Red Hat is betting that a fresh, open source messaging system can displace one of corporate America's most deeply entrenched pieces of software, IBM WebSphere MQ, and similar messaging systems such as Tibco Software's Rendezvous and Microsoft MSMQ.
Such software disruption is a long shot, since WebSphere MQ (formerly MQ Series) is embedded in the workings of 75% of the Fortune 1000. "Customers love it," points out Anne Thomas Manes, SOA and Web services analyst with the Burton Group.
Red Hat is gambling on Advanced Message Queuing Protocol. Red Hat has made AMQP the cornerstone of an expansion of its JBoss capabilities called Red Hat Enterprise MRG--Messaging, Real Time, Grid (pronounced Enterprise "Merge").
Due in the first half of 2008, Enterprise MRG is a combination of AMQP with real-time operations already in the Linux kernel and grid computing capabilities flowing out of the Condor Project at the University of Wisconsin.
It was smart of Red Hat to use AMQP in Enterprise MRG, since the open source vendor was previously relying on Java Messaging Service as its messaging source and JMS implementations tend to differ enough between vendors that no two work easily together, Manes explains.
AMQP at least puts Red Hat on more neutral territory, with the possibility that others will pick up the protocol. Even so, predicts Manes, "it won't become a standard unless folks like IBM adopt it."
AMQP.org is an open source project that's yet to win wide recognition, but it has one factor in its favor: It was started by developers at JPMorgan Chase who chafed at the vendor lock-in of the established messaging systems.
JPMorgan produced its messaging code and made it public about two years ago, and since then other developers have joined in the open source project, including Twist, the Transaction Workflow Innovation Standards Team, which is led by treasurers at General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, and Shell.
With such user muscle behind it, and support from Cisco Systems, Iona Technologies, and Red Hat, AMQP just might stand a chance of catching on.
AMQP is "a very reliable, very fast, very clean queuing protocol," says Manes. A queuing protocol stores messages to be sent, waits for the receiving system to become available, and, if necessary, confirms delivery. Despite AMQP's advantages, there's no indication IBM will adopt it, and "Microsoft won't throw out MSMQ just because AMQP exists," she adds.
AMQP won't have the same traction as software from platform developers such as BEA Systems, IBM, or Software AG any time in the foreseeable future, admits Ron Schmelzer, principal of SOA market research firm ZapThink.
But he's seeing "a much greater degree of uptake" of open source software in SOA projects than he used to, particularly the Mule and Apache ServiceMix enterprise service buses. The AMQP.org project has been accepted as open source code by Apache Software Foundation, which uses it as the basis for Apache Qpid and includes it in ActiveMQ.
Red Hat is actually aiming more for open source developers than the commercial arena with Enterprise MRG, putting into developers' hands a powerful messaging tool with which to link applications and build services. Enterprise MRG can schedule tasks across large grids of computers, whether local or remote.
Red Hat is working with the Condor Project to bring added grid capabilities to clusters of Linux computers or to tap idle cycles in desktop workstations. MRG's scheduling capabilities can even be used to schedule tasks on Amazon.com's Elastic Compute Cloud, which offers compute cycles for rent.
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