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Intel to introduce products to ease XML adoption

The company will try to smooth the path for Extensible Markup Language adoption with two new server appliances that will improve how networks handle the Web technology.

Intel will try to smooth the path for XML (Extensible Markup Language) adoption with two new server appliances that will improve how networks handle the new Web technology.

At Networld+Interop this week in Las Vegas, Intel will unveil the 7210 XML Accelerator and the 7280 XML Director, two products that will decipher, route and manage network traffic written in XML. When XML messages enter the network, they will be directed to the "XML Only" window.

The new products also will be able to identify different XML vocabularies and to route traffic to the appropriate part of the back-end computing network that speaks the same variant, said Brett Helm, general manager of the network equipment division at Intel.

XML is a Web standard for exchanging data that proponents say will allow companies to easily and cheaply conduct online transactions with customers and partners. While HTML, the language for creating Web sites, has a predefined vocabulary, XML allows software developers to define their own vocabulary for building custom systems that can exchange data, such as price and product information.

XML is also being adopted by many industries to build customized e-commerce data exchange systems.

Hardware specifically geared toward XML traffic is likely to alleviate some of the burden, or speed up the acceptance, of XML's use in e-commerce, said Warren Wilson, senior analyst at Summit Strategies. XML is a richer language that is expected to heighten overall network efficiency. A transition to XML, however, will require retrofitting existing systems to some degree.

"There's a lot of interest in how you sort and prioritize network traffic," Wilson said. "Over the next year, you'll start to see people moving to this idea."

Overall, server appliances have emerged as one of the fastest-growing hardware markets. Unlike general-purpose servers, which perform many functions and can be expensive, server appliances perform one function and cost little. Although the appliance concept was first popularized by start-ups, the industrial giants are rapidly moving into the market.

"You should think of these things as pieces of networking equipment," said John Miner, general manager of the Communications Products Group at Intel. "We're focusing on enabling rapid electronic transactions."

The 7210 XML Accelerator will mostly be used to accelerate and direct XML traffic, Helm said. As part of this functionality, the device will recognize the main XML vocabularies; if a message comes written in the XML vocabularies used by Ariba or Commerce One, for example, it will be directed to another server that solely handles Ariba or Commerce One exchanges.

A validation feature also will allow the server to unscramble error messages and reroute them to the appropriate destination.

The device will be able to accept more than 200 connections a second, Helm said.

The 7280 Director will be able to handle approximately three times the number of connections that the Accelerator can handle and will come with other features, such as being able to prioritize messages. For example, a $10,000 purchase order can receive priority over a $50 order.

An Intel spokesman said that the company's two XML server appliances are complementary to XML software that giants Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, the Sun-Netscape Alliance and others are creating. The software companies are building XML integration software that lets businesses use XML to tie their back-end computing systems together to conduct e-commerce.

Although the XML integration software is located in businesses' back-end computing systems, Intel's products reside in between, on the network. It routes and prioritizes XML traffic to the appropriate back-end computing system.

Intel's two new products, which will be shown off this week but not released commercially until midyear, are part of Intel's NetStructure line of server appliances, unveiled earlier this year.

With regard to hardware, NetStructure servers, like all server appliances, differ little from traditional PC servers. The difference largely comes in software integration, which determines the limited functions the device will perform. One of Intel's appliances, for instance, handles only encryption and decryption of messages.

"An appliance by definition is a very tightly integrated (package) of software and hardware to extract a certain level of functionality," Miner said.

Like other NetStructure products, a good portion of the technology inside the XML servers comes from iPivot, one of the many companies Intel has acquired in the past two years. Helm, in fact, was CEO of iPivot.'s Wylie Wong contributed to this report.