XML has shown great promise as a format for integrating data across SOA applications. But developers face countless challenges when creating apps that mix and match data from real world scenarios containing relational databases, comma delimited flat files, and EDI formats. The applications break every time the data format changes, and then the company has to manage multiple adaptors, said Dr. Carlo Innocenti, senior XML program manager for DataDirect Technologies.
"Today you end up dealing with a variety of data sources in many enterprises," He explained. "You may have a need to pull together data that is partly available in XML messages and some data that you are running in house. You end up having to create multiple data access layers that have to pull all of this together into a single logical view. The risk is that you create a lot of code and point solutions that you have to maintain over time. It is a maintenance nightmare."
To help address this challenge DataDirect created a suite of tools to replace this complexity with a single XML layer capable of accessing data in a wide variety of formats. This work evolved into the XML Integration Suite that consists of the XQuery engine, XML Converters, and the Stylus Studio IDE. The latest update provides a number of significant upgrades designed to support more formats, and simplify development of cross platform apps drawing on multiple data sources.
The Integration Suite creates an abstraction layer that makes everything visible as an XML data source. The developer can use the same style of XQuery statement whether he trying to access an EDI file, XML document, or relational database table. The latest version of the XQuery engine can also act as a Web service, allowing any type of application to query the engine using WSDL.
The major improvement to the engine is support for the XQuery Update Facility (XUF), an extension of the XQuery language that allows making changes to data manipulated inside the XQuery. XUF is a W3C standard that adds the ability to change and save XML documents. This feature could allow an organization to transform large XML documents in place without having to generate multiple copies. In previous versions, it was possible to fetch data from these documents, but you could not create them from scratch. It also allows the applications to create zip files, which is required to write OpenOffice documents.
Another update to the engine is the XQuery Web services framework integration that exposes XQuery as a web service. Innocenti said this is useful when you want to pull data from multiple sources and send it back as a single XML document. This feature enables developers to access the XQuery engine using WSDL, SOAP, or REST interfaces without having to learn XQuery syntax.
The updated XML converter tool supports Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006 and can be integrated with the BizTalk development environment, for streamlining the use of XML Converters in .NET. It also adds support for the latest HIPAA and EDI dialects.
Stylus Studio includes a new EDI to XML module that simplifies working with converters. Developers can load EDI documents to view their layout test conversions, create customization, and preview the XML format. There are also wizards for EDI to XQuery and for automatically generating an XML Schema from an EDI document.