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IBM Message Hub goes live in Bluemix

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I’m very pleased to tell you about the release of the new IBM Message Hub service in IBM Bluemix. After a couple of months as a beta service, it’s now progressed to a fully fledged, generally available service. Message Hub brings the power and scale of Apache Kafka to the IBM Bluemix cloud.

As far as we know, this is the first multi-tenant, cloud-hosted service based on Kafka. It makes it very quick and easy to experiment with Kafka and Bluemix, whether you’re writing an application using a runtime environment such as Node.js, a Docker container or a virtual machine, or integrating with other Bluemix services.

So what’s changed since the start of the beta? Well, quite a few things:

  • Message Hub is based on the new Kafka 0.9 release. We chose the brand new Kafka 0.9 because it brings support for encrypting client connections using TLS and providing credentials using SASL when you connect, both very important in a service on a public cloud. Kafka 0.9 has just been finalised by the community, fortunately just before we released Message Hub. Since the start of the beta, we’ve moved in a sequence of steps from an early build of Kafka to the final release candidate. Along the way, things have stabilised a lot, and we were able to quietly upgrade to the latest level without disruption. In the future, as maintenance releases become available, we’ll try them out in our staging environment and promote into production for public use. That’s the beauty of continuous delivery.

    For simple maintenance updates, we expect to be able to upgrade with no impact on existing applications. If a future Kafka release introduces features which are in some way not compatible, we’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it.

  • Message Hub now has a UI in the Bluemix dashboard. This is obviously a big step forward in usability. It’s very simple at this point, basically letting you manage your topics visually as well as the existing REST API. Over time, we expect to add more features such as letting you increase the number of partitions for topics for added scalability.

    Message Hub UI

  • Improvements to how the service is deployed. We’ve done performance analysis to locate and resolve bottlenecks. In a public cloud system, there are necessarily many moving parts so it’s a complex system consisting of much more than just Kafka. We’ve started encrypting the messages at rest, so even if someone were to steal the disk drives from inside our datacenter, they would still have to decrypt them to read the messages. And we’ve done a lot of work to get the multi-region support just right so we can deliver data sovereignty.
  • More integrated services with Message Hub. For example, Alex Pogue has written an article about how to connect the Streaming Analytics service to Message Hub. Since Kafka is ideally suited to delivering data to analytics systems, this is a great combination. Why not use Alex’s article as a starting point for experimenting with these technologies yourself?

Now that’s Message Hub is out of beta, it follows the usual Bluemix pay-as-you-go model. When you create a new Bluemix account, you can use the Message Hub service for free for 30 days. After that, how much you pay depends on how you use it. The price is based on two factors: the number of topics and the volume of messages you send and receive.

We still have loads more to do. For example, the native Kafka API is clearly aimed at people experienced with middleware, so we’re also working towards providing the more straightforward MQ Light API available in Message Hub too. Then you’ll be able to use the same MQ Light API on a developer laptop with the free MQ Light SDK download, in the datacenter with IBM MQ, or on the cloud with the new Message Hub service.

If you’re interested to see IBM’s latest cloud messaging offering, look for IBM Message Hub in Bluemix, write some code or connect it up with another service, and give it a try. You can get going with our samples, or read the documentation and use it from your own code.

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