The lowest of latencies

I spent some time at SIFMA last week talking to customers about their low latency messaging requirements. For those of you who don’t know, low latency messaging is a specialized niche of the messaging space designed for requirements where latency is measured in the nanoseconds, and systems require up to 100 million messages per second. There aren’t many applications that require this kind of speed and throughput, but in Financial Markets, things like high frequency algorithmic trading and exchange execution require that kind of horsepower.

Generally speaking, the low latency messaging space looks very different from the normal messaging space. Players like Informatica (which is not in the messaging middleware space at all otherwise), and Tibco thrive here, along with IBM with its WebSphere MQ Low Latency Messaging (LLM) product. Beyond that, there are a bunch of smaller niche players. Tibco has long been a player in low latency with their Rendezvous product line, though they had fallen way behind competitors in terms of speed until their recent release of FTL. The new release puts Tibco in the same ballpark as IBM and Informatica in terms of pure speed, with recent STAC results showing IBM and TIBCO in the lead and Informatica trailing slightly behind.

However, it isn’t just speed that matters. After all, this is messaging… Reliable delivery, guaranteed message ordering, high availability, and durable subscriptions are all important – and you don’t want to sacrifice performance to get those. The vendors vary widely on their support for these without performance penalties (something that doesn’t even show up on benchmarks).

In addition, skills are a serious concern. This is a very small niche, so finding people skilled enough to squeeze the optimal performance out of the products is always a challenge. IBM has addressed this by leveraging the WebSphere MQ base, which dominates the messaging space with over 10,000 customers and around 80% of the market. IBM has also provided development productivity accelerators like built in monitoring and congestion management, and a versatile API which allows applications to be coded once and reused across Infiniband, 10GE, Shared Memory or a mix.

Tibco likewise has cultivated a strong skill base with 1,000 Rendezvous customers. However, with FTL they are introducing an entirely new technology with a separate API, so existing skills will need to be retooled.

That said, the strategies of IBM and Tibco are likely to be the most successful, since they can leverage large install bases and complementary messaging middleware portfolios to deliver more value than other niche vendors can provide.

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