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Business rules in Confluent's world

Confluent Software says its updated software is the muscle behind centralized business rules for enterprise-wide Web services.

Confluent Software Inc. on Monday said that the newest version of its Web services management software will be released by the end of the month. Confluent 3.5 is designed to provide decentralized IT operations with a centralized means of tracking their Web services.

Alain Couder, Confluent's president and chief executive, said that the new release will allow large organizations to enforce enterprise-wide security and quality of service (QoS) best practices across a range of XML Web services -- including services that have been built by different departments or partners, and deployed on various software platforms and messaging systems.

"Until now, Web services management products have been capable only of department-level Web services management," Couder said.

Such an approach is important to large organizations that have many application "owners," said Jason Bloomberg, an analyst with Waltham, Mass.-based ZapThink LLC. "You really have to manage your policies centrally," he said. "Policies are enforced in a distributed fashion but managed centrally."

Confluent's platform includes Policy Manager, which allows IT administrators to specify which business policies will be globally enforced across all Web services. It also lets them specify policies that only apply to an individual service. Confluent said that its Policy Manager "writes the law" and that its gateways and agents for J2EE- and .NET-based Web services "enforce" that law.

The final piece of the platform, Confluent Monitor, is a tool that reports on the health, performance and security of those Web services that an organization deems crucial. IT administrators can be alerted automatically of a problem with a service or application interaction.

Ted Schadler, a principal analyst with Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass., said that the focus on "policies" sounds more complex than it really is.

"'Policy' is a big word for business rules," Schadler said. "A message goes out, now what? A message comes in, now what? The 'now what' is about implementing policy." That policy can be anything from a security rule to creating an exception when a service encounters an updated version of another application.

Paola Lubet, Confluent's vice president of marketing, said that many competitors simply monitor Web services themselves and not relationships among Web services that exist across the entire enterprise.

"Our core focus is really around real-time enforcement of policies, or rules, if you want to call them rules," she said. "What we do is really actively enforce rules at runtime."

Schadler said that organizations need to give their developers tools that can manipulate XML-based Web services at the operational, or runtime, level, without saddling them with the responsibility of creating security rules, too.

"That's what all of these guys [Web services vendors] are doing, but Confluent has a pretty elegant architecture to do it," Schadler said.


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