Startups Pushing The Idea Of Web-Services Hubs

Blue Titan is trying to create Web-services hubs in the enterprise where an existing networked service can be called and reused by more than one application. By Charles Babcock
What may prove an important new network management niche has gained an updated player with Blue Titan Software Inc., which is announcing its Network Director 2 app.

Blue Titan Software, founded in 2001, and a group of fellow startups that include AmberPoint, Confluent, and Flamenco Networks, are attempting to create Web-services hubs in the enterprise where an existing networked service can be called and reused by more than one application.

Blue Titan's Network Director 2 is priced in the range of $150,000, depending on usage, and establishes a Web-services layer on a network server with a rules engine governing how intensively the services will be used, explains Sam Boonin, VP of marketing at the San Francisco company. Nobody knows for sure, but the market for Web-services management software may prove to be an important niche in network management.

"Companies will begin to accept service-oriented architectures this year, and it will become the dominant distributed computing approach in 2006," predicts Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst with ZapThink, an XML and Web services-research group. A class of software that barely registers on the applause meter today may prove to be a $10 billion market by 2005, he says.

Companies pioneering the field will have until the end of 2005 or so before the large systems and network-management vendors, such as Computer Associates, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM step in. ZapThink predicts small companies such as Blue Titan and AmberPoint will garner $2 billion of an approximately $10 billion market that year.

The services-oriented architecture, or as Boonin says, the services layer, makes use of XML and Simple Object Access Protocol to generate a way of communicating between existing, callable services and applications that need a service.

In the future, developers who wish to include a check on inventory for a given product may not have to code the connection into their application. Through the Network Director's shared network infrastructure, a common business function such as "look up inventory status" can be loosely coupled to many existing or future apps, Boonin says.

"Once you create a good interface for one application, it can be reused across many applications," if managed by a services layer, such as Network Director, he adds.

Another way of describing what Network Director does is that it acts as a router for the Soap protocol, taking requests for services and translating them into service requests to the proper destination.

A Soap router "sits as a shared network resource that can do a variety of things," he says.

Among other things, the new features of Network Director 2 include:

  • Active event messaging: When an event occurs that reflects on the delivery of Web services, a message is triggered to a person or software system capable of responding appropriately.
  • Adaptive policy execution: Policies and rules on how Web apps should respond can be adapted in real time to changes in current traffic.
  • Soap Stack interoperability: Any service consumer making a request can be responded to through the Web-services layer without needing to create new software or connections.
  • Support for emerging standards: By adopting a Web services-oriented architecture, such as Network Director, users may adopt Web Services Security, Web Services Reliable Messaging, and other standards of the World Wide Web Consortium as they are adopted. A Web-services architecture assumes the way to exchange messages and app services will be based on Web standards, according to Boonin.

Right now, Web-services security is difficult to implement without a lot of specialized programmer effort. In the future, Boonin says, it's likely to be a standard service through a Web-services architecture.

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