Review: TextML Server

TextML Server 3.0 Beta
starting at $10,000
Montreal, Quebec
(514) 279-4942

TextML server is an XML document server -- that is, it's a specialized database engine designed to hold XML documents. It's been around since 1999, but with their version 3.0 imminent (it should release this month, and the beta is available on their Web site), I thought it was time to take a fresh look.

There are three basic parts to the product. First, there's a repository that holds all the XML documents that you put into it (as well as other things like index definitions). Then there's an indexing engine that builds indexes based on the documents, and a search engine so that users can find documents later. Though you can buy this all as a standalone system, their focus is on serving the ISV market with a solid XML infrastructure for commercial products.

The key difference between TextML server and databases like SQL Server or Oracle that store XML is that the XML here is not just a blob. Rather, you can pick and choose exactly which tags (using XPath expressions) in the XML document should be indexed. There's an MMC-based tool that lets developers dictate these indexes, and a full XML syntax for submitting queries. The result is something that feels a much more natural XML tool than a database with XML bolted on to the side.

There are COM+, ASP.NET, and Java APIs for all of this, and the product comes with clear documentation for both administrators and developers as well as some code samples. Cruise around Ixiasoft's Web site and you'll find pieces to integrate TextML with many other tools. For example, you can download a chunk that links Altova's XMLSPY and TextML together seamlessly.

Version 3.0 adds several interesting new features. For starters, there's support for distributed applications via replication (with a publish and subscribe architecture). You can also set up a load-balancing query scheme to distribute the incoming queries across multiple servers, and the whole is cluster-aware for running under Windows Cluster Services. A new hierarchical repository scheme lets you organize documents into nested collections, and to set security and access levels on a per-collection basis. You can also set a versioning policy, specifying how many revisions of a document to keep; this allows you to look at document histories or revert to a previous version.

If lots of XML documents are in your future development plans, grab the beta and see how TextML might fit into the picture. There are discounted licenses available for OEMs and ISVs who build applications atop the TextML core.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.


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