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GigaSpaces Unveils Cloud-Oriented App Server

App server designed to scale applications and resources up or down on demand.

GigaSpaces Technologies has rolled out a cloud-friendly application server that CTO Nati Shalom refers to in his blog as "platform as a service." The vendor, whose Java and .net middleware has been installed at SIG, which uses it for distributed trading applications; FXAll, which uses it for trading platforms and to handle increases in volume; the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which uses it for back office trade operations; Lehman Brothers; and Dow Jones has launched eXtreme Application Platform 7.0, an application server for deploying and scaling distributed applications, such as those delivered through a cloud service. In fact, a version of it runs on Amazon's EC2 Elastic Compute Cloud. However, GigaSpaces' Wall Street customers tend to not use this version for mission critical systems because of security concerns, but they do use it for large scale testing, proofs of concept and non-mission critical applications, according to vice president Alit Bar Sadeh."

Wall Street clients are using XAP to create private clouds, allowing applications to share resources. One firm is using it for applications that support real-time portfolio analysis of profit and loss. Another is using an XAP-powered private cloud for a reconciliation service; prior to XAP, each application at this firm had a dedicated infrastructure. To prepare for peaks and lows, they had to provision many hardware units. Today, two applications share the same infrastructure, and the firm is creating infrastructure as a service.

A market data distributor is planning to go live with XAP 7.0 in August to provide certain online services. The company will use XAP to better allocate resources and better scale and integrate the web tier of applications.

One big financial organization had a high-end hardware infrastructure that cost over $1 million per year in annual maintenance. The company switched to XAP, invested $300,000 in commodity hardware, and achieved an annual savings of $946,000 in hardware maintenance alone, because of the fact that they're running on simple commodity hardware, according to Bar Sadeh.

Another big financial service organization estimated the cost to redesign a customer support application using open source tools at $425,000, just for development time and resources. "They didn't bother to add the expenses of memory and hardware because this cost estimate already exceeded what they would have to pay for XAP," Bar Sadeh recalls. The firm also estimated a nine-month effort for the project, however, using the GigaSpaces software it took four months, she says.

The reason the GigaSpaces product can shorten development time, according to Bar Sadeh, is that applications can be built and tested on a stand-alone environment and then be deployed on a large cluster of machines without needing to change the code. The fact that the software is available on Amazon's cloud means firms can test real scenarios and large deployment environments with predictable costs. Amazon and GigaSpaces' combined charges for use of a server range from 38 cents (for a small instance using 1.7 gigabytes of memory, one virtual core, one EC2 compute unit and 160 gigabytes of storage) to $3 per hour for a large instance running on a 64-bit platform with greater memory and storage.

The new version of XAP still includes the in-memory data grid the firm has always offered. XAP is said to provide scalability with predictable consumption of resources, performing real-time capacity planning by re-assigning under-utilized resources to applications experiencing high loads. The company says it has achieved a 40-fold performance improvement, enhanced multi-core server support and added support for web containers to the 7.0 version.

The platform supports open frameworks and standards such as Java, .NET and C++. It runs on existing infrastructure as well as public and private cloud environments. It competes with IBM Websphere and Oracle Fusion.

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