XML and Web Services In The News - 14 February 2006

IBM Task Modeler
Paul Englefield, et al., IBM alphaWorks
Task Modeler is an Eclipse-based software tool for modeling human activity as a hierarchy of tasks and related elements. An information architect can use it to design DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture) maps. A usability practitioner can produce either classic HTA (Hierarchical Task Analysis) diagrams or RAG (Roles and Goals) diagrams. The tool can be used in a workshop, during a field study, or at one's desk to rapidly create, explore, analyse, and share these models. Maps and models consist of nodes and properties. Nodes describe elements such as topics and concepts or roles and goals. For example, DITA maps define nodes such as topics, tasks, concepts, and references according to the DITA standard. The RAG diagram builds an integrated view of key UCD (User-Centred Design) data such as user profiles, context of use, motivation, and behavior. Properties define details for each node. For example, DITA topic properties define elements such as audience and platform metadata, and RAG properties define aspects such as the demographics of a stakeholder role or the measurements associated with a goal. These properties can be strings, numbers, keywords, or references to files and Web URLs. Keywords can be either user-supplied or predefined as a controlled vocabulary. Michael Priestley, IBM DITA Architect and Classification Schema PDT Lead, notes that the tool "lets you quickly create DITA maps and generate stub content for a prototype build, including support for major map structures like hierarchies (e.g., tables of contents) and relationship tables (e.g., for related links) and the base DITA topic types (concept, task, reference)."
See also: DITA references

NASA Discovers an SOA for Earth Data
Joab Jackson, Government Computer News
NASA's drive to unify resources brought NASA to the cutting edge of SOA. Originally an index of Web-based material, ECHO [NASA Earth Observing System Clearing House] was expanded to offer a machine- readable directory of services that can manipulate data as well. The advanced services went live in September 2005. ECHO itself is housed in NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, USA. It runs on Sun Microsystems SunFire V800s servers with a BEA Systems WebLogic application server and an Oracle9i database. In January 2003, NASA contracted with Global Science and Technology Inc. of Greenbelt to set up and maintain the ECHO service directory. GST brought in Blueprint to help with the work. In ECHO, an owner of a service can submit its description using Web Services Description Language. UDDI can then keep track of a wide range of metadata, including service uptime, contact information and security requirements. In addition to providing a directory that researchers can use to find new resources, UDDI will also help ECHO take the next step -- letting users build workflows between different resources. The team hopes to have this feature ready early this year.
See also: The ECHO web site

Global Grid Forum (GGF) and Enterprise Grid Alliance Merge
James Niccolai, InfoWorld
The Global Grid Forum and the Enterprise Grid Alliance have agreed to merge, combining two groups that have sometimes been at odds despite their similar goals to promote grid computing. The Global Grid Forum is the older group and has produced several standards for grid computing, including the Open Grid Services Architecture. Its roughly 400 member organizations include vendors such as Hewlett-Packard and IBM, as well as many research institutes and universities. The Enterprise Grid Alliance was formed more recently by Oracle, EMC, and other vendors to promote grid standards specifically for the enterprise. Some of its members complained initially that the Global Grid Forum was too focused on scientific computing and didn't move fast enough to meet the needs of businesses. The combined grid group still won't be the only one in town. A handful of vendors formed the Globus Consortium early last year to steer development of an open-source software package called the Globus Toolkit, which in turn was created by another group called the Globus Alliance.

What's New in DB2 Viper: XML to the Core
C. M. Saracco, IBM developerWorks
The new DB2 "Viper" release, now in beta, features a significant architectural departure from prior versions. For the first time since its debut, DB2 Universal Database for Linux, UNIX, and Windows is providing a new query language, new storage technology, new indexing technology, and other features to support XML data and its inherent hierarchical structure. The DB2 Viper release is the first IBM implementation of a "hybrid" or multi-structured database management system. In addition to supporting a tabular data model, DB2 also supports the native hierarchical data model found in XML documents and messages. Users can freely mix and match storage of traditional SQL data and XML in a single table. They can also query and integrate both forms of data using SQL (with XML extensions, if desired) and XQuery, the emerging standard for querying XML data. By building on a proven database management infrastructure, IBM is providing DB2 Viper users with sophisticated support for both relational and native XML DBMS technologies.

Oracle Pounces on Sleepycat
John G. Spooner, eWEEK
Oracle has purchased database maker Sleepycat for an undisclosed sum, saying it would add Sleepycat's Berkeley DB to its line of embedded databases. The buy, which marks one of a trio of potential open-source database purchases expected by Oracle, could signal a shift in its plans for the embedded database space, which includes numerous specialized products and is expected to generate several billion dollars worth of potential revenue over the next few years. Oracle is also said to be eyeing JBoss and Zend Technologies... Sleepycat's Berkeley DB is said to be the most widely used open-source database with an estimated 200 million deployments, Oracle said. The market opportunity presented by the embedded space is expected to grow from $2 billion in revenue in 2005 to $3.2 billion in 2009, according to IDC data cited in Oracle's statement... Oracle's embedded database product line also includes its Oracle Lite for mobile devices, and Oracle TimesTen, designed for high-performance, in-memory database applications.
See also: XML and Databases

A Survey of RDF/Topic Maps Interoperability Proposals
Steve Pepper, et al. (eds), W3C Note
W3C's Semantic Web Best Practices and Deployment Working Group has published "A Survey of RDF/Topic Maps Interoperability Proposals" as a Working Group Note. The Note records existing proposals for integrating data represented in W3C's RDF/OWL family of languages with data represented in ISO's Topic Maps. It is a starting point for establishing guidelines for combined usage of these standards, assuring interoperability. The primary goal is to achieve interoperability between RDF and Topic Maps at the data level: this means that it should be possible to translate data from one form to the other without unacceptable loss of information or corruption of the semantics. It should also be possible to query the results of a translation in terms of the target model and it should be possible to share vocabularies across the two paradigms.
See also: The W3C news item

Blogs Reshaping Content Management Tools
Cathleen Moore, InfoWorld
Blogs and editable Web pages called wikis are gaining popularity with enterprise users, introducing to these organizations a new level of content contribution and participation. ECM (enterprise content management) apps, which over the past few years have been gathering a variety of collaboration tools under their wing, are still figuring out what to with these easy to use and highly accessible newcomers. Unlike collaboration tools that came before, the deep and broad participation that blogs and wikis enable are forcing ECM vendors to address new security and access control challenges. Because blogs allow corporate content to come from a wide spectrum of users, both inside and outside the organization, the personal publishing tools have created a new level of participant. It's no longer just the company's Content Editor or Senior Marketing Writer who is funneling content to the Web site, applications, and systems. Your customers, for instance, could become blog contributors, adding corporate-branded content right alongside the blog posts from the CEO. ECM systems weren't designed to handle this democratization of information creation and sharing.

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