Microservices Expo Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Matt Brickey, Christoph Schell

Related Topics: Microservices Expo

Microservices Expo: Article

Deploy Web Services - Double Your Servers?

XML processing hardware in the enterprise data center

The recent explosive growth of transactional information and applications over the Web has led to a very real concern for IT managers - how to address the processing bottleneck in Web and application servers. For service-oriented architectures (SOAs) that use XML to bridge the transfer of information across disparate technologies, this processing bottleneck may hinder the deployment and adoption of XML standards and Web services.

The fundamental basis for Web services starts at the lowest level, standardization of protocols and data formats. The XML standard is the chosen data standard for many good reasons including being human readable, hierarchical, and extensible, but because of it's verbosity it is inefficient for machine-to-machine interaction. In many cases, the computer resources needed to process XML datasets in an enterprise can consume as much as 80% of the available host CPU cycles. As the amount of XML traffic increases so does the demand on the available CPU processing capability. Some models project that IT departments may have to double the number of application servers because of the impact of XML/XSLT processing. Today, IT managers are faced with a difficult choice, to delay or slow the development of Web services or spend scarce IT capital dollars to increase the number of application or Web servers in the data center.

An alternative solution is to integrate specialized hardware platforms in the datacenter to offload the XML processing necessary to keep up with demand. While this approach offers an immediate benefit in terms of performance, it is imperative that the solutions considered satisfy the strict requirements for datacenter systems. These include specific requirements for ease of integration, scalability, robustness, and remote management. Once these requirements are addressed, the price and performance advantages of true hardware-based platforms can be realized.

Performance, Performance, Performance
Custom XML processing devices allow the separation of XML data processing from the business logic on application servers. It is anticipated that devices on the market in 2004 will accelerate the processing of XML up to 20x that of standard general purpose server devices.

Although traditional Intel-based server architectures can be used to address this problem (when combined with software algorithms for XML processing), this approach will not offer the performance density and price performance of an XML hardware device that includes XML-specific processors.

Purpose-built, XML hardware platforms achieve the highest levels of performance by combining a full range of technologies including:

  • Parallel processing hardware and the associated software compiler technology to exploit it. This hardware could involve multiprocessors that independently parse, validate, and transform (parallel processing engines); the support of multiple threads; the creation of highly efficiently parse data structures, and the ability to couple the parse to portions of the transformation stylesheet to exploit the parallelism of the template match patterns and Spath expressions.
  • Caching of static documents and instructions and structures for fast retrieval.
  • Segmented functional units in a highly pipelined network architecture to extract, process, and distribute data to achieve maximum performance (such as SSL, TCP offload).
It is anticipated that devices built on such an architecture will offer XML/XSLT processing at more than 1Gbps throughput in 2004. An example of the data processing flow in such a device is shown in Figure 1.


Act Like an Enterprise System
Performance is not the only criteria in delivering enterprise-class Web services acceleration platforms. Enterprise datacenters demand adherence to standards, seamless integration into the existing environment, ease of deployment and management, and the highest availability.

Ease of Integration and Deployment
Integration with standard Web services, data from databases, and data from other applications that run on other platforms are all critical in today's data center environment. This integration is best done using standard APIs that are being supported in the marketplace. Hardware-based platforms will be required to interface to these APIs and provide key features and functions to take advantage of the price performance advantages offered by hardware that includes configurable parsing, validation with schemas or DTDs, and transformation using XSLTs. All functions should be available using standard APIs.

Configurations for applications residing on the hardware-based platform interface through standard APIs such as the Java API for XML Processing (JAXP) that allows applications to parse and transform XML documents using an API that is independent of any particular XML processor implementation.

Another integration approach in the enterprise environment is via the proxy mode. The processing of the data is initiated when a message is sent over the network via a messaging service such as SOAP over HTTP.

Control and Management
The deployment of "black box" machines within a data center is a daunting task to a network administrator who must maintain, manage, and configure each device to ensure high availability during periods of peak processing. The reality is that a specialized hardware platform must provide the network administrator with the means to remotely monitor and configure any system within the datacenter. This network management port should be a secure and nonintrusive entry used to retrieve log files, error reports, usage modes, and statistical analysis. A management information base (MIB) is required and available over SNMP so that network administrators can monitor and manage the device to check for statistics such as bytes sent/received, fragment packets, dropped packets, and other statistical information.

As a high-availability, high-performance platform, the XML hardware device should provide the highest levels of robustness possible. The data path, Web services, and documents being processed should therefore be kept separate from the control path, configuration information, monitoring processes, and device logging.

The separate data path and management ports should include:

  • Non-intrusive secure management port to retrieve log files, error reports, statistical analysis, etc.
  • Separate processor subsystems for data and control paths
  • Encryption support for both paths
In addition to being able to observe system behavior, error logging, and even predictive error heuristics, the system should be able to operate with transitory faults or even with failing hardware with degraded, but reasonable performance. Important hardware system attributes here include:
  • ECC protected memory for detecting and correcting errors
  • Fail-over mechanisms to detect when a memory module(s) fails with an ability to redirect data to another memory module and run with limited number memory banks
  • Redundant architecture that upon failure allows de-rated performance and/or fail-over mechanism to redirect the data to another network port to keep processing data
  • Software monitor to determine health of server and report or alert of hard failures and soft failure trends that suggest impending hard failures
A well-architected, hardware-based XML processing device must offer the flexibility of deployment required by the APIs established in the industry, and it must provide all the expected quality of service and reliability features of high-end server systems. These features and qualities enable enterprise adoption and integration that fulfills the promise and potential of high-performance, low-cost Web services and XML message processing.

Conformative Systems <CSXi>
Conformative Systems' <CSXi> server appliance is one example of a hardware-based processing device specifically designed to process XML transactions. Each appliance can deliver the throughput of up to 20x that of equivalent of software-based solutions running on general-purpose servers. Custom ASICs and parallel processing technologies built into the appliance perform the parsing, validation and data transformation on all XML data at greater than wire speeds. Each Conformative Systems CSXi server appliance is built on a fully redundant architecture offering the highest single-device availability for business-critical enterprise applications.

More Stories By John Derrick

John Derrick is currently CEO of turnkey cloud provider Jelastic. He has extensive business leadership experience in the private and public cloud, big data, database, and enterprise markets. John focuses on the intersection of these markets, technology and teams to deliver solutions that really work for people. He has delivered product and profit at IBM, Chicory Systems, Conformative Systems, Intel, MIPS, and now Jelastic. Between these companies he has led and advised about 50 different startups and public companies.

John can be reached at [email protected]

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

Most Recent Comments
David 03/09/04 02:17:09 PM EST

Sounds like a marketing pitch than any technical. A lot of XML processing is involved in going into and out of databases, between components inside a network, as well as for true Internet-based applications. People always grumble that SSL is too slow, HTTP is inefficient, XML is verbose, Java isn''t compiled, SQL is too slow, etc.

In the end, processor speeds increase all the time, transaction volumes tend to grow over time, and your specialized hardware will need updates as new XML capabilities come online in short order, so any hardware that''s not just running software will likely suffer. Standards like SOAP, XML DSig/Encryption, XPath, etc. are all rather new and therefore interoperability tests often point out issues that need patches. Patching a hardware XML processor will not be the same as downloading the lastest version of Xerces, for example.

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
"DivvyCloud as a company set out to help customers automate solutions to the most common cloud problems," noted Jeremy Snyder, VP of Business Development at DivvyCloud, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
There is a huge demand for responsive, real-time mobile and web experiences, but current architectural patterns do not easily accommodate applications that respond to events in real time. Common solutions using message queues or HTTP long-polling quickly lead to resiliency, scalability and development velocity challenges. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ryland Degnan, a Senior Software Engineer on the Netflix Edge Platform team, will discuss how by leveraging a reactive stream-based protocol,...
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to w...
From personal care products to groceries and movies on demand, cloud-based subscriptions are fulfilling the needs of consumers across an array of market sectors. Nowhere is this shift to subscription services more evident than in the technology sector. By adopting an Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) delivery model, companies are able to tailor their computing environments to shape the experiences they want for customers as well as their workforce.
If you read a lot of business and technology publications, you might think public clouds are universally preferred over all other cloud options. To be sure, the numbers posted by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft’s Azure platform are nothing short of impressive. Statistics reveal that public clouds are growing faster than private clouds and analysts at IDC predict that public cloud growth will be 3 times that of private clouds by 2019.
"Outscale was founded in 2010, is based in France, is a strategic partner to Dassault Systémes and has done quite a bit of work with divisions of Dassault," explained Jackie Funk, Digital Marketing exec at Outscale, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"We focus on SAP workloads because they are among the most powerful but somewhat challenging workloads out there to take into public cloud," explained Swen Conrad, CEO of Ocean9, Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"I think DevOps is now a rambunctious teenager – it’s starting to get a mind of its own, wanting to get its own things but it still needs some adult supervision," explained Thomas Hooker, VP of marketing at CollabNet, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
For over a decade, Application Programming Interface or APIs have been used to exchange data between multiple platforms. From social media to news and media sites, most websites depend on APIs to provide a dynamic and real-time digital experience. APIs have made its way into almost every device and service available today and it continues to spur innovations in every field of technology. There are multiple programming languages used to build and run applications in the online world. And just li...
If you are thinking about moving applications off a mainframe and over to open systems and the cloud, consider these guidelines to prioritize what to move and what to eliminate. On the surface, mainframe architecture seems relatively simple: A centrally located computer processes data through an input/output subsystem and stores its computations in memory. At the other end of the mainframe are printers and terminals that communicate with the mainframe through protocols. For all of its appare...
Your homes and cars can be automated and self-serviced. Why can't your storage? From simply asking questions to analyze and troubleshoot your infrastructure, to provisioning storage with snapshots, recovery and replication, your wildest sci-fi dream has come true. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Dan Florea, Director of Product Management at Tintri, provided a ChatOps demo where you can talk to your storage and manage it from anywhere, through Slack and similar services with...
"Peak 10 is a hybrid infrastructure provider across the nation. We are in the thick of things when it comes to hybrid IT," explained Michael Fuhrman, Chief Technology Officer at Peak 10, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Data reduction delivers compelling cost reduction that substantially improves the business case in every cloud deployment model. No matter which cloud approach you choose, the cost savings benefits from data reduction should not be ignored and must be a component of your cloud strategy. IT professionals are finding that the future of IT infrastructure lies in the cloud. Data reduction technologies enable clouds — public, private, and hybrid — to deliver business agility and elasticity at the lo...
"At the keynote this morning we spoke about the value proposition of Nutanix, of having a DevOps culture and a mindset, and the business outcomes of achieving agility and scale, which everybody here is trying to accomplish," noted Mark Lavi, DevOps Solution Architect at Nutanix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"As we've gone out into the public cloud we've seen that over time we may have lost a few things - we've lost control, we've given up cost to a certain extent, and then security, flexibility," explained Steve Conner, VP of Sales at Cloudistics,in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"I will be talking about ChatOps and ChatOps as a way to solve some problems in the DevOps space," explained Himanshu Chhetri, CTO of Addteq, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm. In their Day 3 Keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, and Mark Lav...
"NetApp's vision is how we help organizations manage data - delivering the right data in the right place, in the right time, to the people who need it, and doing it agnostic to what the platform is," explained Josh Atwell, Developer Advocate for NetApp, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Five years ago development was seen as a dead-end career, now it’s anything but – with an explosion in mobile and IoT initiatives increasing the demand for skilled engineers. But apart from having a ready supply of great coders, what constitutes true ‘DevOps Royalty’? It’ll be the ability to craft resilient architectures, supportability, security everywhere across the software lifecycle. In his keynote at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Jeffrey Scheaffer, GM and SVP, Continuous Delivery Busine...
"We do one of the best file systems in the world. We learned how to deal with Big Data many years ago and we implemented this knowledge into our software," explained Jakub Ratajczak, Business Development Manager at MooseFS, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.