamic content-based routing in a security-enhanced appliance to help address problems such as unpredictable performance, scaling issues required to meet increasing message and feed volumes, and overall management complexity.

The messaging acceleration technology has begun to catch the attention of major IT suppliers. This month, Tibco has introduced its messaging middeware appliance, which provides messaging that runs within dedicated hardware chips (ASIC and FPGA), without the need for the microprocessor traditionally used in appliance hardware.

Tibco has taken the technology from SolaceSystems to build its own Messaging Appliance P-7500. Tibco says the appliance tackles messaging latency problems by implementing Tibco messaging in hardware, which it claims lowers latency, improves predictability and increases throughput. Tibco says the appliance offers a ten-times increase in messaging volume compared to current software-only approaches and reduces latency by 50%. Tom Laffey, executive vice-president, products and technology at Tibco, says: "Data-intensive industries - financial services, telecommunications, manufacturing, government and major online commerce companies - need lower latency and increased throughput at lower costs."

Unfortunately for Tibco, the economic downturn has meant such high-speed messaging appliances are less of a priority for financial institutes. Tibco is now looking at offering the product to telcos, where high-speed, low-latency messaging can be deployed to provide real-time services such as finding a nearby restaurant, or at passport control, where an immigration officer needs to check a passenger quickly.

As more applications are built, the industry has recognised that different messaging systems will need to exchange messages efficiently. The Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP) has been set up to work with suppliers of middeware software and appliances to make them interoperable.

Messaging acceration hardware is very much at an early stage of deployment. While the financial sector is an obvious user of high-speed, low-latency messaging middleware appliances, telecommunications is the other big beneficiary.

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