Regarding this statement: "You could roll-your-own indexing functions and save "index" files alongside your XML files for fast retrieval" -- can you give some references or suggestions?
CPL for example, available at www.pls.com is a very powerful indexing system that could be used to index your XML in much the same way you would index collections of HTML.
www.searchtools.com is a good site for more information about open source and commercial indexing technologies available.
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