Organizations back open standard messaging protocol

Cisco Systems, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Red Hat and five other organizations Tuesday announced they are formally backing the creation of an open standard messaging protocol aimed at helping various messaging and Web services technologies communicate with one another.

The Advanced Message Queuing Protocol, or AMQP, will interoperate with existing specifications such as Java Message Service (JMS), SOAP, WS-Security, WS-Transactions and others, executives from firms backing the AMQP Working Group said during a conference call.

AMQP backers downplayed competition with existing messaging formats, including IBM's dominant WebSphere MQ technology. John O'Hara, vice president at JPMorgan, said that because AMQP defines a model for routing and storing queue-based messages -- and offers a network wire-level protocol -- it can complement any messaging format, including proprietary ones, that can use an alternative transport method.

"There's a lot of awkwardness today because there isn't an open transport protocol," O'Hara said. AMQP "makes it possible to plug that gap."

JPMorgan has already rolled out an AMQP-based trading system for 800 users on five continents. The system involves three data centers that use Windows, Linux and Solaris hardware and applications written in Java, C# and C++, according to O'Hara.

"This is an aggressive test bed," he said. "It's not perfect. We're not arrogant enough to say we've got a complete solution yet. But we sent the heavy cavalry across the bridge first to see if it would break, and it didn't break."

The working group has developed Version 0.8 of the AMQP specification. Within 18 months, it hopes to generate a full 1.0 version, which it plans to publish under an open and royalty-free license. It will also present the specification at that time to a standards body.

IBM's WebSphere MQ held 81.3 percent of the messaging market in 2005, according to WinterGreen Research. Other popular messaging formats include WebLogic Server JMS from BEA Systems and open-source technologies such as OpenJMS or MantaRay from Coridan.

Ron Schmelzer, an analyst at Zapthink, said that AMQP could prove a threat to existing messaging specifications if it can deliver on its promise of providing a cheaper, less complex and more heterogeneous alternative.

"From a mind-share perspective with regards to messaging and interop standards, for sure, I think AMQP will be seen as a potential alternative," Schmelzer said. "It isn't homogeneous for sure, and it doesn't compete on a product or technical level with JMS. But at some level, companies will be considering the platform-agnostic approach to AMQP as a contrast to other messaging formats."

But Kate Norsworthy, vice president of software standards at IBM, said customers are already well served interoperability-wise via WebSphere MQ.

"The number of connectors we already have is huge," she said. "We think AMQP is less about how to get interoperability among unlike protocols, than a proposal to simply invent a whole new messaging infrastructure." Two-thirds of North American and European banks use WebSphere MQ, according to IBM, with one bank moving between US$7 trillion to US$35 trillion daily by sending nearly 700 million messages via a WebSphere MQ SWIFT gateway.

"It's easy to build something that provides a simple level of messaging," Norsworthy said. "From our experience, creating a messaging infrastructure with the highest requirements for scalability and reliability is a nontrivial effort."

Other members of the AMQP consortium include messaging and Web services software providers such as Envoy Technologies, iMatix, 29West, Iona Technologies -- which actually has its own proprietary version of JMS -- and TWIST Process Innovations, a nonprofit group that manages and lobbies for technology standards used in the financial industry.

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