This past winter, Red Hat announced the release of a product called MRG–a computing platform that features high-speed messaging and allows high-throughput computing, realtime transactions, and workload management. Not sure what all that means? We weren’t either. So we contacted Bryan Che, the project manager for MRG, to see if we couldn’t get a few questions answered. He obliged, and so we bring you the MRG QandA. Still have questions of your own you want answered? Comment and let us know…

How did MRG come about as a project/product line?
Red Hat has been working on the technologies behind MRG for quite some time–each of the components in MRG has had years of development. For example, Red Hat has been working on realtime technologies in the upstream kernel community for over seven years. Messaging has had a
similarly lengthy development history. Condor, the technology behind our grid scheduler, started development in the 1980’s!

We started work on these technologies because we saw the need for these capabilities, even if we didn’t know when or how we were going to bring
these technologies to market yet. For example, messaging is at the heart of enterprise computing. We had needs for messaging infrastructure at Red Hat–for building out our own capabilities around things like virtualization management. Many of Red Hat’s customers were asking us to provide an open source messaging offering. So, we started working on the AMQP specification and our messaging implementation, even though we didn’t know it was going to end up in something called “Red Hat Enterprise MRG”.

Why did Red Hat create the MRG product line? Is it available now?
As we started working with customers and the community around the various technologies in MRG, it became apparent to us that the technologies had reached a point of maturity where we could support our most demanding customers with them. Also, we saw significant opportunities for building out fundamentally new capabilities by integrating messaging, realtime, and grid into one platform. And so, MRG was born.

We released MRG v1 at the Red Hat Summit on June 19, 2008. MRG v1 offers support for messaging and realtime, and grid is in Technology Preview. We’ll release a 1.1 update to MRG that will bring grid into full support as well.

Can you give us examples of messaging, realtime, and grid technologies in the enterprise?
JP Morgan Chase, like other investment banks, uses messaging for everything from executing stock trades to providing feeds of market data
to internal data distribution.

Realtime provides deterministic performance. The US Navy is deploying realtime in its DDG 1000 naval destroyers. Realtime is critical in this
environment, because the ships’ computers have to respond precisely without ever pausing, freezing, or getting out of sync with other
events. Otherwise, the results could be disastrous.

One of our large manufacturing customers has been working with Red Hat to build an on-demand grid in Amazon’s EC2 cloud environment for the times it needs access to a grid for calculations. Because this customer isn’t able to utilize fully a dedicated grid, having the option to deploy a grid in the cloud provides them significant cost savings and flexibility.

Who is the ideal customer that MRG was designed for? Are there any quotable customers using Red Hat MRG today?
There isn’t an ideal customer–ultimately, we think that almost any customer will benefit from MRG. MRG provides a new platform and solution for many of the most pressing problems that enterprises face today. We have significant customer interest from many industries.

Having said that, many of our largest customers are MRG early adopters, such as investment banks like JP Morgan Chase, telco companies like
Alcatel Lucent, and multiple agencies in the US Government. We are also working across oil&gas, animation studios, Internet, shipping, stock exchanges, defense, travel, and so on.

The MRG infrastructure has the potential to be “100-fold faster.” What are the old solutions it was measured against? How does it make such whopping gains? Inquiring minds want to know.
MRG takes special advantage of and is highly optimized for Linux to deliver its performance. Additionally, at Red Hat, we have been driving
changes into Linux itself in order to benefit things like messaging performance. So, the fact that we are focusing on just one platform and optimizing both that platform and our implementation on that platform gives us tremendous gains (Note: everything we do is open source and contributed back to the community).

For example, we have written a new high performance journal for durable or persistent messaging that is highly tailored to Linux’s I/O model.
By using this journal, MRG Messaging can achieve throughputs up to about 500,000 durable messages/second/LUN. This rate is about 100 times
faster than other messaging solutions. For more details, you can read Carl Trieloff’s entry in the Red Hat Press blog.

The tagline for the MRG launch was “Any application. Anywhere. Anytime.” Does this include applications from other operating systems? If yes, which operating systems and how soon?
Yes. For example, we support messaging clients across a wide variety of platforms and languages, from Linux to Solaris to Windows, and from C++ to Java/JMS to scription languages like Python. On the grid side, we’ll support scheduling to both Linux and Windows. And, of course, since we integrate with virtualization, this gives us a lot of flexibility in running on other operating systems.

There is an enormous amount of chatter in the technology industry about “cloud computing”–that is, distributing high-load activities to virtualized, centralized resources that companies may or may not share with others. (i.e. Amazon’s Cloud) Do you believe this is the future for most businesses? How will MRG help with that future?
We definitely see a lot of interest in cloud computing from customers. MRG integrates with cloud providers like Amazon EC2 so that you can dynamically provision and add capacity in the cloud from your grid scheduler. This means, for example, that you could have a scenario where you fully utilize your local data center but have additional work you want to compute.

MRG can automatically provision, say, 1000 extra servers for you at EC2, send your work over, get your results back, and tear down the servers when you’re done–all automatically. Some of our other customers are looking at provisioning most or all of their capacity in the cloud because they won’t utilize a data center fully and want to save on capital expenses.

In either case, one of the powerful features of MRG is that it can blend local capacity with cloud capacity. This means you don’t get locked into one cloud provider, and you can grow your infrastructure dynamically in the cloud or in your local data center.

Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP) seems to be an important standard for bearing data quickly, and its terms indicate that it is an open standard, much like the ODF. Do you have any concerns about competing standards or high-powered big businesses (like Microsoft) being able to muddy the standard?
One of the significant things about AMQP is that it is the first protocol standard for business messaging. All other standards, like JMS, aren’t comprehensive enough and don’t specify down to the wire level to provide true interoperability and an open ecosystem. So, I’m not concerned about competing standards–there aren’t really any right now. That’s why there is so much interest in AMQP.

I think that most big businesses will understand and appreciate what AMQP has to offer. Notably, many of the big businesses driving AMQP are not vendors but users. Eventually, if you want to work with these users, you’re going to have to adopt AMQP.

What part does MRG play in the company’s full range of offerings–how does it fit alongside Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Network, and JBoss middleware?
MRG is important to all of our offerings–it’s pretty strategic and central to many of the things that Red Hat is doing. MRG adds realtime capabilities to Red Hat Enterprise Linux and enables you to provide flexible scalability and performance for applications running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. We’re working with Red Hat Network so that you can provision and manage MRG with our standard management tools. MRG Realtime and a realtime JVM from IBM or Sun can provide deterministic performance for JBoss Java applications. We’re working with the JBoss team to support MRG Messaging as a messaging transport for the JBoss ESB. And, many of our core products and technologies are using MRG technology. IPA and oVirt, for example, are both leveraging our messaging capabilities for distributing data.

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