Tag Archives: Middleware

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.


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… 🙂

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!


Connectivity and Integration podcasts

As well as being WebSphere Messaging Community Lead out of IBM Hursley right now, I’m also part of what we refer to as our “Connectivity and Integration” organisation (middleware… plumbing… the hidden inter-application messaging and adapter stuff, ensuring that systems can talk to one another reliably). Much of what we do in Hursley, and the software that we develop there, is part of the Connectivity space. It’s the software that joins up all the pieces of a Smarter Planet, and it’s an interesting space for a techie like me.

We thought it was about time to talk about some of the features that are in our WebSphere Messaging products – WebSphere MQ, Message Broker, and the family of software that fits around them. So, my colleague Leif Davidsen and I sat down and recorded a series of podcasts. Each episode zeroes in on a specific feature or capability, such as high availability, or telemetry, or security – you get the idea.

As we were talking, Leif and I were trying to keep the discussions bite-sized (about 10 minutes at a time); highlight things that users might not have heard about before; be interesting to administrators and developers as well as to architects; and we tried not to use too much “marketingese” – although I reckon you might spot that in some of the podcast episode titles! 🙂

You can start to subscribe to the Connectivity and Integration podcast series right now in iTunes or add the RSS feed to your favourite podcatcher. There should be some web content and show notes with links and references to follow soon – watch out for those, I’ll tweet about them and update this post when I know more.

NB did you check out my first and second columns for Sphere yet? More to come soon, and I’m hoping to join the GWC Lab Chat series for a future episode as well. Cool stuff.

Product updates and new releases

I don’t have time to post an in-depth update on the latest announcements from IBM Hursley today but will hopefully have a chance to dig deeper on some of these later in the week. My colleagues in Development have been working hard on new and updated software offerings in the WebSphere Connectivity space, and today was “the big reveal” of a slew of them. For now, here are the links to the announcements… I’ll try to fill in more detail on some of the areas in which I’ve been particularly interested, soon.

  • WebSphere MQ Advanced Message Security (AMS) version 7.0.1, also available for z/OS of course! This is a new product providing significant enhancements to MQ’s security story by encrypting data at rest with no need to re-code your applications. This is one I’ll definitely be coming back to in a future post… it’s very cool indeed, particularly since it’s non-invasive and transparent to the user.
  • WebSphere MQ Low Latency Messaging V2.5 includes major updates to self-management and additional message delivery styles. Incidentally, I’ll be talking about WMQLLM at the European WebSphere Technical Conference in Düsseldorf next week (and of course I also have other sessions at the event on topics like Telemetry!)
  • WebSphere MQ File Transfer Edition V7.0.3 adds some nice web and REST features, as well as ad-hoc transfers and sweeter integration with WebSphere Message Broker (which itself gained new FTE nodes recently). There’s a fantastic story developing around enterprise managed file transfer interoperating with an ESB, here. Oh yes, and this version also works with AMS if you need to thoroughly encrypt your FTE data, both on disk as well as the existing wire capabilities using SSL channels.
  • WebSphere Message Broker Hypervisor Edition enables WMB to live happily in a virtualised environment on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and also to be used with the WebSphere Cloudburst Appliance.
  • WebSphere Enterprise Service Bus Registry Edition V7.0 puts the SOA registry at the heart of the ESB (which is quite honestly where it belongs!). There have been great improvements in WSRR and WebSphere ESB lately, and again I should come back to point some of these out soon.

Phew. Busy developers. If you follow me online you’ll know I’m a techie so it should come as little surprise that I’m excited, and dare I say it, “pumped”, about some of these updates. Looking forward to playing with them in more detail.