By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2004-08-09 Print this article Print

OpenLink Software Inc. calls its Virtuoso 3.5 product a universal server platform, and although this is an apt description in many ways, its not a complete one.

Virtuoso 3.5, which was released in June, is middleware for tying together data sources, applications, content, documents and Web services. But Virtuoso can also be considered—among many other things—a database server, an SOA (service-oriented architecture) product, an application server, an XML database and an enterprise service bus.

Whichever way its classified, Virtuoso 3.5 is an extremely effective product for managing and integrating business data, content, services and processes, with broad support for Web services standards and for database connections.

Probably the biggest weakness in Virtuoso 3.5 is the lack of integrated support for messaging services, which, in some companies, could be a major drawback for a services integration solution.

The Virtuoso server runs on Linux, Mac OS X, most Unix varieties and Windows. And, starting at $4,999, Virtuoso 3.5 is surprisingly affordable for this class of product. OpenLink also offers a free download of a fully functional 30-day evaluation package; in our tests, it took minutes to get up and running.

Any company looking for a product to connect disparate data and content, especially those interested in doing so with Web services, should consider Virtuoso 3.5.

Administration and management of Virtuoso 3.5 is done mainly through an excellent browser-based interface. From here, we could easily access and configure Virtuoso 3.5s many capabilities.

One problem we ran into was that, although the application included documentation that we could access from the browser while managing the server, this documentation proved to be incorrect in several places, directing us to sites and menus that didnt exist or were in different areas of the interface. This wasnt a big problem, though, as the cleanliness and intuitive layout of the interface made it possible for us to figure out the correct way to do all our tasks.

Along with the already-excellent support for databases and Web services standards, Virtuoso 3.5 extends similar levels of broad support to application servers and dynamic scripting. The product includes direct support for PHP, Perl and Python and supports Microsoft Corp.s .Net. Virtuoso 3.5 also supports JavaServer Pages but requires Tomcat to do so.

Virtuoso 3.5 includes its own scripting languages, called Virtuoso Server Pages and Virtuoso Server Pages for XML. Anyone familiar with Perl or ASP (Active Server Pages) should have little trouble mastering them. Using these languages can improve performance, integration and capability within Virtuoso 3.5, but we recommend sticking with more common languages when possible to keep portability options open.

Virtuoso 3.5 provided us with detailed, nearly endless options for accessing and pulling data from data sources and integrating it through Web services and XML. We could easily generate and import WSDL (Web Services Description Language) and build a wide variety of complex Web services, and the product also provided useful test pages with information on all our Web services.

One area of Virtuoso 3.5 that can be a strength and a weakness is the "universal" aspect of the server. The product offers an unbelievably wide array of features and capabilities. Most make sense, given the products purpose. But some, such as the built-in blogging feature and newsgroup server, seem like overkill and could increase management hassles.

Labs Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at jim_rapoza@ziffdavis.com.

Check out eWEEK.coms Enterprise Applications Center at http://enterpriseapps.eweek.com for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.

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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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