Bluestone Enables XML on the AS/400

When it comes to providing application support across multiple platforms, Java and Java-based technologies such as Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) are usually seen as key enabling technologies. Recently, however, another technology called Extensible Mark-up Language (XML) has come to the fore as a means for tying disparate platforms together. With the introduction of its Bluestone XML Suite, AS/400 EJB pioneer Bluestone Software Inc. (www.bluestone.com ) becomes one of the first ISVs to deliver upon the promise of XML on the AS/400 platform.

XML is big news across the industry as a whole. In announcing its much-hyped Internet Commerce Strategy in early March, Microsoft Corp. made much of the potential of the extensible markup language (XML) as a means to provide a "glue" of interoperability between heterogeneous systems. Other vendors such as SAP America Inc. (www.sap.com ) have announced XML-based plans going forward, as well.

For once, the analyst community is generally in agreement with regard to the potential benefits of XML-based solutions. "Aberdeen believes that XML technologies have the ability to provide support for open application integration, allowing disparate systems to interoperate with one another," affirms Tim Minahan, a senior analyst in electronic commerce with consultancy Aberdeen Group (www.aberdeen.com).

And it’s this promise – encapsulated in its purported ability to seamlessly tie together the most heterogeneous of systems – that will make XML a big deal, says Bob Bickel, senior vice president of product marketing with Bluestone Software. "XML is a technology that I think is going to catch on this year and have at least as important an impact on the AS/400 as Java or EJB," Bickel maintains. "Our XML Suite allows you to talk XML out the front end to a back end data source. You can talk XML through a variety of different protocols, but what you’re really doing is passing information or a document from one system to another."

Bickel positions XML as a spin on the traditional Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) solutions that have been part and parcel of the AS/400 world for years. "It’s kind of like the next generation of EDI, and I think that that’s going to be an important one for AS/400 users, because you typically think of the AS/400 as key business systems for midrange companies," Bickel explains. "XML makes EDI much more cost effective, so that smaller companies can for the first time exchange data inexpensively and relatively painlessly with larger organizations."

According to Bickel, the Bluestone XML Suite includes both a Visual XML development environment as well as an XML Server component to enable developers to create and deploy e-commerce, EDI, application integration and supply chain management applications based on XML schemas.

Accordingly, Bluestone XML-Server provides the dynamic XML server "middle-tier" link that integrates data sources with XML documents. Bluestone Visual-XML, on the other hand, is a developer toolkit that helps companies build XML-based applications by automatically generating document type definitions and other XML documents based on user-defined data sources. Visual-XML can also bind XML documents to data sources by means of a graphical drag-and-drop API that generates Java and/or XML code.

In an effort to increase the visibility and distribution of its new XML suite, Bluestone Software announced in late March a partnership with Intraware Inc. (www.intraware.com ), a company that provides web-based software management services. According to the terms of the partnership, Intraware will provide primary Web-based software services for the Bluestone XML Suite. For its part, Bluestone Software indicated that it will leverage Intraware's Web-based product research, electronic software purchase and delivery, and software management services.