A review of XWall 3.1 and Mapforce 2004
Pricey Web protection, but developer-friendly
Cost: starts at $2,500
Forum Systems Inc.
Rating: 5 out of 5
The main point of this product is to protect you from attacks on your
Web services. How will your XML parser react if someone throws a few megabytes of information into
what should be a short element? Are you free of SQL injection attacks
carried by XML payloads?
These are just two of the possibilities covered by Forum’s XML Intrusion
Prevention (XIP) protocol, which allows you to set parameters on things like the
amount or size of traffic, and to do so on a document or element level. You can
also secure all or part of a document so that it is only available to particular
users, and hide Web services servers behind the firewall. More interesting to me
as a developer is the ability of the product to perform WS-I 1.0 Basic Profile
conformance checking at both design and runtime.
One unique capability is that you can decide which parts of WS-I matter to
your organization, and configure the XWall accordingly. A developer can then
upload the WSDL they are working on to the XWall, and get back a log or HTML
report listing any conformance problems that reflects the corporate choices.
Installing the app was easy, and getting the licensing set up did not take long.
From there, though, things become overwhelming.
There are about 35 MB of PDFs to document things, and none of them has a
friendly name like “Getting Started.” I eventually muddled through to what I
wanted -- the WS-I piece -- but plan on some serious study time to understand
how all of the pieces fit together.
Once I found the right spot in the product, though, the WS-I conformance
checking lived up to its advertising; it was easy to use and quickly pinpointed
issues in some WSDL files I had hanging around. I doubt anyone will spend $2,500
just for conformance checking -- but if your organization is seriously into
WSDL, and you have a chance to influence the choice of a firewall strategy, you
might put in a few good words for XWall. At the very least, it is a
developer-friendly piece of software despite the fact that it is aimed mainly at
systems administrator problems.
Data mapping tool packs flexibility and power
Cost: starts at $249
Rating: 5 out of 5
As you can probably
guess from the name, Mapforce is a data mapping tool. Specifically,
it lets you map from XML schemas and documents, databases or EDIFACT messages
to XML schemas and documents or databases.
Mapping is done in a drag-and-drop environment. As you work with the
mappings, you can preview the output of sample data. When you are set, a menu
pick generates XSLT transforms or mapping code in Java, C# or C++. Mapforce is
pretty easy to work with.
There is a work area that shows your source and target schemas, and a library
of transformation functions that you can use. If you just want to map, say,
CustName in one schema to CustomerName in the other, you can drag and drop one
element or attribute to another. (Mapforce will automatically hook up child
elements that have the same name between the two schemas.)
The function library allows you to handle more complex situations. For
instance, you can use a substring component to strip out just part of a source
element for the target. Choosing the start and length is mostly a drag-and-drop
process; add a couple of constant elements to the mapping, drag the connectors
to the right place, and you are done.
This version offers much more power for database mapping than did previous
releases. One nice thing you can do is to use Mapforce as an interactive data
transformation tool. Use ADO to connect to the source and target databases, then
the usual drag-and-drop process to hook up tables and fields. Switch to the
Output tab in Mapforce, and you will see the INSERT SQL statements necessary to
move the data. If you are satisfied, you can execute the script directly from
If you are using XSLT to transform between XML schemas, or want to move from
database to XML and vice versa without writing code by hand, Mapforce can
probably handle your requirements. Like Altova’s other applications, it is quick
and attractive, and packs a lot of flexibility and power into a single
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.