Ascential jumps into Web services fray

Ascential Software is ramping up real-time data transformation and integration capabilities between incompatible Web services in a move designed to speed deployment of Web services by solving data compatibility problems.

The company is expanding its DataStage integration platform to support the connection of incompatible applications key to Web services, officials will announce this week.

Customers will be able to specify integration tasks within DataStage to make results available as a Web service. This is designed for those enterprises that already have invested in connecting to their mainframe and server-based data systems and do not see the need to invest in an additional connectivity framework, officials said.

In addition, the company will support a new category of software called "Web services middleware" to allow customers to use DataStage to request, normalize, and deliver data between two or more incompatible Web services. In addition, users will be able to call external services directly within a transformation using DataStage Web services capabilities to reduce the costs of data integration by incorporating the benefits of inexpensive Web services-enabled connectivity.

"We are able to take a ton of data from a ton of different systems and normalize it and load it all into big data warehouses," said Maureen Fleming, director of product marketing at Westboro, Mass.-based Ascential. "Native to these capabilities ... we are actually able to come out and solve this big problem. There truly was a missing element in Web services ... just because you pass a request to another Web service there's no inherent reason that that receiving Web service would understand what that request meant. Now you're only going to be able to do very, very simple things with the Web services quickly without interoperability to map different schemas. [With DataStage] you can start right now doing complex approaches to support enterprise applications without a schema-based approach."

The new capabilities, which are scheduled to be available this summer, will be centered around an "agnostic application server" philosophy, Fleming added, with Ascential coming out with a test platform for a public domain application server while testing others. The company plans to support Microsoft's .Net initiative and Sun's Web services initiative, she added.

Frank Gillette, an analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass., said that while Web standards are designed to allow applications to communicate together, if they don't have the same data models, they are not compatible. Ascential's announcement is designed to reconcile data models, he said.

"They're creeping into event-based data transformation and integration," he said. "This isn't a breakthrough that enables this notion of complex Web services, [but] this is a significant benefit for their existing customers. People doing mass transformation are trying to get into real-time."

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