Snapbridge XStudio 2.0 and Snapbridge FDX
Snapbridge provides two chunks of interesting software for the
enterprise. FDX is a high-speed transformation and fusing engine tht can
put together multiple data sources (including databases, flat files,
and Web services, among other possibilities) to make XML files.
XStudio is a desktop environment for creating XSL transforms without
actually knowing XSL, just by dragging and dropping things. Together,
they're meant to form the backbone of a corporate data distribution
system. Both FDX and XStudio are Java applications, and in fact the team
that built them has some heavy-duty experience with both Java and XML.
The overall architecture here is pretty easy to grasp. The FDX server
takes in information from multiple data sources, and spits them back out
as XML. You then layer on XSL, created with XStudio, and fed the results
to the user as part of the presentation layer. The server is stateless
(so you can use load balancing to increase its capacity if need be), and
includes configurable caching facilities as well as LDAP security
integration for column-level security. The basic idea is that instead of
just passing static XML around your organization, you can use XML to
convey any sort of dynamic information just by letting FDX generate the
XML on demand. FDX can also push data back to other systems.
The XStudio editor is pretty easy to use, though like most Java
applications it seems to willfully disregard Windows user interface
standards. The XSLT workspace lets you load up an XML document to work
with, and then create a picture of what you want to end up with by just
dragging and dropping nodes around in a "DesignPad" area. At the end of
the process, you can generate the corresponding XSL file with a single
mouse click. In its current beta incarnation, the documentation of all
this is a bit sketchy, but it does work easily and naturally after a bit
of poking around.
XStudio also has a separate bit of user interface for editing XRAP
files. XRAP is the (proprietary) eXtensible Repository Access Protocol,
which is what Snapbridge uses to define the objects and XML that it
This software is expected to ship some time in the first quarter of
2004, though you can register on their Web site and download the same
beta version that I worked with (and as betas go, it seems to be quite
stable). Pricing hasn't been announced yet, but the company told me it
would be "enterprise-level", in the neighborhood of $25,000-$50,000 per
CPU for the server. Obviously at that price you'll need to do some
serious evaluation, but if the notion of using XML as glue for
everything in your organization appeals to you, it's worth taking a
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.