REVIEWER: Alarik Myrin, CTO for Sakonnet Technology.

BACKGROUND: Sakonnet Technology builds and delivers commodity trading systems via the Internet. Picasso, its advanced trading tool, allows banks and companies in the energy markets to enter deals quickly, see net positions and exposures in real time and control risks tightly. Sakonnet's value propositions for clients are: enhanced trading and risk control, smooth implementation, dynamic solution upgrade and low total ownership cost. Sakonnet is a privately held company based in New York City.

PLATFORMS: We are using Javlin from Object Design on the Windows NT platform. Javlin is also available on Sun Solaris, Intel Linux and RS/6000 AIX platforms.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Sakonnet was building a complex energy trading and risk management application in Java and needed a way to store this information. Traditional databases were insufficient given the complexity and nature of energy trading instruments. The effort of trying to manipulate this data with a relational database would have been prohibitive and had a negative impact on our time to market. We required the ability to take our trading instruments as they are modeled and maintain them persistently on disk.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We developed a custom application (Picasso) which uses Javlin to eliminate the mapping of code from Java to the database. This allows us to persistently maintain our trading instruments on disk. In addition, the Javlin product provides a cache forward architecture that gives database clients a transactionally consistent object cache. This cache is kept consistent with any changes made to the database and allows our application to scale. Because application objects are stored as-is, the response time on the application can be measured in milliseconds. The Picasso application uses the core Javlin technology for object caching and persistence. The Java Middle Tier Library (JMTL) is employed to route application requests to the appropriate cache of objects. The underlying object database, ObjectStore, gives us very good performance, even with many users simultaneously accessing the application. Picasso relies upon Javlin as the database of record and primary distribution mechanism for distributed objects.

STRENGTHS: Javlin completely eliminates the need for database mapping code in an object-oriented application. The distributed caching mechanism in Javlin is also a key feature that provides great performance and enables scalability. Javlin has a tight integration with the WebLogic Application server environment for both Container Managed Persistence and Bean Managed Persistence of Enterprise Java Beans.

WEAKNESSES: Ad hoc introspection of a database is awkward, as there is no equivalent to an interactive SQL tool; and Object Design's Inspector tool works better with persisted C++ objects than with persisted Java objects ­ although other pure Java tools are beginning to be made available. Also, there is no straightforward way to use third-party reporting tools, requiring some creativity if you want to do a lot of reporting on data stored in the database.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Javlin was chosen because of its ability to store and cache pure Java objects. Object Design is considered the leading vendor of object data management solutions. Relational storage technologies were considered but quickly ruled out in favor of Javlin.

DELIVERABLES: Javlin manages thousands of trades and related market data comprising several hundred megabytes of storage. Each trading instrument is composed of, on average, dozens of interconnected objects. Access to these objects, through the WebLogic Application Server, is handled by Javlin's Middle Tier Library. This API provides a high level of abstraction for transaction control and request routing to caches. The Picasso code is removed from any sort of database tuning code and implements mostly business logic. Javlin's caching technology permits Enterprise Java Beans to be shared across multiple instances of our application server tier which increases Picasso's performance.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Support for the product has been provided primarily via e-mail, with response generally coming within 24 hours for development questions. The product has proven quite stable in production, and we have not had to make use of any emergency support facilities.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation provided is largely adequate, although all suggestions about best-practice techniques have come from direct contact with the vendor rather than through the documentation. There is no third-party documentation available.

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