Messaging and the Grid, the Perfect Marriage
As mentioned previously, pub/sub can be found in many organizations as part of their EAI strategy. You propose to use the existing infrastructure and expand on that to encompass the Grid (see Figure 3). Even though HPC is a small portion of this problem space, it is considered to be the most challenging one.
Figure 3: Problem space applicable to messaging and the rest of the computing realm
The xFactor Factor
In the previous sections, you have examined the relevant attributes of architectural models, such as Grid and Cluster, as well as those of Messaging Middleware. You have an examined a hypothetical (Optimal Scenario) model that combines the best components, thus forming a hybrid environment. Unfortunately, at this point in time, this model is strictly hypothetical; there is no offering commercially available. The xFactor software offering has taken the hypothetical model and turned it into reality.
xFactor provides enterprise-class solutions to the High Performance Computing (HPC) domain, with the goal of optimizing the client's datacenter investments. SoftModule's xFactor Grid management software package provides organizations with a method to optimally run and manage compute intensive applications across thousands of CPUs. By leveraging xFactor's distributed architecture and dynamic resource allocation techniques, clients can achieve dramatic improvement in application performance and resource utilization.
To best appreciate the xFactor framework, it's helpful to characterize the architecture via the software stack as depicted in Figure 4. This stack resolves the environment into three logical functional planes, with all three "glued" together via messaging.
- Control Plane
- Data Plane
- Compute Plane
Figure 4: The xFactor software stack
The Control Plane is the infrastructure itself; it is the messaging installation along with the network elements because some messaging vendors make heavy use of the underlying networking elements such as routers and switches to increase performance.
The Data Plane is where the data exists; this layer could also be referred to as the Data Grid. Messages carry the data and provide data transparency to the Compute Plane. This model allows the messaging applications to go untouched and work alongside the Grid-enabled applications. A pool of resources—whether they are desktops, workstations, blades, servers, or even network resources—are shared amongst all applications. The Compute Plane has the advantage and the capability of utilizing unused and excess resources. In a sense, messaging applications take precedence in a mixed environment, and the Compute Plane takes advantage of unused resources. Furthermore:
- Messaging applications can be "upgraded" or migrated to the Compute Plane by Grid-enablement
- Grid-enabled applications take advantage of the services provided by the Data Plane and the Messaging Infrastructure to ensure SLAs are met
- Resources are shared across the enterprise, and not just within the "Grid group"
Messaging middleware frameworks have been around for a number of years, and have penetrated EAI applications with great success. Grid and Cluster installations have grown considerably in the recent years, but some of the fundamental issues related to performance and scalability have gone unanswered. As noted in Table 1, there are fundamental differences in the approaches and subsequently, there is an opportunity to evolve to an optimal hybrid model. The xFactor product has taken a radically new approach to the environment. Instead of building an infrastructure from the ground up, a layer is added to the existing infrastructure making migration, integration, and administration that much simpler. The scalability and performance are decoupled from the Compute Plane and rest on the shoulders of the Messaging Plane. If the Messaging Plane is not able to meet expectations, it can be replaced with higher performance infrastructure keeping the top layers intact.
About the Author
Art Sedighi is the CTO and founder of SoftModule. SoftModule is a startup company with engineering and development offices in Boston and Tel-Aviv and a sales and management office in New York. He is also the Chief Architect for SoftModule's xFactor product that has risen from a current need in the market to manage excessive demands of computing power at a lower cost.
Before SoftModule, Mr. Sedighi held a Senior Consulting Engineer position at DataSynapse, where he designed and implemented Grid and Distributed Computing fabrics for the Fortune 500. Before DataSynapse, Mr. Sedighi spent a number of years at TIBCO Software, where he implemented high-speed messaging solutions for organizations such as the New York Stock Exchange, UBS, Credit Suisse, US Department of Energy, US Department of Defense, and many others. Mr. Sedighi received his BS in Electrical Engineering and MS in Computer Science, both from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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