Product review: Excelon leverages legacy data with XML

Remaining competitive in electronic business necessitates quick and ready access to the information driving that business -- structured or otherwise.

Combining an Extensible Markup Language (XML) data server with well-integrated caching technology, eXcelon 2.0 from Object Design (ODI) provides a scalable middleware solution that improves data availability to your enterprise applications and Web servers, regardless of format.

With new features such as support for Microsoft Transaction Server and a development toolset for quickly XML-enabling legacy systems, enterprise resource planning systems, and other heterogeneous back-end data, eXcelon provides an affordable and effective means for businesses of any size to store, manage, and distribute data using XML.

Built atop ODI's ObjectStore, eXcelon is an object-oriented database management system. While products such as Bluestone Software's XML Suite excel at delivering application functionality, eXcelon's strength is in ensuring the high availability of your data resources.

By parsing and storing data as XML, eXcelon provides a hierarchy of persistent, discrete objects in its repository, the XMLStore. The store can then be indexed and queried using XQL, with the results customized and delivered through eXcelon's support of Java, Document Object Module, and Web server extensions.

By implementing a comprehensive cache-forwarding architecture, eXcelon improves server performance and ensures the integrity of data across multiple applications. Furthermore, caches can be distributed across multiple machines to improve load balancing.

Setting up and customising an XML data store was easy using the Explorer, a Microsoft Windows-like management interface that provided a hierarchical tree view of my XML repositories.

Unfortunately, eXcelon has not yet integrated much beyond rudimentary parsing of documents into XML, requiring all validity checking to be handled externally.

However, where you will save time is with features such as the XQL Query Wizard, which provides an easy way to generate queries of the XMLStore.

This version of eXcelon includes the Studio, a development environment for defining XML schemas, to help hasten interface development to the XMLStore. It also provides a number of preformed objects that allow you to hit the ground running with implementations for accessing the XQL query language as well as the XMLStore file system.

ODI will add an extra component, called XConnect, in a service-pack upgrade later this month. XConnect facilitates quick connection to more than 70 back-end data sources, including items such as Cobol, DBIII, and Act.

Using an XML data store improves data availability for mission-critical applications. ODI's eXcelon 2.0 offers a solid, scalable solution to serving that data, as well as the toolset necessary to quickly unlock the potential of legacy data sources and allow you to easily integrate new partners into your e-business paradigm.

James R. Borck (james.borck@ industrialart.com) is a regular contributor to InfoWorld and IS Director at Industrial Art & Science in Connecticut.

THE BOTTOM LINE: VERY GOOD

eXcelon, Version 2.0

Summary: With a solid database management system, eXcelon 2.0 provides a scalable solution for guaranteeing data availability to your electronic-business applications, while preserving data integrity across disparate back-end sources.

Business Case: Leveraging ease of use and the open-standards capabilities of Extensible Markup Language (XML) and Java, eXcelon 2.0 can quickly XML-enable legacy data, reduce the time required to integrate business partners, and ensure data availability in the marketplace today and in the future.

Pros:

+ Scalable in-memory cache

+ Good XQL query wizard

+ Solid management tools

Cons:

- Windows NT only

- Limited validation of XML

- Generates Document Content Description, not Document Type DefinitionCost: Development license: $995; deployment license: starts at $15,000Platform(s): PServer: Windows NT 4, Windows 2000, Solaris; Client: Windows 95/98Object Design Inc., Burlington, Mass.; (800) 962-9620; http://www.objectdesign.com

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