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Start-up swings into Web services

Swingtide will make its formal debut with the introduction of a product focused on the design of Web services networks and the tools to manage them.

Start-up Swingtide will make its formal debut Monday with a product focused on the design of Web services networks and the tools to manage them.

The venture-backed company was founded in 2001 on the idea that businesses should do upfront application and network design when building applications using Web services. Web services describes a set of XML-based standards and a method of programming applications to share information between disparate systems. According to recent surveys, interest in Web services is growing among businesses.

Swingtide's Quality of Business Assistant and associated training are designed to provide companies with a structured way to build Web services that minimizes software incompatibilities, according to the company.

The Portsmouth, N.H.-based company chose to focus on Web services design in its first product but plans to enter the field of Web services management. Although loosely defined, several specialist companies are creating software to monitor the performance of Web services applications. Analysts say that Web services management is fast emerging as an important complement to application development tools to create Web services.

Tom Rhinelander, an analyst at the New Rowley Group, said that a number of companies are entering the area of Web services management, but that Swingtide stands out for its focus on upfront education.

"There are a bunch of companies doing Web services management which say that if you have an application in place, we can manage it," Rhinelander said. "Swingtide is saying that if you learn and plan correctly and figure out how to do it right, you'll have fewer headaches a year or two from now."

Although Web services-compliant products from different software makers are supposed to work together without modification, interoperability issues can create problems for application developers and network administrators, said Swingtide's chairman and co-founder, Jack Serfass. For example, developers may be using different versions of the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) or need to share data between Web services written with different programming models such as Java and Microsoft's .Net.

Swingtide's initial product is a tool that will allow programmers and application architectures to devise their Web service to avoid these inconsistencies. Often developers use e-mail and documents when sketching out the underpinnings of Web services application, a process that is error-prone and time-consuming, Serfass said.

"There's no one Web services interoperability issue that's a showstopper," Serfass said. "But all these things add up and can affect the ability to scale an XML deployment."

Serfass adds that better upfront design will help businesses identify potential glitches before they occur and avoid forcing people to rewrite applications.

The company will launch its Web services management product in the second quarter this year as a follow-up to Quality of Business Assistant. With its management push, Swingtide will provide different views into the performance and operations of a Web services application across a network. For example, a business analyst may want to know how many sales occurred using an e-commerce Web service, while a network administrator may want performance and troubleshooting information.

Swingtide's Quality of Business Assistant is targeted at both large and medium-sized companies. The design product and training session costs $19,995 for three people.