Corvil Review

It provides a good drill-down ability into transaction flow and causes of latency, but may have difficulty breaking out of the latency niche due to market perception that this is what they do.


The challenge when measuring transaction and market data latency is to do so without impacting upon the latency, which applies especially in ultra-low latency and HFT environments. The Corvil appliance allows passive on-the-wire monitoring and provides latency root cause analysis with a high degree of accuracy.

Architecture

The Corvil Appliance uses FPGA technology to capture and timestamp the data on the wire. Corvil use their own proprietary precision time protocol service to synchronise timestamps between appliances with sub-microsecond accuracy, depending on the distance between appliances.

Data can be acquired from the wire using mirroring, tapping and aggregation techniques allowing the data to be captured in raw packet capture format as well as analysed in multiple domains. The data is written to disc then decoded normalised, persisted, analysed and correlated before being written to the database for reporting purposes.

Measurement and analysis capability

The Corvil appliance supports most commonly used protocols including FIX, FAST, TIB-RV, LBM, Solace, EMS, MQ, and NASDAQ.

Once the events have been recorded, Corvil uses the data to produce a production profile of the monitored system.

A typical report would show the distribution of recorded latency and will identify outliers for attention. The exercise of visualizing the message flows through the system provides a more holistic view of performance management which helps to identify where the biggest gains can be made for the budget available, leading to a quick and pragmatic approach to where improvements can be achieved.

Persisted and normalised messages and performance metrics can be sent to third party systems for real time alerting of any significant deviation from normal behaviour, and can also serve as a source for risk, compliance and other analytic systems.

Streaming Analytics

An added value of on the wire packet capture is the ability to use this data to perform transaction based APM – a feature that Corvil have branded as Streaming Analytics. An auto-discovery feature will identify applications by comparing network headers against a list of known ports, invoking an Analytics plug-in which will reconstruct messages and transactions to extract application specific metrics.

Visualisation and scope

The web-based Dashboard Viewer supports the creation of business-level dashboards that offer instant views of key performance and business analytics. Big Data Adapters enable integration with existing reporting systems such as Splunk, Hadoop, Tableau or Storm.

Additionally, Corvil provides management reporting to schedule regular reports on the network, applications or specific business analytics. For example, infrastructure trending data can be scheduled to run monthly and distributed to network engineering management, or end of day reports to managers on key application metrics, such as user experience performance summaries, server hit counts and application errors.

My thoughts

What's good: 

  • It's a market leader in latency detection and monitoring with extremely precise time stamping even over a wide area.
  • It's got good auto-discovery of message flows.
  • It provides a good drill-down ability into transaction flow and causes of latency.
  • There are a wide range of libraries available to decode different message types on the wire.
  • It's got an attractive way for the presentation of data.
  • It has automated management reports.

What could be improved: 

  • It is perceived as an expensive option, even in the financial services sector.
  • It may have difficulty breaking out of the latency niche due to market perception that this is what they do.
  • It's not got an open API for input or output and can be seen as a bit of a black box solution (which does have advantages but also limits the way in which the product is used).

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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