How does the performance of ION compare with Protocol Buffers ( and Apache Thrift (

That depends on what API you use, and how much "meta data" (e.g. class names and property names) you write in the serialized ION data. ION is quite flexible about how much meta you want to include.

If you remove property names and rely only the sequence of fields, ION can write faster than Google Protocol Buffers. When reading, if you only rely in the sequence of fields, ION is a bit slower than Google Protocol Buffers. All in all I believe performance will be on-par with Google Protocol Buffers.

We have some benchmarks here:

We still have a few minor optimizations to do, and more benchmarks to run, but perhaps also some validations to add etc, so the benchmarks on this page (for Java) are probably not too far off from the final numbers.

Regarding Apache Avro and Thrift, I looked at them today. It seems that Avro's encoding is similar to ION (and MessagePack and CBOR), although without e.g. tables. According to Thrift's own docs their binary encoding is not compact. For compact encoding it seems they refer to Protobuf.

ION has several advantages over Protobuf as a general purpose data format. ION is self describing, so you can iterate it without a schema. This means that you can do pretty fast arbitrary hierarchical navigation of an ION "file/message".

Protobuf's own docs say that Protobuf is not good for large amounts of raw bytes (e.g. files). ION is capable of modeling both raw binary data (e.g. files), JSON, XML and CSV efficiently. You could even convert ION to a restricted XML format, edit it in a text editor, and convert it back to ION (we have not implemented this yet, but we have planned it). We also believe that ION can support cyclic object graphs, but this is also not fully implemented and tested yet.

ION has a very compact encoding of arrays of objects in "Tables" which are similar to CSV files with only 1 header row, and N value rows. It is very common to transport arrays of object over the network, e.g. N search results from a service. Thus ION tables are a major advantage. Tables can also be used inside object graphs where an object has 0..N children (in an array).

We have a comparison of ION to other data formats here:

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