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XML Acceleration Using Virtual Appliances

I have never met Gordon Moore. But his law? Well, Moore’s Law is my best friend. My entire career, it helped to make my work run faster. On more than one occasion, I think it may have saved my job. I like Moore’s Law a lot.

Moore’s Law has had a big impact on XML acceleration. XML processing—specifically schema validation, XSLT transform and XPath query—is one of those problems that lends itself well to acceleration using specialized silicon. Tarari (now a part of LSI) is the leader in developing specialized chip sets for accelerating basic XML functions. We’ve leveraged their technology for years here at Layer 7 for our hardware appliance line, and we will continue to do so in the future. But like all specialized chip designers, Tarari’s engineers are engaged in a protracted battle with the ever-increasing capacity of general-purpose processors. Dr. Moore’s Law pursues them with a relentless pace, driving Tarari toward the breakthroughs that leave general CPUs far behind each time these begin to nip at their heels.

Silicon, however, is not the only approach to accelerating XML. Tremendous gains in XML processing can also be realized using highly optimized, pure-software algorithms that run on generic CPUs. These, of course, effortlessly ride the wave of Moore’s law. We use such algorithms at Layer 7 to provide very real XML acceleration in our virtual appliances, which obviously have no access to dedicated acceleration boards.

This fact that virtual appliances can accelerate XML processing is often missed. I was reminded of this when reading Joe McKendrick’s latest blog entry  The Case for Considering XML Appliances. Joe’s entry builds off a recent piece published by Thomas Rischbeck from IPT concerning SOA intermediaries (I’m particularly fond of the last diagram in Thomas’ article). As with all of Joe’s work, his article today is very perceptive, but I disagree with one statement he makes:

And, as is the case with appliances these days, they also come in virtual form as well. The only catch is that virtual XML appliances cannot provide XML acceleration.

I see XML acceleration as a continuum like this:

Virtual appliances may not be as fast as hardware appliances for XML acceleration, but they do accelerate processing over conventional approaches. And one of value propositions of virtual appliances is that these provide a simple means to scale horizontally (in clouds, or in conventional virtualization farms) instead of vertically. Moore’s Law is its friend too.

Layer 7 Technologies is the only SOA Gateway vendor that offers a product line that features both hardware and virtual appliances. You can buy the hardware SecureSpan Gateway appliance that includes silicon for XML acceleration. Or you can buy the virtualized SecureSpan Gateway appliance that includes our highly tuned algorithms for XML acceleration. These products offer identical functionality—so choose the one that makes the most sense in your architecture.

And don’t ever let a form factor dictate your architecture.


Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Scott Morrison

K. Scott Morrison is the Chief Technology Officer and Chief Architect at Layer 7 Technologies, where he is leading a team developing the next generation of security infrastructure for cloud computing and SOA. An architect and developer of highly scalable, enterprise systems for over 20 years, Scott has extensive experience across industry sectors as diverse as health, travel and transportation, and financial services. He has been a Director of Architecture and Technology at Infowave Software, a leading maker of wireless security and acceleration software for mobile devices, and was a senior architect at IBM. Before shifting to the private sector, Scott was with the world-renowned medical research program of the University of British Columbia, studying neurodegenerative disorders using medical imaging technology.

Scott is a dynamic, entertaining and highly sought-after speaker. His quotes appear regularly in the media, from the New York Times, to the Huffington Post and the Register. Scott has published over 50 book chapters, magazine articles, and papers in medical, physics, and engineering journals. His work has been acknowledged in the New England Journal of Medicine, and he has published in journals as diverse as the IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science, the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow, and Neurology. He is the co-author of the graduate text Cloud Computing, Principles, Systems and Applications published by Springer, and is on the editorial board of Springer’s new Journal of Cloud Computing Advances, Systems and Applications (JoCCASA). He co-authored both Java Web Services Unleashed and Professional JMS. Scott is an editor of the WS-I Basic Security Profile (BSP), and is co-author of the original WS-Federation specification. He is a recent co-author of the Cloud Security Alliance’s Security Guidance for Critical Areas of Focus in Cloud Computing, and an author of that organization’s Top Threats to Cloud Computing research. Scott was recently a featured speaker for the Privacy Commission of Canada’s public consultation into the privacy implications of cloud computing. He has even lent his expertise to the film and television industry, consulting on a number of features including the X-Files. Scott’s current interests are in cloud computing, Web services security, enterprise architecture and secure mobile computing—and of course, his wife and two great kids.

Layer 7 Technologies: http://www.layer7tech.com
Scott's linkedIn profile.
Twitter: @KScottMorrison
Syscon blog: http://scottmorrison.sys-con.com

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