Bluestone XML for HP-UX

It seems that 1999 was the year for extensible markup language, or XML. Beginning with Microsoft’s Q1 announcement of an e-commerce strategy that heavily leveraged an XML framework, the little-language-that-could just plum took off. With its own late-year announcement of a Java-based XML Suite, Bluestone Software Inc. hopes to bring a comprehensive XML solution to a variety of platforms – including HP-UX.

XML is often erroneously equated with Java, a programming language and runtime environment that boasts the ability to compile and run on just about any platform for which a Java virtual machine has also been written. Rather than simply providing the capability to run on heterogeneous platforms, XML’s real value-add is its ability to "glue" disparate platforms together. And XML’s "glue" doesn’t simply extend to communications between platforms themselves, but, rather, to the business applications that reside on these platforms.

For its part, Bluestone’s XML suite is composed of version 1.1 of Bluestone VisualXML, an XML development environment and toolkit for building XML applications. Visual XML 1.1 is matched on the server side with version 6.1.5 of the Bluestone XML Server. According to Al Smith, Vice President of Software Development with Bluestone Software, both Visual XML 1.1 and Bluestone XML Server work to complement one another.

"VisualXML is a tool that has two purposes, one of which is to let people build applications that would be hosted in Bluestone XML Server and execute on a runtime basis, and the other aspect is a client-side tool that actually lets you manipulate XML," says Smith. "And Bluestone XML Server is, of course, the platform on which you can host your XML applications, as well as interoperate with other XML server hosts."

Because of its inherent intuitiveness and self-documenting facility, Smith acknowledges that XML will likely play a large part in the burgeoning e-commerce space. But there’s another potential use for XML that Smith says could be just as big – as a replacement for expensive, proprietary and often unwieldy electronic data interchange (EDI) solutions.

"XML lets you be unconstrained by somebody’s previous definition," Smith says. "So when you look at EDI, a lot of times when I get done mapping [everything] from my AS/400 … to my HP 3000 or 9000 system, I’m left with some data that just won’t come over," he explains. "But when you look at XML, a lot of that excess time goes away because there’s a definition of the data with a data, and so it’s very easy to modify your programs."

And as enterprises increasingly gear up for e-commerce or seek to implement next-generation EDI solutions, Smith says that a back-end platform like HP-UX can benefit from XML’s ability to "glue" it to other operating systems and application platforms, across the divisions of a company or in business-to-business scenarios.

Smith’s optimism is echoed by members of the analyst community as well. Tim Minahan, a Senior Analyst in electronic commerce with consultancy at the Aberdeen Group, says that XML-based technologies – like Bluestone Visual XML and Bluestone Server – can help to tie together heterogeneous platforms.

"Aberdeen believes that XML technologies have the ability to provide support for open application integration, allowing disparate systems to interoperate with one another," he affirms.

-Stephen Swoyer, Contributing Author