Integration architects and solutions designers interested in IBM’s WebSphere technology stack converged once again for the Spring (!) gathering 2013 WUG at IBM Forum Centre, South Bank, London on 21 March. I was one of them.
Trends in the WebSphere Ecosystem – Innovation/Evolution
From my perspective, WebSphere seem to retain good ground mainly due to innovation & adaptation of the upcoming technologies in it’s stride. Catering for Mobile & The Cloud areas as well as fulfilling existing customer/partner’s needs by adding features. There was good interest shown by participants on applicability of WebSphere technologies in the Mobile world.
To be honest, I’m neither optimistic nor pessimistic about this, as I’m hoping that the promise shown in the WebSphere brand needs to be realised to it’s potential by the end-users/customers.
Without innovation & evolution into these emerging technology areas, WebSphere brand will probably sustain existing customer base for some years but then could’ve started going down hill. Customers will always have changing needs/requirements to adapt & harness the potential of emerging technologies which if isn’t catered for, will result in them having to resort to alternative solutions – maybe slowly, but surely!
I’d like to share some highlights based on sessions I attended:
WebSphere MQ in the Mobile world (notably: WMQ Support for Web Sockets) WebSockets as we know is a two-way messaging (full duplex) protocol, part of HTML 5 & notably provides the facility to perform push notification from Server to browser (not the pseudo pushes as a result of polling etc.). Remember MQTT (MQ Telemetry Transport), a simple & lightweight messaging protocol? It’s been there for quite a number of years associated with real world applications (Sensors, Machine-To-Machine usage etc.) and been associated with WebSphere MQ from V7.1.
As the MQTT.org puts it succinctly: It is a publish/subscribe, designed for constrained devices and low-bandwidth, high-latency or unreliable networks. The design principles are to minimise network bandwidth and device resource requirements whilst also attempting to ensure reliability and some degree of assurance of delivery.
So, combining the two together (MQTT due to its reliable & light-weight nature & WebSockets due to its full duplex nature) usually involves doing extra work on both sides (at the least, on the client side if using a Messaging server that supports MQTT).
From WebSphere MQ Version 188.8.131.52 the support for WebSocket is built-in!
- Highly Scalable
- Secure Push Notifications
This eliminates the need for a client library and hence the Web Browser (or any Web app based on HTML 5/WebSockets) could now be used to send and receive messages, Publish/Subscribe directly from WMQ. This effectively provides a wider range of options for mobile web apps too (based on HTML 5/WebSockets) for reliable messaging, Subscriptions etc. Seamless integration through the Messaging Server to the whole enterprise and beyond (ESB, Cloud, Third party Systems etc.).
- Browsers should support WebSockets – some do & some don’t
- SSL/TLS adds significant network overhead – so use of wss needs careful consideration particularly in constrained/low-bandwidth scenarios.
- The other (more interesting one) an EXCEL Spreadsheet with specific Cells populated by Macros (uses .Net WebSockets Client Library behind, I think) providing a similar dynamic/active speed-dial display. A MQ Server Push ending up in an Excel Spreadsheet!
- FaceBook Messenger uses MQTT as their underlying messaging protocol.
WebSphere Message Broker 8 & DFDL Support
A gist of features, some of which were really interesting (from a value addition/diversified usage point of view):
Built-in WebSphere ExtremeScale caching
- ExtremeScale caching: A Grid based (infinite hash map) caching technology that apparently have proved to provide a very high degree of scaling/elasticity for business class applications.
- Use of recommended patterns such as Application State Store Pattern (Scale-up/scale-down: is more suited for a cloud based solution improving App Server Elasticity), Side-Caching Pattern (for a Gateway style implementation) provides a robust caching facility thus eliminating the need for custom/non-standard caching solutions.
- Caching available at Broker, Execution Group, Flow, Node levels.
Worklight integration, provision of patterns for mobile services & Toolkit support for conversion from WMB service to Mobile service e.g. Mobile service created using specific pattern can Receive data in JSON and covert to native Broker format.
- Ability to directly invoke .NET programs through the CLR
- C#, VB.NET natively added to WMB
- .NET Assemblies into BAR files
Patterns based development - Provides a set of pre-built templates (based on best practice) & ability to create user defined patterns for reuse. Also, a web based pattern generation facility allows end users (which not much knowledge of WMB development) to configure and deploy these patterns directly onto broker.
DFDL Parser & Modelling Support: DFDL (Data Format Description Language) is a modelling language for describing text & binary data in a standard way (as data formats). Is is quite powerful as a variety of data formats (including industry Standard formats) are supported and it can be used for: Text, Binary & Bit level data, Fixed length, delimited, patterned, Bi-directional data, Nil & Out of range values etc.
As its a standard DFDL format is portable, editable & can be generated using tools – similar to XSD for XML data. DFDL builds upon W3C XML Schema 1.0 and uses a subset of XML Schema elements to model non-XML (text/binary data).
MRM Message Sets were used in earlier WMB days to model text/binary data. DFDL Support in WMB provides a powerful & standardised way to model & process data.
- DFDL Parser (On-demand & streaming) is available for both ESQL & Java nodes.
- Graphical Editor with Guided Wizards for DFDL modelling in Message Broker Toolkit.
- DFDL SChema deployed as part of BAR file onto Broker, so no separate dictionary files to manage.
Other WMB Features Worth noting:
- Lineage of Data Analysis & Cross-tool data analysis using Infosphere Metadata Workbench
- Improved Web Administration Console to send control commands (If my guess is right this should be using MQTT behind the scenes) with Role based access. Also, provides a public REST based management API.
- Built-in Audit of Messages/data flowing through – persistence to DB2 and Oracle supported – MS SQL Server not supported.
- Built-in Record, Capture & Replay Messages/Data facility using single or Multiple Brokers.
- Simplified Cloud Provisioning through IBM PureSystems.
….and many more!
PS I’ve also posted this on my personal blog
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