Actional, AmberPoint eye Web services management

Banking on the eventual proliferation of Web services in the enterprise, Actional Corp. and AmberPoint Inc. on Monday each unveiled management platforms meant to help users bring order to the loosely structured application environment.

Actional SOAPStation acts as a Web services proxy to rein in a compendium of components, providing such things as security and access control, availability and performance monitoring, and versioning so that Web services can be altered when underlying applications or processes change, according to officials at the Mountain View, Calif.-based company.

"Without a way to deal with all these complexities, your IT costs will skyrocket," said James Phillips, senior vice president of marketing and product development. "And you can't scale or get real value out of your Web services."

The market around Web services management is crowding with companies such as Talking Blocks Inc., Primordial Inc., Infravio Inc., Corporate Oxygen Inc., West Global Inc., and AmberPoint that hope to win users beginning to experiment with the new model. Larger players looking to get into this space are IBM Corp. with its Tivoli division, Hewlett-Packard Co., Computer Associates International Inc., and BMC Software Inc., according to analysts.

Oakland, Calif.-based AmberPoint, for its part, on Monday announced a new version of its Web services management platform, AmberPoint Management Foundation, with added support for XML Signatures and Encryption which better enables it to deliver fine-grained content-based security for Web services, according to the company.

"It's clear that things are exploding in this space, but what's happening now is that every company has a different marketing message and it's confusing," said Jason Bloomberg, principal analyst at ZapThink LLC.

Bloomberg said that management really involves four distinct areas: traditional systems management for availability and performance, life cycle management for rolling out new Web services and versioning, business management to give a dashboard view of criteria such as how many orders processed, and services-oriented architecture support to piece together many fine-grained Web services into one coarse-grained component.

SOAPStation, which will be available later this quarter, plays in nearly all four areas, acting as a traffic cop and translator for provisioning the access points for Web services. The approach funnels all calls to a Web service through SOAPStation, which in turn reconciles the data formats and protocols on both sides of the application equation.

Enterprises can also use the platform to assign access and usage rules to specific Web services. For example, they could stipulate that a partner could only access a purchase order Web service if the amount of the order was less than US$500,000.

SOAPStation is available on Solaris, Windows, and Linux. Once installed, the software can tap into an enterprise's existing directories, data sources, and other infrastructure, officials said.

SOAPStation builds off the Actional's existing SOAPSwitch product, which allows enterprises to retrofit existing packaged and legacy applications with Web services interfaces by using a simple set of wizards, officials said.

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