Bluestone extends XML-building capabilities

With the release of Visual-XML, Bluestone Software says it’s offering developers the first visual tookit designed to help integrate existing applications using XML through the extended enterprise.

With Visual-XML, users can create XML and Document Type Definition (DTD) documents, as well as applications to run in Bluestone’s XML-Server. It features a drag-and-drop environment which allows developers to browse databases and bind data elements to XML, DTD and Document Object Model (DOM) trees. Java, SQL, DTD and XML code editors are included for projects that require customization.

Al Smith, vice-president of software development for Bluestone Software in Mount Laurel, N.J., said the development market is moving very quickly; people are sure they want to use XML, they just are not completely sure how they want to use it.

“People have an awful lot of information tied up in corporate databases or in their mainframes or other places and when we look at business-to-business or supply chain automation, XML seems to fit really well. It’s easy to define and it’s relatively insensitive to changes that occur on either end of the system.”

Many companies have large suppliers that they do EDI with, “then they have all the rest,” Smith said.

“Visual-XML lets you, in a visual way, query a database and generate either an XML document to be e-mailed, or it will let you create a program that you would then run in (Bluestone) XML-Server.”

Users can also automatically generate a DTD of the format of the data they are presenting.

“We then let you create the XML document, but you can also add a transformation layer, by using someone else’s pre-defined DTD. So you can scroll down, pick a DTD out of a directory, off the Web, or somewhere else, bring that in and map between the data that you have in your database and that DTD,” Smith explained.

“A lot of people want to retrieve data from a database, or some other back-end source, and send it maybe as an XML document to a business partner, but at the same time also have the ability to occasionally serve it up as an HTML page or send it down to a mobile device.”

It also allows developers to apply a different style sheet to the data being sent out to different partners. The product was designed to complement Bluestone’s XML-Server runtime product, but can also be used alone, Smith said.

Roger Bly, CEO and founder of San Diego-based Inc., which provides business-to-business project collaboration applications to partners via the Internet, had worked on an EDI system “in a past life” and found it rigid and time consuming.

“XML is definitely the way to go. It’s very deterministic and it’s very simple to parse. And for us, I can think of no other way to do this right.”

Currently he is using Bluestone Visual-XML to build schemas for a project collaboration.

“The beauty of this is if one customer has a special need to have certain fields, we can add those – or they can add those themselves – and it won’t affect (the outcome).

The most compelling feature of the product for Bly is the way it tightly integrates with Bluestone’s XML-Server, he said.

“We use Visual-XML to point to our data sources like Oracle SAP and Peoplesoft ERP systems, create the mapping from those things into an XML document or schema and then bring that up in the editor and create the document handler, [which] determines how it is going to get processed.”

Fred Kauber, vice-president of technology for New York-based e-mail enhancement firm Clickmail Inc., is already using Bluestone’s Sapphire/Web application server to develop a new product, but also is starting to use Visual-XML and XML-Server as well. His interest in XML lies in its “ability to establish data independence by separating the presentation logic from the application logic,” he explained.

“Our service is both client- and server-based, and we are going to be using XML as basically the middleware between client and server communication. Our plan is to extend beyond the e-mail channel, and so we will be using XML to deliver to PDAs and cell phones,” he said.

“So regardless of whatever the application interface is that we need to build to talk to [customers], we can create an XML DTD that works specifically for their system, and deliver it to them however it’s required.”

Bluestone Visual-XML ( sells for US$99 per developer. The company’s XML-Server is US$2,995 per CPU.

Bluestone Software in Mount Laurel, N.J., is at (856)727-4600.