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XML takes the stand

XML Web services is an ideal way for federal, state and local criminal justice organizations to integrate computer systems, some of which date back to the 1970s, contends Terry Hanold, executive vice president at WebPutty Inc.

But the problem developers have in tackling Web services integration of systems used by police, courts, jails, prisons, social services and probation agencies is how to make sure changes won't break major systems, he explained.

As an example of his argument, Hanold points to the relatively simple change where a court system adds an alpha character to previously numeric file codes. How will that impact all of the databases and applications that are integrated with Web services?

WebPutty, a San Jose, Calif.-based provider of service-oriented architecture (SOA) tools and runtimes, has been working with court systems to develop an automated framework using XML meta data to solve this problem, Hanold said.

''If you think of an n-tier application, you've got your database, your middle tier, your app server and your Web server,'' he explained. ''The database is managing tables, the app server is managing components and the Web server is managing the Web pages. But the app server has no concept of how these components fit together, and it definitely doesn't have any concept of database tables and knowing that any particular database, data table or data set is driving these business objects and these Web pages. The underlying system has no concept of upstream and downstream dependencies and overall global architecture.''

WebPutty has developed a Court Case Management Framework, which it is marketing in a partnership announced this week with Unisys, to provide the needed end-to-end management, Hanold said.

''We're managing the meta data model of the entire application in XML so it is implementation independent and platform independent,'' he explained. ''This meta data understands the global architecture of the application and all the dependencies. So if you upgrade a database, the platform is smart enough to re-implement and re-optimize the application against that database. If you create a database table, [it] automatically builds middle-tier objects that consume that database because we know there's a relationship between them. If you change something, we will propagate that change through the entire application.''

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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