Solace Systems today is introducing a new version of its content-routing technology -- that is, hardware-based messaging that competes with high-speed messaging and middleware software from 29West, BEA, IBM, Tibco and Oracle. The solution is used by some Wall Street firms to handle market data delivery and order routing.
New today is the Solace 3260 Content Router chassis, a four-rack-unit high device (the previous version was two units high) that can hold as many as 10 special-purpose hardware networking blades. Also new are two specialized blades: a topic routing blade that routes messages based on simple market data rules at a rate of 10 million messages per second with 10 microseconds of latency, and a network acceleration blade that enhances data delivery speed -- one acceleration blade can deliver eight million messages per second, two blades can handle 16 million messages per second.
Content routing solutions actually read each message and base routing decisions on the topic of the message. They can change the formatting of messages if necessary so they can be read by particular applications. Solace's routers run over any TCP/IP network; the vendor envisions this solution as a messaging middleware layer to be shared by all applications that need it, whereas today typically each application has its own messaging mechanism. The Solace configuration can automatically rebalance the workload, executives say, as new router blades are plugged in.
Why handle messaging in hardware rather than software? "With software, you end up switching control between operating systems, the applications, the network card, and so on," says Larry Neumann, senior vice president of marketing at Solace. "Every time you make one of those switches, you chew up some microseconds. When you try to do that hundreds of thousands or millions of time per second, it creates too much overhead. By baking all that into chips, all those issues go away. Data comes straight off the wire, there's no protocol stack, no operating system, even the data processing is all performed on the same chip or set of chips. As a result, we can reach higher rates of throughput with predictable latency." Solace's routers, he says, are ten to 100 times faster than comparable software products.
A common critique of hardware-based solutions is that they tend to be hard to change and upgrade. "That's certainly true if you're building chips on a motherboard that never change," Neumann says. But Solace puts its code on reprogrammable chipsets, such as field programmable gate arrays and network processors, whose firmware can be updated on demand, he says.
Pricing for this system varies by number and type of blades, but typically run $75,000 to $300,000.