Integration Watch: Remember good tools at low cost?


Andrew Binstock, principal analyst at Pacific Data Works, recently published a great article in SD Times about some of the software tools he relies on to make his life easier. In “Integration Watch: Remember good tools at low cost?” he notes:

“Today, of course, tools are either free or terribly expensive; there is little middle ground. And there are very few small vendors of tools, with the notable exception of the components market for Windows applications—but those are more libraries than pure tools. One vendor, however, that has persevered making great [tools] at remarkably approachable prices is Altova, which has put out a variety of interesting products for a long time.”

Read the complete article here and let us know what you think! What are some of the inexpensive software tools that you rely on?

Tags: , ,

Free Altova Online Training is Back!


Back by popular demand, Altova Online Training is now available in a brand new format. It’s still free – only now it’s offered in a convenient, self-service training model. Classes are available on-demand, and you no longer have to sign up or arrange your day around fixed class times. You can learn at your own pace, on your own schedule.

Each interactive training module contains guided instruction, tutorials, quizzes to test your learning, and resources for further study. You can complete each module in one sitting, or return to the class as often as you’d like to pick up where you left off.

The first new Altova Online Training class available is Introduction to MapForce, which is currently in BETA status.

Free Altova Online Training

During the BETA period, we’ll be relying on your feedback to help us improve future courses. Please share your comments and suggestions using the survey included in the Introduction to MapForce module, or post your comments on this blog.

We’re excited that Altova Online Training is back, and we hope you find it helpful for learning more about Altova tools and technologies!

Tags: ,

Oracle OpenWorld 2008 recap


The Altova team exhibited at Oracle OpenWorld 2008 in San Francisco last week. The exhibit halls were packed, and we were happy to have a steady stream of visitors to our booth. We had the pleasure of talking with many Altova customers as well as other Oracle users and developers interested in Altova XML, database, and UML tools. Of particular interest with this crowd were MapForce and DatabaseSpy, but we talked with lots of folks whose challenges – from publishing XML and database data, to UML modeling, to Web services testing – could be met with other tools across the Altova product line. We also had the opportunity to introduce many visitors to the Altova MissionKit, and people were happy to hear that they could get a full suite of tools and save some money at the same time. Here are a few videos chronicling our trip, including some on-the-spot product demos. The first is a 1-minute bird’s eye tour of downtown San Francisco and the Altova booth in the Moscone West exhibition hall.

Here we learn how to efficiently migrate legacy relational data to a 21st-century XML application using XMLSpy. Bonus Scene: a water feature to improve your Feng Shui.

Finally, this video includes a demo of DatabaseSpy, featuring how to use the Graphical Database Design editor to explore and modify database tables. Bonus Scene: take a ride on a San Francisco cable car!

These were shot live on the floor of the exhibition, as you’ll hear from the enthusiastic crowds in the background, and at other spots around town. Whether you attended the show this year or not, we hope you’ll enjoy our video postcards. Altova’s next exhibit will be at Microsoft PDC in Las Vegas – we hope to see you there!

Tags: , , , , , ,

New demo video: Mapping Excel 2007 / OOXML


We’ve just put the finishing touches on the latest Altova product demo video. This new module demonstrates the recently added support for mapping Excel 2007 data in MapForce.The video walks you through two data mapping scenarios, one where Excel 2007 data is filtered and then mapped into a relational database, and another where XML data is converted to Excel 2007. Other supported data formats for mapping are EDI, flat files, and even Web services. Please check out the video and let us know what you think! You can also try this new functionality for yourself with a free, fully functional 30-day trial of MapForce. MapForce Excel 2007 mapping

Tags: , , ,

Diff / Merge Tools and Dog Food


Since its release in 2005, the Altova marketing team has been actively using the DiffDog diff / merge tool to compare and merge changes on our Web pages (something Product Marketing Manager David McGahey likes to call “eating our own dog food.” Get it? Dog food? Anyway…). We create and edit our content directly in XML using the XMLSpy XML editor and use WinCVS as our version control client. This way, we [not-so-technical marketing folks] can easily view and revert changes to any files in our CVS repository. When we need to compare changes made in two versions of a given file, we simply highlight the versions and launch DiffDog directly from WinCVS. It’s a lightning-fast way to see exactly what has been changed. image Our Web Development team also makes good use of DiffDog’s directory comparison functionality to diff and merge between our test and live Web servers.

Using DiffDog with Team Foundation Server

Jeff Levinson, Microsoft MVP and Application Lifecycle Management practice lead at Northwest Cadence, also recently shared his DiffDog story in an online article for Visual Studio Magazine, “Performing Comparisons with Team Foundation Server.” He details how you can replace the default merge tool in TFS with DiffDog. Do you have any stories to share about how you use our tools? Let us know!

Tags: , ,

Case Study: Equifax


equifax Check out the case study below to learn how leading US credit reporting entity Equifax® built an advanced SOAP interface for their identity verification and authentication Web service.

Overview

Equifax is a leading credit reporting entity and provider of analytical and decision support tools. Their real-time authentication system, eIDverifier, offers government and businesses personalized online security measures that help protect them against fraud and comply with federal legislation. The eIDverifier process is used within e-commerce and other online applications to authenticate users’ identities based on their answers to personalized questions drawn from Equifax’s extensive data stores. The authentication process consists of five steps:

  1. Integrity Check – eIDverifier standardizes and screens applicant-provided information to test for data inconsistencies and irregularities.
  2. Pattern Recognition – A pattern recognition algorithm is conducted on each transaction. For example, a velocity parameter determines the number of times an applicant has applied for authentication in a specific time frame.
  3. Identity Validation – To confirm an identity’s legitimacy, eIDverifier uses a “waterfall” approach in gathering validation information from multiple data sources. This means that if the identity cannot be validated with the first data source, eIDverifier will proceed to the next data source until the identity is validated.
  4. Interactive Query – eIDverifier presents multiple-choice questions to the applicant based upon “shared secret” information that should only be known to the applicant and Equifax. The question sets are customizable to meet individual risk thresholds.
  5. Decision Logic / Output Assessment – There are two output components to eIDverifier – an assessment score and reason codes. The assessment score indicates the likelihood of an applicant presenting fraudulent information, while reason codes provide important details on questionable information and highlight any discrepancies between the consumer’s application information and Equifax data sources.

eIDverifier relies on the SOAP protocol to send messages defining these interactions back and forth between the client interface and the Equifax servers. Third party institutions license the eIDverifier SOAP interface for use within their online application processes, enabling them to integrate its functionality and access information contained in Equifax’s databases.Equifax uses the XMLSpy XML Schema editor to graphically design the XSDs that serve as the foundation for their SOAP interface.

The Challenge

Equifax needed a sophisticated tool for designing the XML Schemas that would define the data types for their Web service, as well as a mechanism for creating the WSDL documents that would describe the interface as a whole. As a Java shop, Equifax needed a solution that would be compatible with their other development tools, and that would work seamlessly with the Eclipse IDE. Though there are plenty of Java tools available that have the capacity for XML Schema development, XMLSpy presented the most attractive option for schema design because of its comprehensive graphical design and editing options.The Equifax development team took a further step to simplify their Web services creation, using XML Beans and the Codehaus XFire/CXF Java SOAP framework to auto-generate WSDL from their XML Schemas.

The Solution

eIDverifier relies on a variety of different technologies to bring identity verification and authentication to its clients. XMLSpy provides the following benefits:XML Schema

XML Schema is used to express the structure of the data, as well as the individual elements and attributes that it is comprised of. Because a large portion of the data relies on end-user input in the form of address, phone number, driver’s license number, etc., it is vital that this information is in a format that can be digested by the system.Using XMLSpy’s graphical XML Schema editor, the Equifax development team was able to easily visualize and maintain the structure of their XML Schema. A portion of the schema that was created appears below:

SOAP interface

This data type definition provides the syntax, and dictates the structure, for the data that is transmitted by the eIDverifier Web service.

XMLSpy’s unique graphical XML Schema editor allowed the Equifax development team to create and maintain a complex schema definition without writing any code manually. They were also able to automatically generate human-readable documentation that can be used to present the architecture for review at any time in the development process, and that describes each element and attribute in detail.SOAP interface

WSDL

The processes executed by eIDverifier are described by a WSDL document that incorporates the XML Schema to provide information about data types, functions, and other interface details to the client – defining and dictating the actions taken by the client application to send and retrieve information between the end-user and the Equifax servers. The Equifax team chose to autogenerate a WSDL document using the Codehaus XFire/CXF framework. The XML Schema was used as the basis for an XMLBeans implementation, which was then compiled as a Java service class. Once the eIDverifier service was exposed, XFire automatically generated a WSDL – the WSDL is shown below in the XMLSpy graphical WSDL editor.

SOAP interfaceThis WSDL serves as the basis for the eIDverifier application, defining the ports and messages that make up the communication infrastructure of the Web service.

The Results

The eIDverifier SOAP interface allows external applications to access Equifax’s backend data stores, exposing it as a Web service and enabling them to retrieve secure information without jeopardizing the integrity of the Equifax mainframe. Utilizing WSDL and SOAP, and surrounded by Java architecture, eIDverifier is able to confirm user identity by returning a set of multiple choice questions based on the secure data maintained by Equifax.SOAP interfaceXMLSpy enabled the Equifax team to quickly and easily create a graphical schema representation and the matching documentation to serve as the basis for the Web service. It also allowed the development team to focus on their Java code, rather than the intricacies of XML Schema and WSDL design. The Altova MissionKit provides numerous tools for advanced Web services development, from the graphical XML Schema and WSDL editing discussed here, to SOAP debugging, and even graphical Web services generation and data mapping. Download a free trial to check it out for yourself.

Tags: , , , , ,