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XML vendors set to unveil gigabit speeds

Apr 30, 20044 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsProgramming LanguagesWeb Development

XML acceleration and security vendor DataPower is upgrading its silicon chip to gigabit speed and will release it in the coming weeks on PCI and PMC cards that can be embedded in network infrastructure, according to company officials.

Competitor Tarari also plans to upgrade its silicon-based PCI card around the same time with new technology for OEMs that will push processing to a gigabit per second for bulky XML messages used as part of Web services applications. The company plans to develop a separate ASIC in the coming year.

DataPower says its new XML Generation 4 (XG4) family of products, which will process XML messages at wire speeds, will be made available to vendors of switches, routers, load balancers, servers, and storage and virtualization devices.

The two announcements highlight an evolution in XML acceleration and security technology that will see XML processing filter out through the network. It will move beyond dedicated appliances and into chip sets that can appear within any node on the network that handles XML traffic, experts say.

“Until people get into XML they don’t know the performance problems they will run into,” says Frank Dzubeck, president and CEO of Communications Network Architects, an industry analysis firm in Washington, D.C. “You don’t want to handle XML in software because that produces latencies that are ridiculous.” Dzubeck says silicon is a natural evolution for XML processing, following the lead of technologies such as load balancing and Secure Socket Layer that started in software, moved to appliances and then onto silicon.

For DataPower, its DXE chip is the latest milestone for the pioneer in dedicated XML network appliances. The company, which began in 1999, first shipped its XA35 Acceleration appliance in 2002 and then followed that with the XS40 Security Gateway in 2002. After two years of development, the company is putting its customized ASIC and firmware into a form factor that will be made available to OEMs.

The company will ship PCI and PMC cards on May 11 and follow that up with PCI-X cards in the fall. In the future, the company will use the DXE chip, a cornerstone of the XG4 product family, to upgrade the XA35 and XS40. 

“When XG4 is embedded in Ethernet and other devices, XML processing is no longer an issue,” says Eugene Kuznetsov, founder and CTO of DataPower. “Users want XML to run at wire speed.”

Kuznetsov says devices that will be enhanced with XML awareness and processing capabilities include network switches, security appliances, blade servers, SOAP load balancers, IP firewalls, Web services virtualization switches, application-oriented network integration routers and content-smart storage controllers.

The DXE processing chip performs schema validation, XPath queries and XML security operations. The complementary firmware supports streaming XML processing and will be updated at a later date with support for XPath/XSLT 2.0.

“We are talking about broader XML processing,” says Kuznetsov. “We see ourselves as the XML-aware networking sub-system vendor.”

But DataPower is not alone. Tarari has similar thoughts with its Random Access XML (RAX) Content Processor, a silicon-based processing engine on a PCI card that plugs into servers, appliances or network devices.

RAX defines a process for quickly dissecting XML messages that Tarari will submit to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) for review as a standard and alternative to the existing XML parsing standards Document Object Model (DOM) and Simple API for XML (SAX). RAX utilizes W3C standard XPath queries and simultaneously processes very large blocks of those queries at gigabit speeds.

“We’re taking the XML processing crisis out of the equation, and it feels to me like that will foster a big change in the industry,” says John Bromhead, Tarari’s vice president of marketing. “This will enable more players in the XML space because vendors like Cisco and Nortel will be able to do things [with XML] they can’t do now.”

DataPower and Tarari aren’t the only ones aiming at gigabit speeds. Start-up Conformative Systems’ CSXi server appliance, slated to ship later this year, features a proprietary ASIC that processes XML at a throughput beyond 1G-bit per second. CSXi is aimed at the data center, but Conformative also plans to put its ASIC on a PCI card.

“We are talking about impressive speeds, but what needs to happen is for companies to figure out what they want to do and where they will use this technology,” says Tom Rhinelander, an analyst with New Rowley Group. “What’s happening now reminds me of many other arms races between technology vendors.”