Systinet offers a fresh new WASP

Systinet offers a fresh new WASP

Systinet, which released version 3.0 of its Web Application Services Platform (WASP) software suite in October 2001, already has version 4.0 out the door. The suite contains three products – WASP Server for Java and C++, WASP Developer for Java and WASP UDDI. New features include better security, performance, scalability and manageability.

Context: Systinet, originally called Idoox, was the brainchild of Roman Stanek. It's Stanek's fifth startup. The fourth was NetBeans, which he sold to Sun Microsystems in 1999. The technology continues to form the basis of Sun's Java tools portfolio.

While still working for Sun, Stanek rounded up another team of highly cost-effective developers in his hometown of Prague, and funded them out of his own pocket to work on XML and Web services. They came up with one of the earliest and best-reviewed SOAP engines, and continue to be on the technical vanguard of the Web services world.

In October 2001, the company closed a $2.3 million seed round with participation from Windcrest Partners, 3TS Venture Partners, Robin Neustein and Esther Dyson. In March 2002, Warburg Pincus led an additional round that came to an impressive $21 million.

Technology: While both WASP Server products come with command line developer tools for hard-core, vi- or emacs-using programmers, many who are coming to Web services from the Java or Visual Basic worlds prefer to use the graphical tools embedded in an integrated development environment (IDE).

That's where WASP Developer for Java comes in. Free for commercial use, it provides a natural bridge between Systinet's other products and some of the best-known Java IDEs: Sun's Forte, Borland's JBuilder and IBM's Eclipse.

WASP UDDI 4.0 gets two main new features: a more powerful security system and better query capabilities. It's an implementation of the Universal Description, Discovery and Integration standard for building registries of Web services. Version 4 can secure any element capable of being registered, and can enforce access control, making particular services available or even visible only to the appropriate users.

The UDDI standard provides a certain set of commands, but Systinet engineers grew frustrated with its limitations. Getting a Web Service Definition Language (WSDL) file, for example, took four calls in traditional UDDI. WASP UDDI 4.0 includes a query that completes the request in a single call.

Most of the changes, though, are to the server. CTO Ann Thomas Manes claims WASP Server 4.0 is the first industrial-strength secure Web services platform. Security is key, as Web services vendors face the widespread belief that SOAP is inherently insecure. Where some competing platforms offer the ability to encrypt messages, WASP Server adds full authentication and authorization support, built into the core framework.

The software supports five kinds of authentication natively: unencrypted HTTP, HTTP Digest, Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) and Kerberos. Other forms of authentication can be enabled through plug-ins. Once a user is authenticated, WASP can match the ID to a user database for authorization via Java Authentication and Authorization Services (JAAS).

Besides security, Systinet worked hard on performance and scalability in this release. Apparently the SOAP engine is five to 15 times faster than any competitors, but since that's by the company's own benchmarks, buyers are advised to check the figures. Management was another priority, and WASP now offers a single browser view of the entire Web services system.

Competition: Two vendors rival Systinet in SOAP expertise: Irish up-and-comer Cape Clear and North American dark horse The Mind Electric (TME). Developers love TME's GLUE but Systinet executives discount the company as a competitive threat because it doesn't have any venture funding.

The same can't be said of Cape Clear, founded by veterans of CORBA superstar Iona, which raised $16 million from Greylock and Accel in June 2001. CTO Manes reports that Cape Clear's CapeConnect is very competitive in performance, but falls down in scalability. Again, she's relying on benchmarks generated by Systinet's own team, so the results should be taken with a grain of salt.

More to the point, Manes says, CapeConnect doesn't have the same security features WASP 4 now boasts, nor can it match WASP on interoperability. She claims that the two companies often make the same shortlists, and that when it comes to technical evaluation, Systinet finishes ahead.

Customers: Systinet's most recent customer win, Entergy Corp, is using WASP for an energy trading application. It takes its place with Deutsche Telekom's T-Motion, Ericsson and JP Morgan among Systinet's 150 paying customers. Under the new pricing model, WASP Server for Java and C++ is available free for single-CPU commercial use. Further CPUs are charged at $200 each, and the UDDI product costs $10,000 per CPU.

Longer-term, Systinet recognizes that SOAP engines will be commodities, wrapped into existing offerings – Web application servers, for example, or operating systems themselves. The company believes it can make a handsome living moving up the value chain with offerings like WASP UDDI – providing, of course, that the economy picks up.

The451 assessment: The main upgrade in WASP 4.0 is a systematic overhaul of authentication and authorization, designed to overcome resistance to Web services as insecure. The Mind Electric has won developers with its GLUE platform, but only Cape Clear has the venture funding to pit its CapeConnect against Systinet's WASP. The dark horse is the open source Web services platform Apache SOAP. For this market to survive and thrive, vendors must add value and move up the software stack.

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