Bluestone Releases New Toolkit for Building XML Applications

Interest in XML applications is reaching fever intensity and vendors can't crank out development tools fast enough. One vendor that sells into the AS/400 space, Bluestone Software (Mt. Laurel, N.J.), has begun shipping a new toolkit that enables developers to integrate applications that use XML throughout the enterprise.

In fact, Bluestone claims that release 1.1 of its Visual-XML toolkit is the first to help companies integrate applications using XML throughout the extended enterprise. Visual-XML is a development tool for creating XML-based business-to-business solutions and allows developers to browse back-end data sources and bind XML elements and attributes to data objects within a GUI environment.

"The Bluestone Visual-XML drag-and-drop tool eases the creation of Java-based XML applications, which will appeal to the AS/400 marketplace because they don't have to become Java or XML experts. In a simple point-and-click manner, you can tie any XML document or DTD to any type of data source," says Bob Bickel, senior VP of products for Bluestone. "XML is going to be important to the AS/400 market because a typical AS/400 customer is a mid-size company that is probably part of several different supply chains and value chains. Many of the features of the business-to-business commerce are going to be done by sending XML documents back and forth. If end users can get a tool that helps them create those types of applications to more of their partners in a faster and easier method, that will be good for them over time."

"XML is only going to grow in importance," adds Beth Gold-Bernstein, senior analyst at Hurwitz Group (Boston). "We believe that it will be the 'lingua franca' of business-to-business messaging over the Internet. XML will probably be the next EDI-type solution, since it's less complicated and less expensive to implement.

"Bluestone is innovative in its architecture and design capabilities," she notes. "Visual-XML is part of their vision for their e-business suite--what customers need to do e-business. They are putting together a lot of the pieces to solve the e-business application and implementation, which is only continuing to grow in the market."

Through a series of XML document wizards, Visual-XML facilitates dynamic XML document management for publishing or processing XML. Visual-XML creates XML and DTD documents, as well as applications that run as pure Java Document Handlers in the Bluestone XML-Server 6.1.5. The Universal Listener Framework (ULF) enhances these capabilities by allowing users to receive and transmit XML messages and documents from a variety of sources such as e-mail, ftp and http. Visual-XML 1.1 also provides more than a dozen multiple document transformation facilities, including XSL and DB2.

Visual-XML also includes a Universal Listener Framework Console that generates an XML configuration file that is read by the XML application. The toolkit also includes an XML Document Process Wizard that generates document handlers for any document type (DTD/Schema), and a Database Publishing Wizard that provides assistance for generating XML documents from data stored in a database. A document transformation engine also transforms data source specific DTDs to any desired document type (e.g., OAG, RosettaNet, etc.,) using XSL. The toolkit also includes editing tools.

Roger Bly, co-founder and CEO of Inc. (San Diego), has been working with Visual-XML for about five months to build a project relationship management application. Scheduled to debut by year-end, will enable companies to exercise management and control of their portfolio of product lifecycle projects by creating a secure, collaborative environment that unites them with their customers, suppliers, subcontractors and other business partners.

"We want to use XML as the base representation of our pages that users interact with," says Bly. "With XML, our long-term plans are to make our application accessible to a wider range of devices, such as different kinds of browsers, WebTV, palm devices, or Web phones. However, I would like to see Bluestone offer more support for different types of communication channels, maybe even integration with some middleware products.

"Bluestone is very vendor neutral; their applications works on any Java platform. For us, this is great news," he continues. "We can deploy on any platform a customer has that supports Java. I feel this is a strong selling point that separates Bluestone from other XML vendors. Even though there's not any clear standards for document handlers, Bluestone has their own approach that tends to be an open standard. When a standard emerges, they adopt pretty quickly. For us, that's compelling. We have very strong, open principals for our application deployment."