Yesterday DataPower Technology Inc. took a major step toward bringing XML edge devices into harmony with the traditional network and IT management realm, achieving integration and interoperability of its XS40 XML Security Gateway with IBM's Autonomic Computing environment.
The Cambridge, Mass., company has recently gained notoriety, including the SearchWebServices.com Security Product of the Year Award , for the XS40, which brings a battery of Layer 3 functionality into a Layer 7 environment, such as an XML firewall, SOAP filtering, XML schema validation, field-level encryption, XML/SOAP routing and service virtualization.
Now, the device interoperates with IBM's self-regulating, self-healing Autonomic Computing program, based on the notion that the network environment needs to be smarter rather than more powerful. The two companies hope to create a self-managing service-oriented architecture (SOA), able to respond instantly to security, capacity and compatibility issues.
"We're looking to create a set of almost biological responses," said DataPower's chief technology officer Eugene Kuznetsov. "Obviously, this is only a first step. A single-cell bacteria's still a more complex organism that what we can build today, but that's the path."
That degree of awareness throughout the IT infrastructure and automated responses to certain problems can make a huge difference as organizations expand. Kuznetsov explained that complexity needs to be weeded out of the SOA as Web services proliferate.
"If I go from 20 to 100 nodes using Web services, the complexity cannot grow by a factor of five," he said. "That's going to kill me."
The pairing with IBM allows DataPower's edge devices to work under the Tivoli management umbrella. Frank Dzubek, president of Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm Communication Network Architects Inc., believes this kind of new-breed network is critical for the establishment of enterprise SOA.
"In this new environment, applications come up and they go away," he said. "Before everything was static and stayed in place. Now the applications become unique relevant to their usage."
According to Dzubek, that makes it impossible to rely on the traditional firewall and routing model.
"All the nasty things that were in Layer 3 can now be found in Layer 7," he said.
Cisco Systems Inc. started down this road recently with its application-oriented networking effort. DataPower has a six-year head start, with dynamic load balancing and gigabit per second XML throughput already in its bailiwick.
"By building a Web services network that can fix itself and can diagnose why things got worse when they did, DataPower's looking to stay ahead of the curve," Dzubek said.
At IT services provider LAN Solutions Inc. in McLean, Va., company president Victor Kellan is already singing the praises of being able to collect information on multiple events and perform automated fixes.
"It's a powerful thing when you can resolve specific fire-bucket issues and you don't need an engineer to fix everything," he said. "Then you can deal with the consequences of why it happened later."
Bringing that kind of functionality to bear as users progress from creating Web services to building full-blown service-oriented architectures is the brave, new world Kuznetsov hopes to conquer.
"For people to use Web services as it's been envisioned, they can't have a whole new set of problems attached to it," he said. "They need integration built in and complexity knocked out."