Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Tuesday, April 7, 2020
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IBM Bluemix Adds Apache Kafka Messaging 

Cloud vendors continue to add a range of open-source development tools to their platforms. The latest example comes from IBM, which has steadily been building up the toolbox on its Bluemix development platform.

The company said Friday (Oct. 30) it is adding two new services based on Apache Kafka, the real-time distributed messaging system, to its Bluemix cloud development platform. The first, a streaming analytics service, is intended to give developers a better way to visualize data. The second, dubbed IBM Message Hub, aims to provide distributed messaging for cloud applications.

IBM (NYSE: IBM) said the new tools based on the Apache Kafka messaging engine would make it easier for developers to integrate internal data into new applications as well as to visualize and analyze ever-larger datasets.

The addition of Kafka to its Bluemix development platform expands IBM's embrace of open-source tools and platforms. In August, for example, it released a pair of Linux mainframe servers along with parallel Linux initiatives aimed at developing new software distributions for the Linux servers.

The streaming analytics service would help developers expand use of data analytics. In one example, IBM said it used the service in collaboration with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children. The service was used in neonatal intensive care units to process more than 1,000 readings a second from monitors attached to prematurely born babies. That data was used to spot high-risk conditions much earlier and speed treatment.

Meanwhile, the Message Hub service allows for use of REST or the Apache Kafka API to communicate with other applications.

IBM's adoption of Apache Kafka is the latest boost for the Kafka messaging engine originally developed at LinkedIn NYSE: LNKD) and adopted by other hyper-scalers like Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) and Twitter (NYSE: TWTR). Confluent, a startup founded by the creators of Apache Kafka, announced a $24 million funding round, bringing its total funding raised to $31 million in two rounds.

Confluent, Mountain View, Calif., said it would use the new funding to add new streaming data management features to Kafka along with new elements to the Confluent Platform. The startup said the upgrades would address the enterprise push to leverage real-time streaming data.

Kafka is a real-time, scalable messaging system designed to help integrate data from a variety of applications and systems on a single stream data platform. Along with integrating data, the platform would enable stream processing via a central data hub. IBM's Message Hub service is based on that Apache Kafka capability.

Confluence touts its own platform as making streaming data available as low-latency data streams required for real-time stream processing.

IBM launched its Bluemix cloud platform-as-a-service in 2014 that now includes more than 120 tools and services for developing data analytics and other applications.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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