By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2005-05-30 Print this article Print

Much attention has been paid to the XML-based document formats in Microsoft Corp.s Office and in OpenOffice.orgs OpenOffice. However, for several years now, more and more companies have been creating key documentation and other vital documents directly in XML.

In fact, how to store, access and manage documents is more important than whether those documents are originally created in XML, are created in a format that uses XML for meta-tagging, or are converted to XML from another format. While many systems use standard relational databases to manage and query document archives, for some business applications—such as portals, content management and knowledge management—an XML database might just be a better fit.

Ixiasoft Inc., a fixture in the relatively young XML database market, has greatly increased the document management and application integration capabilities of TextML Server, its flagship XML database product.

In addition to the products longtime COM (Component Object Model)-based API, Version 3.5 gains support for a Microsoft .Net-based API, which provides much greater depth and flexibility. Version 3.5 also offers full XPath support. During tests, this gave us much more capable indexing options than those in previous versions of the product.

TextML Server 3.5 is priced starting at $10,000 for the small-business edition, $25,000 for the standard edition and $45,000 for the enterprise edition, which we tested. Volume-based pricing is available for OEMs and application integrators.

Since eWEEK Labs review of TextML Server 2.0 several years ago, Ixiasoft has made significant improvements to the product, especially in its ability to import document formats and update repositories.

Overall, however, we think TextML Server 3.5 still comes up short in integrating with external databases because it has no features for direct native integration with relational databases.

In addition, TextML Server is still very much a Microsoft-oriented product, and it might not be a good fit for companies that arent predominantly Microsoft shops. Although Version 3.5, which shipped in February, does offer a Java API that uses Remote Method Invocation for Java integration, its most robust APIs are those for COM and .Net.

In tests, TextML Server 3.5 proved to be a very capable tool for building enterprise content applications that leverage XML to provide detailed searching and document management capabilities.

TextML Server and the client tools run only on Windows platforms, and the administration console is an MMC (Microsoft Management Console) plug-in. The MMC administration console worked well when we were physically working at the server, but for remote administration, we prefer a browser-based interface.

Another downside of TextML Server is that its remote administration tools connect to the server through RPC (remote procedure call) and network COM access. Because network COM access and, especially, RPC, are potential security holes, they are often disabled on company networks. In fact, one of the systems on which we installed the server was running Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1, which blocks these access points by default. We found it nearly impossible to remotely administer the server on this system.

On the test systems that did let us use the MMC-based administration console, we found the console simple but effective for managing data repositories .

We easily created and populated several specific document collections and applied detailed access restrictions to collections and even to individual documents (although TextML Server relies on the access controls in Windows). Version 3.5 includes check-in/ check-out capabilities and good document versioning.

TextML Server does an excellent job with content already in XML formats, and it works well with content such as graphics formats that include XML metadata. We could query everything after indexing, in tests, and we were able to build some fairly robust applications to search, manage and track our documents.

For businesses that want to include large quantities of non-XML documents in their document databases, Ixiasoft offers the optional Universal Converter, for an additional $10,000, for use with TextML Server 3.5.

In our tests, the Universal Converter tool, which is based on Stellent Inc.s Outside In technology, converted nearly any document format into a basic XML format using a schema called SearchML. The conversion happened automatically to any file we added to our repositories, and it proved useful for making these documents searchable in our applications.

However, Universal Converter-converted XML files are far from detailed metadata matches, and companies that need good metadata matching would be better served using a dedicated XML mapping and conversion tool.

We found that content can enter the system in many ways. In most cases, its added through the applications that companies build on top of TextML Server. Version 3.5 supports not only the programming APIs but also WebDAV (Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning).

In addition to the Universal Converter add-on, companies can increase the extensibility of TextML Server with the $5,000 Replication Service Agent and can boost reliability and scalability with the $15,000 Fault Tolerance Server.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

Jim Rapoza, Chief Technology Analyst, eWEEK.For nearly fifteen years, Jim Rapoza has evaluated products and technologies in almost every technology category for eWEEK. Mr RapozaÔÇÖs current technology focus is on all categories of emerging information technology though he continues to focus on core technology areas that include: content management systems, portal applications, Web publishing tools and security. Mr. Rapoza has coordinated several evaluations at enterprise organizations, including USA Today and The Prudential, to measure the capability of products and services under real-world conditions and against real-world criteria. Jim Rapoza's award-winning weekly column, Tech Directions, delves into all areas of technologies and the challenges of managing and deploying technology today.

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