Blue Titan Sorts Web Services

By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2003-05-26

Blue Titan Sorts Web Services

Blue Titan Network Director 2.0
Blue Titan Network Director helps organizations get a handle on Web services by installing components throughout the network and using centrally managed policies to govern the creation, deployment, use and performance of Web services. Blue Titan has a good idea and a good start with a solid product. IT managers who are faced with rolling out Web services will likely control long-term costs by imposing order on services that have the potential to become a chaotic hodgepodge.
  • PRO: Clean interface and a clear method for cataloging Web services; effective access controls and good infrastructure for monitoring transaction performance.

  • CON: Needs additional historical reporting and real-time monitoring capabilities; lacks effective integration with other performance monitoring tools.

    Confluent Softwares Core Manager
    Blue Titan Software Inc.s updated network director brings order and management to the jumble of Web services by using a host of software components and consoles loaded on systems throughout the enterprise network.

    IT managers who are faced with business operations that rely on Web services should consider Blue Titan Network Director. Blue Titan is one of the few companies fielding a monitoring and management tool designed to track applications that rely on XML messaging.

    During tests at eWEEK Labs, we were able to incorporate Web services such as a stock quote system provided by XMethods Inc. and could monitor the service for availability while also getting reports on how much the stock quote application was used.

    Blue Titan Network Director Version 2.0 became available last month.

    Blue Titan Network Director is composed of at least one Engine and one or more switches (which the company now calls Control Points), Servers and Managers, along with a data repository (which supports only Oracle Corp. databases). Blue Titan Network Director also includes Blue Titan Studio, which we used to register new and existing application logic that uses SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol).

    The base Blue Titan configuration, which we tested, includes one Manager, an Engine and four Control Points. This configuration costs $150,000, but prices vary widely based on the number of control points and the amount of professional services needed to install the product.

    We installed the components on servers running Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Linux Version 8.0. For now, Blue Titans infrastructure requirements are quite specific, and IT managers must have staff with Linux and Oracle experience to handle the initial installation tasks.

    We used Blue Titan Network Director to uniformly make Web services available in our network while also managing and monitoring the performance of these services. Much like other network and application management tools, we could set up Blue Titan Network Director to forward alerts when thresholds were crossed, but in this version only e-mail alerts are supported.

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    Blue Titan officials said additional notification methods, including SNMP traps, are being developed. As it stands, a Blue Titan Network Director service can be configured to convert an alert into an SNMP trap. Company officials said they are hoping that network management companies will come around to the Web services way. However, because of widespread implementation of SNMP-based monitoring and management systems, we would like to see Blue Titan make a concerted effort to work with these established infrastructure management systems.

    We would also like to see Blue Titan incorporate technology based on pioneering work from companies such as System Management Arts Inc. that will enable root cause analysis for Web services failures.

    Another area where Blue Titan Network Director needs work is reporting. During tests, for example, we were able to gauge service utilization with a real-time monitor but could not conveniently get historical performance reports. Also, we were limited to monitoring one metric at a time.

    Blue Titan staff assisted us with the installation, a common practice with new customers. IT managers should plan on at least one day of on-site help to ensure that the Blue Titan components can communicate with one another. Once the product was installed, our work showed that day-to-day operations should be straightforward and require little assistance from either the in-house systems or database staff.

    That said, IT staff at an organization who oversee Web services will likely spend at least several weeks getting to know Blue Titan Network Director. This is because Blue Titan Network Director has a process that makes sense for monitoring and managing the myriad Web services that are likely to become available in the coming months and years, especially as security issues surrounding XML and SOAP are addressed.

    Competitors such as Confluent Software Inc.s Core Manager provide similar, comparably priced services, and IT managers should look at these emerging companies for help with managing Web services.

    After installing all the Blue Titan Network Director components, we stepped through the process of setting up the system to deploy and manage a test set of Web services. First, we defined organizations, which set boundaries on users and the Web services to which users can subscribe. In this version of the product, organization information is quite rudimentary and includes basic identification and billing information.

    The most important aspect of setting up an organization is providing membership information so that Blue Titan Network Director can control access to Web services. In tests, we defined subscriber groups based on departments at eWEEK, including Labs, News and Production.

    Creating subscriber groups streamlined the process of assigning access rights for various Web services we used in our tests. We used Blue Titan Network Director to register Web services and then provided the services to organizations through a simple-to-use Web-based administrative interface (see screen).

    Registering Web services allowed us to provide granular information about each service, including the execution URL and other identifying information.

    The Web service registration process let us provide multiple execution URLs, so that Blue Titan Network Director could supply a backup if one became unavailable.

    Blue Titan Network Director uses its software switches to perform policy-based routing of Web services. We installed several switches, about 2MB worth, on the test networks Red Hat Linux systems. The switches worked well and provided log information about the performance of each Web services transaction.

    See related story, Service-Level Agreements Take Tact, Honesty.

    Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant is at

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