XML server unites disparate data sources

A new stand-alone XML (Extensible Markup Language) server from Bluestone Software Inc. enables users across heterogeneous environments to create and read XML documents for communication between Web and non-Web applications and data sources.

The Bluestone XML-Server supports virtually all networking protocols including HTTP, SSL, IIOP and RMI within a single version of the product. It can also be deployed as a JavaBean or an Enterprise JavaBean.

The servers can, on the fly, generate XML documents from multiple sources and send them over the Web to an end user, or to another application using XML as a neutral transmission language. Companies can send an XML document to another company’s XML server, where the data is recognized and reformatted for use with its applications.

They differ from “repository-based” XML servers which cache XML documents first, before delivering the data, said John Capobianco, senior vice-president of marketing at

Bluestone. Instead, these new “dynamic” servers provide a multi-tier link between legacy systems and newer data sources, by utilizing XML documents as components with a new type of document handler called Doclet, he explained

“A client could come in with an XML document, and a Doclet does the data transformation, applies the application logic, and then goes out to the database or the data source,” he said. “Also included as standard with the XML-Server are standard database access and XML access so it can read any database and any database table.”

Core XML services include an XML parser, DOM, XSL, XQL and Xpointer, all of which are completely replaceable in a plug-compatible mode.

According to Capobianco, although XML-Server is a stand-alone product, it can also be integrated with Bluestone’s application server framework Sapphire/Web, for more advanced requirements such as increased scalability, fault tolerance, automatic failover, performance management and integration capabilities.

The company is also releasing a developer toolkit called Bluestone Visual-XML, which he said will allow business users to develop XML Doclets through a graphical drag-and-drop environment.

Phil Costa, a senior industry analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Giga Information Group, said companies will use XML in the future to communicate with partners or to build applications, but right now see more benefit in using it internally.

“The people who are moving the most aggressively are not thinking about inter-company communication — there are a lot of complex integration problems that go on just within a company. The key, at least for the time being, is integrating that new technology with legacy systems which are built around a relational model,” he said.

“So what the XML-Server allows you to do is manage that translation and adaptation, and then serve out the data to whatever type of application or client that wants it, and with the appropriate security levels.”

Beth Gold-Bernstein, a senior analyst at Hurwitz Group Inc. in Framingham, Mass., said Bluestone already has a solid reputation as an application server vendor and adding XML functionality has made its position even stronger.

“All [Bluestone] had to do was add an XML generator and parser to it, because with its application server architecture, you can plug any other services into it. So it makes it very easy to extend that platform,” she said.

“I think XML is going to be important in the future for integrating information, or sharing information, among disparate sources and resources. Companies have two choices right now when they are doing their integration. They can either go with a proprietary product, or they can go with a standards-based product. And XML is the standards base at this point,” she said.

The Bluestone XML-Server (www.bluestone.com/xml/XML-Server/) is priced at US$2,995 per CPU. The Visual-XML toolkit will be available next month for US$99.

Bluestone Software in Mount Laurel, N.J., is at (609) 778-8125.