XML routers may boost communication

As XML-based Web services continue to evolve, a new category of XML-aware data routers is emerging that could smooth out Web services transactions. These devices act as intermediaries at the network edge, reading, interpreting and acting upon embedded XML content in order to provide services such as priority routing, filtering, acceleration, authentication and encryption.

By enhancing data movement between Web-based applications and databases, these devices may help companies communicate more effectively with partners, employees and customers.

These XML routers consist of a group of related devices variously described as application data routers (ADR), XML acceleration appliances or XML switches. The first such devices appeared in May 2002. About 10 start-ups are offering or developing XML routers, and analysts say interest is building among the big router vendors.

Greg Howard, principal analyst at The HTRC Group LLC in San Andreas, Calif., defines XML routing as one function of ADR. These devices perform routing at the application layer and can incorporate switching based on XML content, but they may also support other database and application protocols.

The goal, he says, is to interpret XML content to enhance security and provide “content-aware” switching and acceleration services. ADRs can automate updates between different corporate databases when a user makes a transaction, Howard says.

3Com Corp. subsidiary CommWorks Corp. in Rolling Meadows, Ill., uses an XPE 2000 intelligent XML switch from Sarvega Inc. to automate customer support and ultimately reduce costs. The switch replaced the manual work and custom development necessary to process customer trouble reports, says Chandru Bolaki, technical director at CommWorks. Support staffers used to process hundreds of outgoing e-mail and phone messages every day. The reports can now be transmitted automatically by voice, Short Messaging Service or e-mail.

John Chirapurath, co-founder and vice president of marketing at Burr Ridge, Ill.-based Sarvega, says the XPE switch can prioritize XML data to help give more vital transactions greater priority.

Chirapurath says he has seen interest in the financial services, manufacturing and health care sectors. ADRs can be used in any organization that’s deploying XML-based applications, whether for Web commerce or internal needs, says Mark Seery, an analyst at RHK Inc. in South San Francisco, Calif. Heavy-duty transactions such as airline booking or ERP would be good candidates, he says.

Howard predicts that ADR will become more function-specific, catering to the needs of, say, human resources or other areas.

At US$50,000 and up, the devices currently represent a significant IT investment. Nonetheless, the ADR market could grow quite large, says Howard. But at this stage, says Seery, it’s too early to tell.