VMware's Cloud-Based GemFire Makes It Easier To Work With Big Data

While companies of all sizes are struggling with the growth of information overload often referred to as “Big Data,” some IT developers and database deployers are approaching the challenge with a cloud-based service designed to make accessing mass amounts of data faster.

In short, they turn to VMware’s vFabric GemFire.

GemFire is a distributed in-memory data grid database software product that enables data distribution, data replication and partitioning (sharding), cashing data management at the exact moment the information is needed.

(See also What's Next For Taming Big Data.)

While the ability to move data from server to server and replicate it to more than one location has proven invaluable over the last 10 years, today's critical challenge is how can companies manage this data properly.

Over the past decade, GemFire has helped companies:

  • Maintain simultaneous data connections over long distances.
  • Protect their data from natural and man-made disasters.
  • Maintain data reliability and availability, even when server hardware periodically fails.

The software is able to achieve these goals by creating an object-oriented "data fabric" across a server cluster. It accesses copies of data that are stored in various locations as needed. To ensure compatibility with the latest cloud configurations, the management platform can spread the data across many virtual machines and GemFire servers to manage application objects.

But what does that mean in the real world? To find out, it helps to look at how vFabric GemFire is already working in key industrial applications, how it can be developed for new projects and how it can be deployed in a business network.

Passing Military Grade

Keeping connected across town or around the globe is never more important than when national security is on the line. So when the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) needed to deal with up-to-the-minute information and awareness of military actions wherever they occur, the agency chose vFabric GemFire.

GemFire provided speed and the ability to easily increase and decrease the size of projects, but also a management tool that orchestrates data delivery from the back-end data stores to the consuming applications.

Since 2007, DISA has used GemFire for managing massive amounts of data for the various government agencies it supports, including U.S. military commands, joint task forces and the Pentagon. And because GemFire allows for a consistent view of data across all geographies and in different clusters, the military has reliable event notification, continuous querying, parallel execution, high throughput, low latency, high scalability, continuous availability and WAN distribution

South America Calling

GemFire’s expertise at the middle data tier delivers reliability and critical data redundancy that keeps the information up to date even if one part of the network goes offline.

Take the case of a large telecommunications company in South America that sells prepaid phone cards via kiosks. The telecom uses GemFire to enable the sale and provisioning of pre-paid cards even when disconnected from the network. Because the country’s infrastructure is not 100% reliable, sometimes network data is not updated for several hours at a time and customers might not be able to use their cards. To overcome this obstacle, the telecom uses GemFire's distributed databases to maintain up-to-the-minute information.

vFabric GemFire was the optimal choice for managing a distributed database in this environment because it automatically recognizes systems and moves data around so that it remains accessible even on unreliable networks.

As VMware product line marketing manager Blake Connell put it, “vFabric GemFire automatically spreads the data over a wide network and accommodates network disruptions.

Capturing GemFire In The Enterprise

vFabric GemFire is best suited for new Big Data projects that require NoSQL - or distributed unstructured data - models.

GemFire is well-designed for latency-sensitive applications such as virtualized environments that may require interrupt-moderation or interrupt-throttling - industry terms that IT developers and database deployers use when building a system that potentially doesn't take well to lags in data flow or processing.

Because GemFire is designed for data distribution, data replication, caching and data management, it has special requirements. For example, GemFire suggests enabling hyperthreading and keeping at least 50% of the server’s memory space available.

Configuring GemFire servers and regions is optimally done with the Spring object-oriented programming framework. This allows developers to centralize application service configuration instead of having to deal with Spring context configuration plus a separate cache.xml file.

For those working with structured data and who are knowledgable in SQL, VMware offers a related product called SQLFire. SQLFire is a distributed SQL data-management platform. SQLFire will look familiar to SQL developers thanks to a similar interface and programming framework, and it allows the management of "not only SQL" databases much the way GemFire does.

Look for more information on the benefits of SQLFire in an upcoming ReadWrite post.