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ZapThink: Big changes ahead in XML data storage

The beginning of 2003 marks ''the end of the Native XML Data [NXD] store market as we know it,'' proclaimed Ronald Schmelzer, senior analyst at ZapThink, LLC, a Waltham, Mass.-based analyst firm specializing in XML.

This does not mean that NXD vendors will disappear, although larger software companies may acquire some of the smaller ones; but the way XML data storage products are marketed and deployed will change, he said.

Schmelzer, who just completed a 92-page study of the issue, told XML Report , ''One of our big conclusions was that for a while in 2000 and 2001, and even earlier in 2002, it seemed that there was a separate market for what was being called native XML data stores. It was felt at that time that those vendors could exist separately from others in the database or data storage market. There was some merit to that claim because a lot of the RDBMS vendors weren't producing native XML indexes.''

That is no longer the case, the analyst contends, as IBM (http://www.ibm.com), Microsoft (http://www.microsoft.com) and Oracle (http://www.oracle.com) are planning to add native XML storage capabilities to the products they market for data centers. Sybase (http://www.sybase.com), a company Schmelzer believes is ahead of the curve, is already doing this and the big three will follow suit with product announcements and products by mid-2003.

''Once a company like Sybase added native XML indexing to its product,'' Schmelzer said, ''it begs the question 'Is there a separate market for native XML data stores?' And the answer is no.''

If the large vendors -- IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Sybase -- dominate the market for NXD in the data center, what will become of the smaller vendors and start-up companies in this niche?

Schmelzer contends in his study that NXD technology from start-ups and smaller vendors will end up as features in applications.

''Native XML data storage is a feature capability of software, of applications,'' he said.

XML is becoming so pervasive that every application will need some XML storage and indexing capabilities, said Schmelzer. Rather than selling NXD as a separate standalone product, he added, it will be embedded into products in areas such as document and content management where storage will be needed for desktop applications

Citing a company covered in his report, Schmelzer said, ''Xyleme (http://www.xyleme.com/) has a native XML data store, but they're not really selling a data store; what they're selling is a content warehousing solution that happens to use an XML data store.''

Other smaller companies are finding niche markets, the analyst said.

''There's another company called AGiLiENCE, (http://www.agilience.net/) and AGiLiENCE is producing tiny footprint XML data stores for laptops and disconnected devices like PocketPCs,' he said. 'You would need that for things like synchronization, caching or integration. When you want to exchange information between your client and the server and it's in XML, the challenge is that you need a way to store it.''

While the market is currently going through a transition, the good news for IT departments and developers, who will need to work with XML data storage products, is that 2003 will be the year this technology matures, Schmelzer said.

''It will be pretty mature by the end of next year,'' he said. ''I think you can say this is the first XML industry to actually go through a period of consolidation.''

To read the executive summary of the ZapThink report, Native XML Data Storage Evolving From a Separate Market to a Feature of General-Purpose and Purpose-Built Solutions , click on http://www.zapthink.com/report.html?id=ZTR-ST102.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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