Accelerators: Easing the XML Processing Burden
When XML arrives at a network server, it typically is packaged in a XML SOAP envelope that includes a SOAP body with the XML payload. Because SOAP supports chaining SOAP servers, decisions have to be made concerning what to do with the incoming XML. Options include extracting data, modification of all or part of the message, encryption/decryption, executing XSLT-based transforms and forwarding messages to another server. All of this takes time and processing power which impacts server throughput.
Because XML and service-oriented architectures make content understandable, there is a demand to do much of this processing as possible in hardware, particularly in information-heavy enterprises that need to link many disparate applications and experience spikes in application usage. Responding to this demand are companies building XML accelerators, dedicated hardware to handle the onslaught of XML traffic generated by services-based applications.
For example, in June 2005, Cisco announced its Application-Oriented Networking (AON) product line, which is based around its Catalyst 6500 switch that parses and does encryption on XML traffic before it ever gets to the server. The basic idea is to use hardware based parsers to look inside packets, figure out the nature of the traffic and then do application specific routing without taxing the web or application server.
Among other XML hardware acquisitions in 2005, Intel purchased Sarvega, which makes appliances for handling XML and Web services traffic and in early December, IBM, acquired privately held DataPower, one of a handful of startups that is shaping the market for XML appliances. From what I gather, IBM plans to develop a family of SOA appliances based on the DataPower technology, which it’s adding to its WebSphere software product line.
On the exhibit floor, an interesting Irish startup company Dajeil Limited (named after a character in one of Iain Bank's futuristic sci-fi novels), was demonstrating a chip set that sits on a card that plugs into a motherboard slot. The card called the DH15K is designed to help companies manage the bottlenecks and security issues that arise when dealing with high volumes of XML and Web Services traffic. The DH15K is an amazing little card that can offload and accelerate XML parsing, schema validation, XPath expressions and WSS functions simultaneously, freeing up the CPU to do whatever else it needs to do.