JavaOne 2008: SOA and Performance

Originally, I wrote this entry as part of my [tag]JavaOne 2008[/tag] entries. Then I realized that it deserves a separate topic on its own. Because, as [tag]Service-Oriented Architectures[/tag] gain ground, it becomes obvious that their performance is the key to their success. I’m going to briefly write about two sessions that I attended in JavaOne 2008. They outline two totally different approaches from two very different companies. You’re going to see that a well performing [tag]SOA[/tag] implementation requires considerable work and performance tuning expertise.

35 Million Transactions Per Day

In the session entitled “SOA and 35 Million Transactions per Day: Mission Impossible?“, Matthias Schorer from Fiducia IT AG talked about their SOA architecture and how they manage to get a throughput of 35 million transactions per day, a typical day being around 10 hours. If my notes don’t fail me, in Fiducia, they are responsible for 19% of the banking operations in Germany. They manage 101,000 PCs, 54 million bank accounts, billions of transactions every year, 780 cooperative banks, 31 banks over a 510 TB database… To say the least, it is a colossal system.

Their core banking system contains around 2,500 services and 8,400 Java classes and interfaces distributed over 280 UNIX servers. For them SOA means the “Same Old Architecture” because they started to design services before SOA became an industry buzzword. Almost all of their services are non-Web-Service (the Big Web Services as [tag]RESTful[/tag] camp would call them) services. They chose not to introduce extra layers in order to consume them internally. They use [tag]SOAP[/tag] over HTTP when they need to open a service to the outside world.

It is good and relieving to see companies, such as Fiducia IT AG, talking about their pragmatic SOA architecture. It is important to demonstrate that the major idea behind SOA, the thing that one should get right, is the [tag]Service-Orientation[/tag]. I remember, 2 years ago, on an online Java forum, I talked about creating a service-oriented architecture without Web Services. And you can probably imagine the big wave of reaction I got back. One doesn’t have to pay big bucks to an [tag]ESB[/tag] vendor to have a solid SOA. Half of the job is to get the Service-Orientation right.

Fudacia IT AG have various front-end channels: Bank branches use a Swing-based rich GUI, Home Banking users use their browsers to access the system. They also have Self Service channels and Call Center channels. So, they have various clients for their services, and they have channel-specific and channel-neutral services. One of the good design decisions that they made was to create component clusters (in [tag]SCA[/tag] language, those would correspond to [tag]Composites[/tag]) and guarantee the transactional integrity within a cluster.

Fudacia run their SOA on a [tag]grid[/tag] platform that they’ve built themselves. Furthermore, their system behaves like an ESB thanks to it’s [tag]event-driven nature[/tag] (based on messages and queues). Their environment is not only distributed in a LAN, it is also geographically dispersed for security/safety reasons given the data that they manipulate. As they have numerous customers, they end up running different versions of their system, which adds more challenges. Their portal runs on more than 1,000 servers and they partitioned their data based on their customer ID. They implemented their messaging using [tag]Oracle Advanced Queue[/tag].

Some lessons learned over the years:

– They don’t keep data in the queues. Queues only contain pointers to the data stored in the database.
– They made sure that the pointers can be recreated if a queue fails.
– They monitor the grid. This visibility is very important therefore services have to be traceable.
– They used an event-driven approach
– They gave the priority on online transactions over batch transactions
– They distributed the transaction processing by creating chunks of the data file and sending the chunks to various queues.

The SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) requirements posed a real challenge to their system: According to the SEPA, a payment file has to be processed the same day. The data exchange is based on UTF8-encoded XML files and somebody thought that it was alright to set a maximum limit of 10 million payments for a file. Schorer said that the biggest file they had encountered had a size of 70GB. Yuk!

They also discovered that [tag]JAXB[/tag] worked much better than [tag]XMLBeans[/tag] in terms of performance. And depending on the size of the XML transactions to be processed, they used [tag]StAX[/tag] or [tag]SAX[/tag]. Up to 100,000 records, they used StAX. After that, they used SAX.

ESB-based SOA for Intel’s IT Department

Another session about converting to SOA was given by David Johnston and CJ Newburn from [tag]Intel[/tag]. They talked about how Intel’s IT department converted their operations to an ESB-based SOA. In this system, they had around 250 services interacting with each other.

They had to go through various iterations and it’s not a surprise that -to quote Johnston- “the first iteration killed the performance“. During the following iterations, the development team tuned the environment so that the performance became acceptable.

It is really important to listen to the rare case studies such as these. Because you don’t get these real-life experiences when talking to a vendor or reading an SOA book. However these are the things that we see on the field. Despite that, it is not always easy to convince everyone that SOA is not a silver bullet and it comes with some compromises. To reiterate the comparison stats between an old system call and a new system call:
Legacy direct call: 28 msecs
First iteration ESB call: 332 msecs
Optimized/Tuned ESB call: 38.5 msecs
Optimized/Tuned legacy call: 18 msecs
After fine tuning their SOA implementation deployed on an ESB, Intel decided that a 1.4x performance degradation was tolerable.

As you can see, even though using an ESB has some benefits, it comes with its drawbacks. The same is true for various implementations of a Service-Oriented Architecture. Depending on the implementation technologies used, it’s natural to see some overhead compared to direct in-process calls. Intel was content with a performance degradation of 1.4x however not all businesses and operations can allow that.

Johnston and Newburn said that the smart test bed that they had built was one of the key points of their successful SOA implementation. They also had a dedicated lab to run the new system in where they’ve run their simulations, configured the required latencies etc.

An important point for a successful SOA implementation is the system visibility and service traceability. Intel used them to fine-tune their system by answering various questions: What’s happening in each step? How long each step takes? Etc. This is where an ESB may be of help as it may provide enterprise-wide logging and monitoring, among other things. It is also important to see the “Latency Pipeline Breakdown” to identify the bottlenecks and go for the biggest bang for the buck when fine-tuning an SOA.

They considered various points when performance analyzing their system:
– [tag]Concurrency[/tag] & [tag]Throughput[/tag]
– Concurrency & [tag]Latency[/tag]
– Message Size
– Scenarios to discover SOA overhead
– XML manipulations and transformations
– [tag]Heap[/tag] Size
– [tag]Garbage Collection[/tag] (GC)

For example, they discovered that the message size does matter. They had a sharp decrease in performance with messages bigger than 64KB. The heap size is important mostly for big message manipulations and GC doesn’t really matter when working with small messages. They used their own (Intel’s) XML acceleration product in order to improve XML manipulation performance and they saw a 1.4x performance increase in overall.

They had two very important points in their summary:
– A SOA implementation can take months of tuning
– Transition to SOA is prohibitively expensive without tuning

Java Performance Tuning

So, I’d like to invite you to have a look at one of the services that we provide in DSI: Java Performance Tuning. Our team is formed by [tag]Quest Software[/tag] product experts who have an unmatched experience in performance tuning on numerous systems and platforms. Please don’t hesitate to contact me or Jason if you need more information about this service. This can be the key to the success of your SOA implementation.

– Yagiz Erkan –

JavaOne 2008: Java + You
JavaOne 2008: Opening General Session
JavaOne 2008: Java SE 6, Java SE 7, SOA, SCA and Performance
JavaOne 2008: SOA, SCA, REST and Comet Discussed
JavaOne 2008: Comet (AJAX, Grizzly and Cometd)
JavaOne 2008: Top 10 Patterns of Scalability
JavaOne 2008: Java Servlet 3.0

  1. #1 by Dezi Siliezar on May 22, 2008 - 9:11 pm

    I was very impressed with their presentation and would like to see it again. I would like to use it for a brown bag.

    Session ID: TS-6297
    Session Title: Migrating Intel IT to an Enterprise Service Bus-Based Service-Oriented Architecture
    Track: SOA and Enterprise Integration

    Session Type: Technical Session
    Duration: 60 minutes
    Speaker(s): David Johnston, Intel; CJ Newburn, Intel; Kumar Shiv, Intel

    Do you know how the get a hold of their presentation?
    I looked in javaOne-Online, but TS are not posted yet.

    Is there a way to get a hold of David, CJ or Kumar?

  2. #2 by Yagiz Erkan on May 22, 2008 - 10:55 pm

    Hi Dezi,

    I haven’t tried to get the session content yet but as far as I know JavaOne site will have them published, but I’m not sure when… I’ll drop a line of comment here if I find something.

  3. #3 by dış cephe on November 11, 2008 - 10:15 am

    Teşekürler Erkan.

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