Flamenco Dances With Messaging Traffic - InformationWeek

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8/19/2003
04:30 PM
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Flamenco Dances With Messaging Traffic

Web services are hard to keep up with. A Web-services management product promises dynamic updates of standards and protocols while still doing its Web-monitoring job.

A Web-services management product, Flamenco WSM version 4.0, is getting the capability to incorporate new policies or rules while it's running, without taking leave of its existing monitoring and enforcement duties.

Flamenco Networks Inc., a supplier of Web-service-management software, is giving WSM version 4.0 the ability to temporarily queue up Simple Object Access Protocol messaging traffic running between business partners. As the XML-based messages idle in the queue, the WMS management server gets an update on the latest standards and security rules that it's expected to enforce.

The management server is often labeled a proxy server because it duplicates work done elsewhere by Soap servers and firewalls. As a proxy server, it processes each Soap message used in sending communications and documents between business partners. It also inspects the message traffic, making certain that messages are from authorized sources and enforcing security regulations, much like a firewall, on potentially intrusive or hazardous elements of messages. But WSM 4.0 sits outside the firewall, looking at all the XML traffic passing between two business partners, Flamenco CEO Ralph Calistri says.

"It can operate more or less autonomously," although part of its role is to send reports to a controller piece of WSM 4.0 software. The reports constitute an audit log of the XML traffic passing by, says John Hanger, Flamenco's VP of sales.

While under development, Flamenco dubbed WSM 4.0 its "Monroe" version for the frequently advertised automobile shock absorbers. The goal, Hanger says, was to let IT managers adjust to the shock of frequently changing standards, without stopping their Web-services servers for programmers to reconfigure and recode them.

The WSM controller and proxy server work together under a "heartbeat" architecture. The proxy server periodically sends an update on traffic to the controller; the controller regularly updates the proxy server with new configuration, security, and policy information. The proxy server knows it must temporarily store messages when the controller is updating its directory, Hanger says.

Peter Gandy, VP of Web services at British Telecommunications, says his company selected two firms out of 70 reviewed for their Web-services-managements systems. It uses AmberPoint Inc.'s Web-services-management software for internal exchanges and communications. It uses Flamenco's $100,000 WSM as the best-of-breed product for external, outside-the-firewall communications.

Flamenco has rewritten portions of WSM from Java to C and C++, resulting in "a 10-times improvement in performance," Gandy says. British Telecom has an expanding business in IP network telecommunications consulting, helping companies set up XML message exchanges and transaction management with business partners. Key to British Telecom's consulting services is the ability to monitor and ensure the reliability of exchanges, Gandy says. WSM 4.0 has been released to selected customers, including British Telecom; general release is scheduled for September.

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