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Getting SOA ready for the XML boom

Reactivity's latest XML gateway release attempts to keep pace with the exponential growth of XML Web services.

Today, Reactivity Inc. announced its newest XML Gateway products, which the company says speed Web services processing and help developers reduce SOA deployment time by as much as 75 percent.

The entry of appliances from companies such as Reactivity and it's competitors are coming just in time deal with exponential growth in Web services, said L. Frank Kenney, research director at Gartner Inc.

We're going to see a tripling and quadrupling of XML transactions.
L. Frank Kenney
Research DirectorGartner Inc.

"Today we see more and more XML and Web services inside the infrastructure and the enterprise and between enterprises and their external partners" the analyst said. "With this advent of using more and more XML and Web services, there's more processing. That's processing XML, parsing the XML, scanning the XML for malicious content and bad code. That causes a burden on the network. The network starts to strain under the weight of all the increased XML and Web services traffic. What Reactivity brings to the table is the ability to offload some of that processing and reduce bottlenecks and improve performance."

Based on his work with clients, he said IT organizations in some companies do not yet realize that XML processing is about to become a major performance issue for their networks. Even companies that are aware of the coming XML explosion may be underestimating it.

"In talking to our clients, our clients see XML processing doubling in a year's time," Kenney said. "I'm talking to clients that tell me they're doing 25,000 transactions a month, and they expect it in the next 12 months to jump to 50,000 transactions. I believe it's going to be more than that because Web services today come in just every package and every way."

IT departments tend to look at the development projects within their company and see that 100 Web services are involved, he said. But they tend to miss the fact that packaged applications they are installing may add thousands of Web services.

"We're going to see a tripling and quadrupling of XML transactions," Kenney said. So he is advising the client currently handling 25,000 transactions per month and anticipating 50,000 by next year, to gear up for between 75,000 and 100,000 transactions a month by this time next year.

Reactivity's approach to the minimizing the overhead of processing XML includes technology that learns how much of the XML coming from a particular Web service really needs to be processed, said Andrew Nash, Reactivity's CTO. He calls this creating "semantic shortcuts."

"If you look at the messages that turn up in a service, ninety-plus percent of all the XML that actually arrives at a particular service for a message is the same," he explained. "There are small pieces like customer ID or the value of the transaction or the particular product that you are purchasing, but that's only about ten percent of the overhead of the messages that have arrived."

The uniquely new data inside the XML message coming into the Reactivity Gateway is identified using what Nash called a "very, very fast algorithm" and then only that part, potentially as little as six percent of the whole message, is processed. "We're eliminating over ninety percent of the processing overhead for XML messaging," he said.

Reactivity is offering a range of Gateway products featuring its XML Enabled Networking (XEN) technology. Starting at the low-end, the 1000 series handles 1,500 transactions per second. At the high end, the 4000 series featuring "dual-core, dual processor" handles more than 5,000 transactions per second, the company said.

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As for reducing the SOA deployment time, Nash said Reactivity's Instant XML Enabled Networking gateway products significantly reduce manual configuration for integration and governance in SOA projects. Configuration does not require "an army of developers" and can reduce the time for SOA implementations by 75 percent, he said.

Gartner's Kenney would not give a specific percentage for the time saved by installing a network appliance to handle XML processing, nor would he rank Reactivity's approach in terms of its competitors, but he did say that there is significant savings in installing an appliance as opposed to purchasing hardware, an operating system and applications and then configuring everything from scratch.

"A company like Reactivity, or any other integration appliance vendor, is going to bring pre-configured integration capabilities in a box and deliver that box at a lower price point," the analyst said, comparing the cost of the appliance to the build it and program it yourself model. "It's integration for the masses."

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