AmberPoint Inc. announced today that it will offer a free developers' version of its Web services management product designed for Microsoft's .NET Framework. The Oakland, Calif.-based software maker also said its tool will be distributed with "Whidbey," the code name for the next generation of Microsoft's Visual Studio developer tools.
A version of AmberPoint Express that works with current versions of Visual Studio was given to roughly 7,500 developers attending Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles. The Express tool will be generally available later this quarter, said Ed Horst, AmberPoint's vice president of marketing.
"Once you install Express, it automatically configures itself for every new Web service that's coming out of Visual Studio," Horst said.
He said the product gives .NET developers a chance to monitor, debug and fine-tune their Web services before they go into production. Horst said that AmberPoint's strategy of focusing on .NET for a lightweight version of its Web service management products makes sense because of the popularity of Microsoft's developer platform.
"The distribution side of things is a big change in the Web services management landscape," Horst said. "We always felt that the basic performance and monitoring information of Web services management is going to ultimately be ubiquitous, so we'd rather it be us, if we can do it. This is a good arrangement for us."
James Kobielus couldn't agree more.
The senior analyst for Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group said that the newly announced partnership fills a hole in Microsoft's product line.
"It gives AmberPoint a great opportunity to get their functionality out there before Microsoft's customers," Kobielus said. "Microsoft doesn't have a Web services management capability within its product architecture, so it's a stopgap for Microsoft, obviously. [The partnership] serves an important need for both vendors."
Horst said that the Express product watches the performance of a preproduction Web service, including fault traffic, throughput and response times to Web service requests. He said a developer can also drill down into a particular message set for information or re-submit Web services messages for test purposes.
Among the other highlights of Express:
Auto-discovery: The software automatically knows about the Web services as they are coming off the "assembly line."
Monitoring: Developers can keep traffic of performance metrics for an entire Web service or break down performance by individual operation, such as response time for a Web service for the next minute. Also, if there's a spike in response time, a developer can use the product's Web-based interface to graphically display the messages associated by the spike, or look at the raw XML data associated with the spike. "Your choice," Horst said.
Fault tracking: If a request or response generates a Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) fault, the developer can be notified via an alert.
Data capture: Performance data for a Web service can be downloaded into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet for further evaluation, or to keep long-term historical records.
Kobielus said Express will be handy for users who are running Web services between platforms -- such as Windows Server 2003 and Windows 2000 Server -- in a .NET environment. "[.NET developers] are building Web services," he said, "and they want to be able to monitor them and control them and optimize them, and so they need the visibility into end-to-end execution of a Web service. … That's where AmberPoint Express comes in."
So what does AmberPoint get besides exposure to Microsoft customers?
Horst said his company is betting that once an organization using Express (there are currently 30 beta customers) goes into production with its Web services, it will want the features of AmberPoint's full Web services management platform, which includes its Service Level Manager and Exception Manager products.
"We'll seed the market with lots of little AmberPoints, with the possibility of selling the bigger AmberPoints," he said.
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