XML Increases Options for Services, Integration

Software developers are finding new ways to use XML for integrating everything from data and Web services to applications for business process management and presentation.

Software developers are finding new ways to use XML for integrating everything from data and Web services to applications for business process management and presentation.

Early leaders of this trend include IBM, Cape Clear Software Inc. and Adobe Systems Inc., each of which is readying XML integration capabilities in upgraded products.

IBMs WebSphere 5 application server, which will ship next month, will feature a Web services-based workflow engine, said officials with the Armonk, N.Y., company. The engine will use XML to enable developers to expose components or whole applications as Web services and then create workflows among them to automate the creation of new systems or to bring existing legacy applications into new environments.

Joe Lindsay, chief technology officer at eBuilt Inc., a Costa Mesa, Calif., developer, said he has used previous versions of IBMs workflow tools. The ability now to expose applications as Web services and integrate them "saves a great deal of time and effort," Lindsay said.

Wayne Parrott, vice president of professional services at Genuitec LLC, a Dallas-based IT consultancy, agreed.

"Most of todays solutions involve some level of business process and workflow management," Parrott said. "Native support and integration for business process and workflow management is the next evolution for the application server providers."

IBM is using its XML and Web services integration technology to mask some of the complexity of the J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) platform, said Scott Hebner, director of product management for WebSphere. "You can expose applications as Web services and then plug them into systems. Compared to the traditional programming model around J2EE, this is a big productivity gain," he said.

"IBM clearly sees that WebSphere must move up what we call the integration zipper, moving from the application server/ API level ... to the business process level in order to offer products that can come with any kind of meaningful margin," said Jason Bloomberg, an analyst with ZapThink LLC, in Cambridge, Mass.

Meanwhile, Cape Clear this week will announce a beta version of its G4 product, the fourth generation of its Web services platform, which features upgraded integration and development environments and adds a Web services management component, said CEO Annrai OToole, in San Mateo, Calif. The commercial release will be available late next month.

Cape Clears upgraded platform will offer full support of XML Schema, enabling developers to build Web services that support all the derivatives of XML, OToole said. In addition, G4 will support IBMs MQSeries as an integration point. The support will in- clude "using MQ as a transport for Web services and taking existing MQ applications and making them accessible to Web services," he said.

G4 will also come with a management component that will give users a centralized console for managing and establishing single sign-on for Web services. Enterprises will be able to control user access as well as check loads, review security properties and monitor performance, OToole said.

Adobe, of San Jose, Calif., is looking at XML integration from a different perspective in its Adobe Document Server, which will be unveiled this week. XML can be used for integrating data and applications, as well as for integration in the presentation layer and to render graphics and content, officials said.

The product will integrate workflows and Web interfaces with XML to enable users to build and customize documents, officials said. Adobe Document Server will support Extensible Style Language Formatting Objects, a standard for describing how an XML document should be formatted for a variety of media. It also features an open architecture for integration with enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and content management systems, officials said.