Managing the Web services floodgate

With Web services expected to gain more steam over the next year to 18 months, companies in the emerging space are busily carving out a market for effectively managing and monitoring services for safe consumption by the enterprise.

One company looking to play traffic cop, New York-based Primordial Inc., this week rolled out a new version of its management platform that it claims will process myriad Web services, ensuring that they meet specific "business grade" enterprise requirements around security and performance.

The increasingly crowded third-party market to manage Web services includes software players Talking Blocks Inc., Amberpoint Inc., Blue Titan Software, and West Global Inc., as well as hosted transactional-delivery network providers such as Grand Central Communications Inc. and Flamenco Networks Inc., among others, according to industry observers.

Available this week, Primordial's WSBang 2.0 acts as an intermediary broker to manage and control Web services as they are either consumed or published by the a specific enterprise, according to Joe Labbe, CEO of Primordial.

"We grab a SOAP [Simple Object Access Protocol] message in flight, process it, perform a series of value-added functions, and then send the message on its way," Labbe said.

Available as either a plug-and-play network appliance or software suite, WSBang 2.0 differs from many rival products in that it is deployed within a single enterprise, rather than on both ends of a Web services transaction equation.

At its foundation, WSBang 2.0 claims to give enterprises an insurance policy on a Web service's constitution, making sure it meets prescribed security policies, performance- and service-level agreements, as well as providing user or system authentication and access control, Labbe said.

For example, Avis Rent-a-Car Systems has been running WSBang in its datacenter since the first quarter of this year. The rental car company wanted to expose its reservations system as a Web service in order to avoid using third-party brokers to book clients. Through one central view, Primordial's platform keeps tabs on the performance level of Avis' Web service, as well as monitoring whether it complies with service level agreements, Labbe said.

With WSBang 2.0, Primordial is also aiming to move beyond the "low-hanging fruit" of basic traffic management to provide value-added services to incoming and outgoing Web services messages, much like those that are offered through a traditional EDI value-added network, according to Labbe.

Such services would include caching, load balancing, encryption, message logging, and transformation and partner provisioning, he said.

One analyst likened Primordial's approach to Web services management to that of a network firewall for Web services. But he questioned the wisdom of a single-side orientation.

"From their view, enterprises want to deploy their Web services out to the Web and not worry about the other side of the connection," said Benoit Lheureux, research director in the application integration and middleware strategies group at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

"But if it's a bi-lateral connection, with a request and reply, then the partner on the other side also has Web services to offer. The difficulty they will have is with interoperability," Lheureux said.

Labbe said WSBang 2.0 is capable of handling Web services built on any platform since its technology is based on digesting native SOAP messages.

In addition, he defends single-side deployment for those enterprises that don't want to negotiate lots of terms with partners but simply want to manage their own Web services consumption. WSBang 2.0 sports interconnects into transactional networks such as Grand Central's, if customers would like to augment their in-house solution.

Primordial is hoping to attract as customers value-added network providers such as Sprint Corp., Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp., and Vodaphone PLC that want to add Web services to their stable of customizable Net traffic management services, Labbe said.

"We call it multitenancy," he said. "Carriers who have thousands of customers are already handling tons of other types of Net traffic. All they need is a software solution to put on top of that existing infrastructure to take on Web services."

WSBang 2.0 is priced starting at US$30,000 for both the software and hardware, which is an RLX Technologies Inc. blade server appliance.

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