Layer 7 XML Performance by Layer7Tech


Maximize XML processing performance

Organizations seeking to use XML to integrate applications and share data often face significant performance challenges. To address these challenges, Layer 7 Technologies offers hardware appliances incorporating LSI Corporation’s market-leading XML acceleration technology. For Cloud-based deployments, which cannot accommodate hardware appliances, Layer 7 provides software-based XML acceleration with all of its virtual appliances.

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									                                      Layer 7 XML Performance Overview
Fifth Generation Solution Offers Unmatched Price/Power/Performance for XML Processing
Enterprises seeking to use XML and Web services to integrate and share data and applications across their
extended enterprise have long focused on performance as a key requirement, and rightly so. XML messages are
not only extremely verbose, but also typically incorporate complex data structures, all of which can result in poorly
performing applications. Furthermore, iinitial implementations that may require throughput of tens or perhaps
hundreds of message per second often quickly scale up by orders of magnitude as usage broadens. This can quickly
                         rms,                                                                which,
overwhelm server platforms, resulting in capacity ceilings and excessive transaction latency which in turn, may
impact overall service performance, transaction completion and service level agreements. To overcome the
bottleneck, enterprises are often forced to grow out additional, expensive backend server resources.
For this reason, Layer 7 Technologies has closely collaborat with LSI Corporation, ensuring their market-leading
XML acceleration technology has been a key component of each of the five generations of Layer 7 hardware
                                                        content-inspection processors, whose fifth generation silicon
appliances. LSI markets and sells the Tarari® family of content                      ,             generatio
offers industry-leading performance for accelerating and offloading XML processing.
For deployment scenarios that cannot accommodate hardware appliances (i.e., cloud-based deployments), Layer
                                  software-based XML acceleration across the full range of Layer 7’s software and
7’s FastPath technology provides software                                                        7
virtual appliances, which support Solaris & Linux, VMware/ESX, and Amazon Machine Images.
                                          appliances,                                   pronged
Available together in Layer 7’s hardware appliances Tarari and FastPath deliver a multi-pronged XML acceleration
solution whereby FastPath pre-processes each task to eliminate wasted steps/operations before Tarari is invoked,
providing market-leading XML acceleration while minimizing power consumption by economizing on processor
This document explores the factors impacting overall XML processing performance, as well as the benefits of Layer
7’s hardware accelerated appliances.

Factors Impacting XML Processing Performance
While there are numerous factors that can contribute to XML processing performance, overall message volume,
processing concurrency, and the degree of message inspection or manipulation typically have the greatest impact.
While the first two parameters are traditionally addressed through standard networking and service usage capacity
planning, complex message processing is best addressed through dedicated silicon. Some common actions which
can have significant performance implications include:

Threat Scanning / Message Filtering
Scanning messages for potential threats, classified information or validating message structures typically rely on
                              erations.                                                                  elements.
several processor-intensive operations. XPath may be used to examine the content of specific message elements
XML schema validation may be used to ensure that messages conform to an agreed structure to prevent backend
service exceptions.

Content Inspection
Message inspection may often be required before a decision can be made about how to process the message.
Typically, XPath operations are used to navigate the message structure checking for the presence and sometimes
value of specific message elements. For example, a message might be checked for the dollar value of a transaction,
and then, depending on the value, either routed to a specific service or else “mined” for embedded credentials.
Message classification is another example of simple content inspection, typically performed on each and every

                                  Copyright © 20 Layer 7 Technologies Inc. All rights reserved.
                  SecureSpan and the Layer 7 Technologies design mark are trademarks of Layer 7 Technologies Inc.
Message Transformation / Versioning
Changing the content or structure of a message is often required in order to normalize the message to a specific
backend service expectation or transaction context. This is often performed using a combination of XPath queries
and XSL transforms. Examples include removing potential threats or invalid content detected during message
filtering; combining the content of XML documents as part of a composite application; or transforming messages
to conform to the schema of a new version of a service.

Without some form of processing offload, the increased processor utilization associated with any of these
applications can significantly impact throughput and transaction latency causing the overall service to degrade or
even fail completely due to timeouts.

Layer 7 and XML Processing Performance
Layer 7 has adopted a multipronged strategy to optimizing XML message processing. Layer 7’s FastPath parsing
technology ensures that messages are processed in a manner that tailors the processing of the messages to the
operations expressed in policy logic defined by the administrator. This reduces any wasted steps or operations,
economizing on processor utilization.
Layer 7’s hardware appliances are the first in the industry to leverage 5 generation silicon technology to speed
XML message processing. Layer 7 combines the latest in multiprocessor and data bus architectures with highly
tuned operating systems and networking subsystems to apply all available processor resources to message
processing, as required. When present, Tarari’s dedicated XML acceleration hardware also offloads
computationally expensive classification, XPath, XSLT and schema validation operations from the appliance’s
general purpose processors. As a result, many of these operations complete in the time it takes to transfer the
message on and off the high-speed buses, as opposed to consuming excess processor execution and memory
read/write cycles.

Compared to software-only approaches, Layer 7’s FastPath + Tarari solution results in less CPU utilization and
power consumption to tackle the same workload.

Power Considerations
When comparing the relative price/performance of different XML acceleration solutions, it is also important to
consider power consumption. Incremental costs associated with power consumption, as well as related cooling
costs, can represent a significant component of ongoing operating costs for even small deployments of XML
gateways. Message throughput/Watt consumed is a simple way to rank the power efficiency of different solutions.
For example, some XML operations (such as XML schema validation) are particularly “expensive” to perform purely
in software. Products employing hardware-based XML acceleration will typically have lower associated power
costs since the XML silicon can process as much as 15-20 times more traffic per Watt than pure software-based
solutions using general purpose processors. Benefits accrue in cost savings, which result from lower ongoing
power consumption and the fact that less hardware investment is required to meet peak need.

Layer 7 Performance Benchmarks
Relative benchmarks are a good way to illustrate performance improvements that can be gained using Layer 7’s
hardware-based solution versus software. In order to provide a meaningful comparison, performance test data
was collected from a SecureSpan appliance in a standard configuration with factory supplied software. To simplify
the comparison, a subset of Layer 7’s comprehensive suite of internal performance benchmarks are shown: one
set with hardware acceleration enabled, and one set with it disabled, for both 1.5 and 10 kilobyte XML messages.
These tests were performed in Layer 7’s performance labs using several load generating servers sending messages
to a single SecureSpan Gateway (SSG) appliance.

                                  Copyright © 2010 Layer 7 Technologies Inc. All rights reserved.
                  SecureSpan and the Layer 7 Technologies design mark are trademarks of Layer 7 Technologies Inc.
As shown , for relatively small, 1.5 kilobyte
messages, there is significant performance
gain for both XML schema validation and
XML transform (XSLT) operations when the
hardware-based XML acceleration is
utilized. This difference is even more
pronounced when processing larger 10
kilobyte XML messages.

It should be noted that although overall
message throughput is lower for larger
messages, network utilization is
approximately the same for both
accelerated tests, with hardware
acceleration providing a larger boost in                            Figure 1: XML Processing for 1.5KB Messages
performance for larger messages. This is
primarily because of the efficiency gains
reaped by transferring fewer, larger
messages across the Layer 7 appliance’s
high-speed buses (i.e., independent of
whether it’s a 1.5KB or 10KB message,
processing completes in near zero time).
Even complex operations like XML schema
validation and XSL transformation come at
near zero performance cost. This makes
processor intensive use cases, such as
performing schema validation on all
messages for threat prevention or filtering
restricted content a viable strategy, even in
a production deployment.                                            Figure 2: XML Processing for 10KB Messages

As can be seen from these sample benchmarks, hardware-based XML acceleration can provide a significant boost
in XML processing, reducing latency and increasing message throughput. While this gain may not be required for
all use cases, the ability to accommodate traffic peaks and future growth should be a key consideration when
creating any XML-based service or architecture.

To learn more about how Layer 7 can address your SOA and Web Services concerns, call us today at 1-
800-681-9377 (toll free within North America), +1.604.681.9377or visit us at

 Important Notice: While the information in this document is believed accurate at time of publication, product, configuration and
benchmark data is subject to change without notice. Due to the end user environment dependencies of performance metrics, Layer
7 makes no warranty outside of the Layer 7 test environment about the figures quoted in this document. For end user application-
specific performance tests, please contact Layer 7 to discuss specific requirements and arrange testing.

                                    Copyright © 2010 Layer 7 Technologies Inc. All rights reserved.
                    SecureSpan and the Layer 7 Technologies design mark are trademarks of Layer 7 Technologies Inc.

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