Review: SnapBridge

Snapbridge XStudio 2.0 and Snapbridge FDX
Snapbridge Software
Carlsbad, California
(760) 431-3630

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 uses.

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 look.

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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