Tag Archives: MQTT

WebSphere MQ 7.1 is out – here’s why it is cool…

I’ve been fairly quiet about the latest software from the Hursley lab here on my blog – although, over the past few weeks since the announcements back at the start of October during the European WebSphere Technical Conference, I’ve definitely been speaking about WebSphere MQ v7.1 and WebSphere Message Broker v8.0 – two exciting product releases.

I’m going to spend this post talking about WMQ 7.1, which became available in electronic download form for the distributed platforms last Friday (z/OS will follow shortly). I’ll return to talk about all the (über)-coolness in Message Broker a little closer to the release date for that product.

So what is the big deal in this release?

It brings parallel / multi-version install

From version 7.1 onwards, there is now the capability to install more than one copy of WMQ on a system, for Windows and UNIX platforms. This includes installing alongside WMQ v7.0.1.6 (fixpack 6 on v7.0.1, the minimum level for multi-version install to work) – you can have one copy of v7.0.1.6, and multiple copies of 7.1, for example – and future versions will also be able to be installed in parallel, should the need arise. This should make migration and testing simpler. Applications can now point to their “own” install of WMQ if required. The GSKit installation, which provides some of the security functions for the queue manager, now gets installed “inside” the main installation as well, to make the whole thing more self-contained, and potentially easier to embed into other solutions if needed.

Here’s a teaser image from a Windows system that my colleague “mqjeff” sent me earlier today :-) he has 7.0.1.6 and 7.1 on the same machine.

It’s (even more) secure

WebSphere MQ has always had a number of strong security capabilities, including SSL for channel authentication and encryption, and fine-grained access control of queue manager objects via the Object Authority Manager. It has also been possible to add transparent, per-message / per-queue / per-policy on-disk encryption and signing of message data via the Advanced Message Security feature. In v7.1, a renewed focus on end-to-end security adds the ability to authorise on a per-IP/user connection basis, as well as adding more crypto algorithms and additional authorisation options, and making much more of that security function available via the MQSC administration tool. T-Rob has a much more complete post about these changes so I won’t go into any more detail here.

It runs better, on bigger systems

Bigger systems… like the z196 mainframes? Well, that’s one example, yes, but WMQ v7.1 has been more optimised for big and multicore systems in general. On the mainframe, there are a bunch of great enhancements such as increased resilience in dealing with shared queues in a coupling facility, and the introduction of Shared Message Data Sets (SMDS) to significantly improve performance there as well. Let’s just say that the performance numbers for z/OS are looking really, really good… which brings me on to…

It continues to push the performance envelope

A major focus on performance in the v7.1 cycle has produced some fantastic results, and when the performance reports appear (as SupportPacs, within the next few weeks), you’ll see the “fastest WMQ ever”. This theme runs throughout everything: not just the base runtime messaging, but also things like making the WMQ Explorer tooling significantly snappier to operate as well (oh, and that’s now 60% smaller, and more sleek!)

There is also a new option for publish/subscribe applications – the ability to publish on a topic via multicast. This re-uses some of the technology from the WebSphere MQ Low Latency product so that it can run very fast. After the initial application startup, it means that applications can also operate when the queue manager is not available.

It adds Telemetry to the base install

No surprise that I’d highlight this one (it is also an important part of the overall story, per the next heading!) – I’ve been talking about the IBM implementation of MQTT, the open protocol which is being standardised and which it was just-announced will be part of the Eclipse Paho M2M project, for the past couple of years.

In WMQ v7.1, there is no longer a separate installation to run in order to add this support. On the platforms where the Telemetry feature is supported – Windows, Linux IA64, and (new in v7.1) AIX – this is now an optional part of the base installation. That means it is very easy to try out. Oh, and as well as being integrated with WMQ Explorer, the full range of Telemetry objects can now also be administered via the MQSC command line.

It brings the family together

This is a big one, in my opinion. I’ve mentioned that WMQ “base” can now interoperate with WMQLLM via the multicast publish-and-subscribe support; and the WMQ Telemetry functionality is “in the box” as part of the installer on the relevant platforms.

Why do these things that matter? Well, as I mentioned in my recent MQTT FAQ, something that IBM has observed over a number of years of building and delivering production-ready messaging middleware is that one size does not fit all. There’s the fundamental transactional messaging backbone (WMQ base) which needs to be solid, reliable, and easy to administer through comprehensive scripted and graphical tools… but beyond that, there are some additional qualities of service that need to be considered. There’s the very high speed, low latency use case which may be very specialised (WMQLLM), and there’s the need to deal with small and constrained devices and less-reliable networks (WMQ Telemetry / MQTT). Of course, you may also want to perform file transfer over that infrastructure (WMQ File Transfer Edition), secure your messaging (WMQ AMS), or route and transform your data and connect with “foreign” systems via different protocols (WebSphere Message Broker). I’ve been talking about this as part of IBM’s Messaging Vision for a number of years and it is really showing through in this release of WebSphere MQ. It’s a complete story.

It addresses many “papercuts”

On top of all of that… the team has really tried to address many of the common papercut issues, by which I mean the gotchas, annoyances, and the “wouldn’t it be so much better if….”s. Things like, gosh, I wish I knew what version of WMQ that client is using to connect to me? (yep, you can find out now).  How about “bind on group” for messages in a cluster? The ability to backup / dump and restore the configuration of a queue manager without needing to use a SupportPac? There’s a real sense of “fit and finish”, and I believe that shows that the development team have been listening to feedback and making the tweaks that users have been asking for where possible.

So – all-in-all, there’s a lot in this release that makes it worth a look, either from the perspective of users who are looking at an upgrade to gain performance, security and usability benefits; or for those looking for a solid, dependable messaging platform which can support modern applications. There’s a lot of excitement and innovation going on in the “traditional Message Oriented Middleware” space at the moment and WMQ and the related protocols like MQTT are right at the heart of those trends.

To learn more about the features I’ve talked about, and some that I haven’t, check out the online Infocenter. You can also check out the “What’s New in WMQ v7.1″ presentation from the WebSphere Technical Conference, via T-Rob’s blog.

MQTT goes free – a personal Q&A

There has been a lot of coverage over the past couple of days of some exciting announcements that I’ve been involved with at work. I’ve spent the past three days at EclipseCon Europe 2011, which doubled as the 10th birthday celebration for the Eclipse initiative. It was a funny feeling, because Eclipse started just a few weeks after I first joined IBM, and although I’ve used it and watch it “grow up”, I’ve never done EclipseCon before. The reason I’ve been out there for three days this time (as a WebSphere Messaging guy rather than a Rational tooling or build person, for example) was to get involved with activities around these announcements.

It’s all about machine-to-machine (or M2M) communications, Smarter Planet, and the Internet of Things.

Before I dive in to this, a few clarifications. First, I’m being described in a couple of news stories as “an IBM distinguished engineer”, and whilst I wish that was true, I’ve yet to ascend to those heights! Also, there are various numbers being quoted – note that the figures in the press release were not invented by IBM, the headline number of an expected 50 billion connected devices by 2020 comes from a recent study conducted by Ericsson AB. Oh, and this isn’t about a “new” protocol – MQTT has been in use since 1999.

The other clarification is that some articles seem to suggest that IBM is out to create some kind of new, alternative, Web – that’s not what has been announced, and I’m certainly not aware of any such plan! It’s about connecting “things” – sensors, mobile devices, embedded systems, even small appliances or medical devices for example – to the Web and the associated platform and ecosystem of technologies, not about reinventing or recreating them. I’m personally a huge fan of the Web as a platform :-)

Oh, and of course, the obligatory “all opinions expressed are my own” – this is my understanding of where things are going, although of course I’m talking about events I’m directly involved in!

So what is this all about?

Two things.

1. On Nov 2, IBM, Eurotech, Sierra Wireless and Eclipse formed a new M2M Industry Working Group at Eclipse. Sierra had already started the “Koneki” project at Eclipse to work on M2M tools, and the Working Group will look at a range of topics together, such as M2M tooling, software components, open communication and messaging protocols, data formats, and APIs.

2. On Nov 3, IBM and Eurotech announced the donation of their C and Java clients for MQTT to a new Eclipse project called “Paho” which is under proposal in the incubator – with code expected to hit the repository within the next couple of months. MQTT is being given to Eclipse to live within the M2M ecosystem that is emerging there, and to provide an avenue for adoption of the protocol as a more pervasive standard for connected devices.

How is that news? Isn’t MQTT already open / free?

Technically… kinda, sorta :-)

The MQTT specification has been published under a royalty-free license for some time, and that has led to a fantastic community contributing a range of different projects. IBM and Eurotech took this approach from early on, because it wouldn’t have been possible to compile and support code on every embedded platform that might come along – far simpler to set the protocol free.

Initially the specification was hidden away in the WebSphere Message Broker documentation, but last year it was republished, moved to a new home on developerWorks, and the license was clarified.

In August, IBM and Eurotech announced their intention to take MQTT to a standards organisation. The specific organisation has not yet been finalised, but this is also an important step in ensuring that MQTT is not “just” an IBM protocol, but something of general use which the community can feel comfortable with. If you’d like to join that discussion then there’s a Get Involved page on the mqtt.org community site.

The missing piece was code – a reference implementation, if you like. That’s one reason why the Eclipse Paho announcement is significant.

Why else is this significant?

Well, here are some of my musings on that one:

  • it shows IBM is serious, by committing code and open sourcing it (as with the original Eclipse donation in 2001);
  • the M2M Industry Working Group exists to foster the discussion in this space;
  • it makes high-quality reference Java and C client implementations freely available in source form, with a good Java implementation something that has been particularly lacking;
  • it creates an opportunity for Eclipse projects to use MQTT, and to develop tools on top of it.

The press release and Paho project proposals aren’t clear (to me) – what exactly is being donated?

IBM is seeding Eclipse Paho with C and Java client implementations of MQTT. Eurotech is donating a framework and sample applications which device and client developers can use when integrating and testing messaging components.

Why C and Java clients (aren’t they “dying” languages?) Where’s my Perl and Ruby code?!

IBM had previously made some C and Java code available in some SupportPacs, but those are outdated and the license for reuse was never clear.

It’s important to realise that this stuff came from the embedded world of 10 (and more) years ago, and continues to be applied in that industrial space. That category of device typically runs some kind of realtime Java-based OS, or a Linux-based or other runtime with a GCC toolchain for the CPU in question. C and Java are genuinely the most useful implementations to get out there. Oh, and on that “those old languages” thing – I think you’ll find they are very widely used (Android, iOS etc run variants of sorts, most non-web app development is likely to be in one or the other).

We’re very fortunate that clients libraries for a wide range of languages already exist thanks to the MQTT community – see the list at mqtt.org!

Hold on… don’t we need a broker / server / gateway?

Yes. But, one step at a time! :-)

There are brokers available for free today, either as precompiled binaries or as full Open Source implementations, so this is not a dead end from day one.

The Paho project scope outlines the intention to add a broker to the project in the future, and to host an M2M sandbox for developers as well. That is where we are today, and this position will evolve over time.

Why Eclipse?

10 years of Eclipse The Eclipse Foundation has been a fantastic success story (oh, and, Happy 10th Birthday, Eclipse!). As the scope of their mission has broadened beyond an IDE to the web, build environments, and all kinds of other tools, it was a good place for Sierra Wireless to kick off the Eclipse Koneki M2M tools project, and is now a natural place for this primarily M2M protocol to be hosted under Paho. As James Governor notes in his write-up of the news:

… the Eclipse Public License is designed to support derivative works and embedding, while the Eclipse Foundation can provide the stewardship of same. One of the main reasons Eclipse has been so successful is that rather than separate software from specification it brings them together – in freely available open source code – while still allowing for proprietary extensions which vendors can sell.

How quickly will the code donation happen?

The Paho proposal tentatively includes dates in November and December 2011 – there will need to be various approvals as code is accepted into Eclipse, so that may “flex” a little, but it is all in the pipeline.

OK… Why MQTT? Why not HTTP/XMPP/AMQP/PubSubHubbub/WebSockets/etcetcetc?

To answer this one adequately I’d probably end up addressing each individual difference between protocols in turn, and if you’ve heard me speak about MQTT I’ve covered some of this before – so I’ll keep this answer relatively brief. I will admit that I’ve been asked about all of these by journalists in the past couple of days.

There is space for a range of protocols to coexist, because they address different areas. In the messaging space, we’ve found over time that whilst efforts to create a single protocol have been made, that has often ended up as focused around a particular set of qualities of service, and not optimised to cover the the whole range of them.

For example, if we look at IBM’s own messaging protocols – there are several. There’s WebSphere MQ which is all about reliable, transactional, solid, clusterable, enterprise, JMS and other APIs, etc etc.. WMQ itself isn’t ideal for very high-speed in-memory or multicast scenarios, so there is also WMQ Low Latency (interoperable with the new multicast feature in WMQ 7.1, but a separate protocol). Neither WMQ LLM or WMQ scales down to unreliable device networks and embedded systems, so there is WMQ Telemetry (aka MQTT), which was specifically designed for constrained devices and networks, and that can interoperate with the main queue manager, too. Oh, and sometimes you want to deal with files (WMQ File Transfer Edition), or access message data via HTTP (WMQ HTTP Bridge). You need to address a range of requirements in a messaging story.

So why not those others? In this case, IBM believes that MQTT is ideally-suited to the Smarter Planet Instrumented->Interconnected layer – it’s tiny, not synchronous and brittle, isn’t specific to the web as it is all about data rather than documents, XML etc etc. In these scenarios, REST principles may add an overhead. Oh, and it has been around for over 10 years, and has been proven across a range of industries and in a range of extreme conditions. IBM’s commercial implementation is known to scale to hundreds of thousands of connected devices, and we know that is the direction that this space is heading.

Congratulations! / Thank you!

Thanks, but don’t congratulate or thank me! I’m familiar with this stuff, I’ve coded with this stuff, but I didn’t invent it and I didn’t write it. There are some amazing folks at both IBM and Eurotech (and some who have moved on) who started this all off in 1999, and who have helped to implement solutions using this protocol since then, and who have of course developed it. Several of them are on Twitter if you want to say hi! And huge thanks again to the community of folks that formed around mqtt.org and contributed client and server implementations – that absolutely helped to move things forward to this point.

HERE ENDS TODAY’S Q&A!

That, hopefully helps to clarify a few things and answers some of the questions I’ve seen via Twitter, forums, and mailing lists over the past few days. It has been something of a blur, to be honest, but a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to the next stage – working with the community more, working with our friends at Eurotech, Sierra Wireless and elsewhere, and making the M2M space much more real.

For more, here are a bunch of stories I’ve seen in the past couple of days… no particular order, just my cut-and-paste list!

European WebSphere Technical Conference 2011

Although I realise that it seems as though I do little other than spin around “the conference circuit” at the moment what with the various events I’ve blogged about lately, that isn’t entirely true! However, it is just about time for another European WebSphere Technical Conference – something like a cut-down IMPACT run in Europe, a combination of the popular WebSphere and Transaction & Messing conferences we used to run – with plenty of technical content on the latest technologies.

I’ll be in Berlin next week 10th-14th October, participating in at least one panel, speaking about MQTT, and also covering the latest on IBM MQ messaging technologies as they relate to cloud and web. There’s a Lanyrd event page where I’ll try to collate information relating to the individual talks.b

I have a feeling that by this time next week there could be quite a lot to talk about… :-)

The late, late OggCamp 11 write-up… and more UUPC

Forever Delayed

Oggs!It has been several weeks since OggCamp 11 now. I’ve been meaning to post a quick recap for a while.

I’ve written before about being friends with the crew from the Ubuntu UK Podcast (UUPC), so I’ve been following the progress of OggCamp over the past couple of years. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend either OggCamp 1 (2009) in Wolverhampton or OggCamp 2 in Liverpool last year.

Waitaminute… OggCamp?

Sounds like a weird name, huh?

Well… yeah ok, it is a bit odd. Breaking it down, there’s an audio file format called Ogg Vorbis which was intended to be a non-patent-encumbered, higher quality alternative to MP3. Many FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software) supporters and audiophiles prefer it to MP3 and many podcasts aimed at these communities offer the .ogg format as an alternative to .mp3. The “Camp” idea is basically that of an unconference, popularised by events such as BarCamp – often a weekend-long gathering about nothing and everything in particular, with late night hacking and geekery. And being an unconference, the first rule of the event is that you definitely, definitely, have to talk about whatever you are ever passionate about, and participate.

So you smoosh together Ogg + Camp and you get…

… a very cool event populated by folks from the FLOSS and audio communities, often attracted by listening to podcasts like Linux Outlaws or the Ubuntu UK Podcast… the two teams that started the OggCamp events a few years ago as a kind of successor to the previous LugRadio Live. It’s not only about audio, although there tends to be some content on that subject, as well as some live podcast recordings, and other craziness.

Crew at #oggcampOggCamp 11 was “my first time”. It was held at the Farnham Maltings, a lovely venue that is very close to where I live (and also where we’ve held some Digital Surrey events in the past), so it would have been mad for me not to have attended, and just rude of me not to have offered to volunteer as part of the crew.

My excitement turned to a slight amount of trepidation a few days before things kicked off, when our now-legendary crew chieftan Les Pounder sent us out an email to check that everyone was “OK with heavy lifting”… :-) as it happened, that wasn’t too much of a problem! It was a pleasure to work with Les and the rest of the team actually – everyone was very laid back, happy, and just made things happen. I’d been wondering how onerous crew duties would be and whether they would prevent me from participating as an unconference attendee, but everything was shared around so I still found time for yet another talk on MQTT, and for some trademark heckling from the cheap seats during various other sessions.

You can explore my Flickr set from the event, but let me pick out a few small highlights:

  • meeting Roger Light for the first time, on the same day that Facebook mentioned their use of MQTT :-)
  • hearing Ken Boak talk about his Nanode project from London Hackspace (and here’s one I made later!)
  • meeting Laura Czajkowski and hearing her talk about how to get involved in real world communities beyond IRC!
  • seeing a fantastic community that had formed around some great people from two podcasts I greatly enjoy.
  • a brief converation with Karen Sandler, the new lead of the GNOME Foundation.
  • winning a ChipKit Max32 and a Canonical goodie bag in the raffle :-)
  • … and of course, watching Popey‘s demonstration of Extreme Ironing!

I hadn’t been to an event quite so specifically oriented towards freedom and Open Source for a while, and I’d forgotten how polarised some people can become around certain topics. In my career choices I’ve had to make some choices which make me a little more… shades of grey in my views about the technology landscape, so it is always good to have the challenging discussions and hear other views.

I’d definitely want to attend OggCamps in the future. A lot of fun, a great experience, and thanks to the organising team and sponsors. Recommended.

Even more talking

Following on from OggCamp, I was invited back to the UUPC Studio last week to cover for Alan – evidently I’ve not made too many slip-ups yet, since this is my third time as a guest presenter now. It’s really a fantastic experience and their production process and quality is always superb and well-planned and executed. Check out Episode 14 of Season 4 of UUPC “Revelations” to see how we got on with all the news, interviews, and listener feedback!

What a week for MQTT!

Part of my role as WebSphere Messaging Community Lead involves IBM’s MQ Telemetry Transport protocol. I spend a chunk of my time talking about how MQTT relates to building a Smarter Planet, and explaining how it can be used to build some very cool new applications and solutions.

MQTT logoFolks from IBM and Eurotech may have jointly authored MQTT, but it has been published online with terms enabling royalty-free use and implementation of the protocol. The next stage is to put it forward for standardisation. Last Friday, the call for participation in a standards discussion was published on mqtt.org. It’s open to anyone to join, and given the excitement I’ve personally seen in the developer community, I’m hopeful that we’ll see plenty of interest.

Friday saw even more big news, from an entirely unexpected source. As I stood chatting to people arriving at the OggCamp party that evening, my Twitter alerts and email went crazy with MQTT chatter… Facebook announced that their new Facebook Messenger application (a result of their acquisition of the Beluga team earlier in the year) uses MQTT! I’d been aware of different mobile app developers using MQTT for a while now – in fact we recently highlighted what a great match the protocol is for Android applications, on the mqtt.org blog – but had not known about Facebook’s interest or usage. In their post talking about how Facebook Messenger works, they call out the characteristics that make it a strong protocol for a mobile group messaging application – low bandwidth, low overheads, low power cost… all of the things that have made MQTT successful in sensor networks and solutions, make it ideal for these kind of applications as well.

Well… as I said, a big week, with some exciting news. So it seemed only right that I should give a talk about MQTT and all of these latest developments at OggCamp this past weekend – the event which three years ago, resulted in Roger Light creating his mosquitto broker.

You may recognise the slides as a remix of the talk I gave at LinuxConf in January, but I’ve updated them to highlight the OggCamp dimension and to talk about the recent news. There will be more to come during the coming weeks, so join the chat in channel #mqtt on Freenode IRC, and keep an eye on mqtt.org!