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11/19/2004
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SmartAdvice: Craft A Data-Center SLA So It Meets Business Needs

Outsourcing data-center work lets staff focus on higher-value activities, but pay attention to business metrics when drafting the agreement, The Advisory Council says. Also, RSS may be a useful tool depending on your's company's industry; and expect staff cultural challenges when switching from mainframe based apps to client/server or Web-based applications.

Question B: What is RSS, and what, if anything, should we be doing with it?

Our advice: What industry you're in may dictate how aggressively a company pursues RSS technology. Content aggregators and publishers are already using it heavily, but there are some open issues to be weighed.

Consider the purpose and reasons for your organization using RSS, and avoid jumping on any bandwagons. Educate your staff and your users about RSS' benefits and value. Evaluate opportunities--possibly start a blog--and understand the requirements for supporting it. Finally, plan accordingly.

RSS Defined
RSS (variously defined as Rich Site Summary, RDF Site Summary, or Really Simple Syndication) is a method for delivering news or Web content from a syndicated source to subscribers, a multipurpose extensible metadata description and syndication format.

Although RSS has been around since 1999, multiple versions still exist, and some formats are unreadable by some tools. In addition, different groups supporting different versions each claim theirs to be the standard. Such confusion hasn't built either legitimacy or confidence amongst users. RSS readers (e.g., FeedDemon, Pluck, and NewsGator) are, for the most part, a separate component from the browser. We think that RSS readers should be part of the browser, such as in Mozilla's Firefox and Opera Software's browser.


Related Links
Opera Software

Mozilla Firefox

OASIS RSS Technology Report
Bloggers have long known the benefits and value of RSS, since those sites are routinely updated with up-to-the-minute posts. Portals such as Yahoo, and major news sites (e.g., New York Times and Wall Street Journal) have had the ability to incorporate RSS feeds for some time, because it enables news stories and headlines to be updated automatically in near real-time.

Ever wonder what those orange-colored logos with the letters XML are on your favorite Web sites? They're links to RSS feeds: Subscribers automatically receive site updates because the publisher registered the site with an RSS aggregator and tagged RSS documents with XML codes that describe the type of document and where it resides.

RSS Is Not Push Technology
On the surface, RSS appears to resemble the push technology of vendors such as PointCast, but there are differences. Push technology was built on the broadcasting model, where providers fed content to desktops, accompanied by lots of ads; RSS places the choice of content in the hands of the user, aggregating the choice of readers.

For content providers and publishers, RSS provides an easy way to syndicate data. For browser vendors, it's a means for regaining control of the online experience. For consumers, it lets them better focus on content without being distracted by pop-ups and spam. This has some nicknaming RSS "the TiVo of the Web."

-John C. Sinclair

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