XML tool eases data exchange over the 'Net

By David Rohde, Network World |  Development

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIF. - A new XML software product lets companies exchange data via the Internet by writing a few lines of code in a simple scripting language.

Using BizConnect, from start-up Scriptics, companies can pass data directly from order entry systems to manufacturing resource-planning applications or other back-end systems through Web documents formatted in XML.

XML is being touted as the lingua franca of the Web -- representing data, as opposed to text, in a common format that can be understood by different applications. But it's hard to find tools for actually moving the data contained in XML documents between applications at different companies.

BizConnect is an attempt to create a reusable software skeleton to support XML data exchanges by using the Tcl scripting language. Tcl (pronounced "tickle") was created by Scriptics founder and CEO John Ousterhout while he was a professor of computer science at the University of California at Berkeley.

Customers can write applications in any language, then use Tcl as the glue to connect them, he says.

BizConnect has several parts. The scripting engine processes the Tcl script and reads the XML information. The engine runs on the public domain Apache Web server or Microsoft's Internet Information Server.

A developer or end user works with BizConnect Author, a graphical tool set, to create scripts called document handlers. Each script is designed for a particular type of XML page. The scripts run with the BizConnect engine and pull the data out of documents. Then document handlers use a set of interfaces, called integration points, to pass the data to other applications outside the Web server.

With the first release, BizConnect will have four interfaces: the Common Object Model (COM) interface will work with Windows applications; the Java interface will work with Java application servers that support Enterprise JavaBeans; the Oracle interface will access Oracle databases; and the fourth interface will work with legacy applications on Unix servers.

A beta version of BizConnect is available now. The final product will ship in November.

A single-user development version costs $5,000; a group development version is $12,500. Deployment licenses start at $50,000 for computer systems with up to four processors.

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