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Interview with Barbara Bouldin of InfoShark, Inc.

Interview with Barbara Bouldin of InfoShark, Inc.

XML-J: Can you give our readers a brief overview of infoShark, what area of XML it focuses on, and your role in the organization?
infoShark provides software products for B2B data integration. These products enable enterprises to access, exchange, and transmit information quickly and easily between organizations or with customers and partners. Enterprises achieve a faster and less expensive solution for B2B integration with infoShark's datacentric approach. We focus on using XML as a nonproprietary industry standard to normalize all disparate data to a common format. Moreover, the XML translation and transportation we provide are platform and protocol independent.

As a technology visionary I founded the company and serve on the board of directors as chair. In addition to these roles I have strategic, day-to-day operational responsibilities as CTO and head of development.

XML-J: As the founder of infoShark how did you identify the niche in the market that you decided to go after?
I've always believed that at the heart of every business are treasure troves of valuable raw data. Data that, if easily accessible, has the power to drive a corporation's success. In my vision I actually combined an appreciation of the data and a belief in the dramatic opportunity of the Internet. Based on this vision, we created software products that liberate inaccessible corporate data into XML, which can then be used to quickly access and transport valuable information anywhere it's needed.

XML-J: Your business is based on transforming data between relational databases; notable among them is Oracle. How do you see OODB systems fitting into this mix?
infoShark's expertise is about freeing information from its physical data structure. We've developed an abstract engine for this purpose. There will be at least three applications of this abstract engine that support the three common data structures: relational, trees, and flat file structures. Our first application is relational. We've already developed support for Oracle 7.3, Oracle 8i, SQL Server 7, and DB2 7. OODB would just be another application that we'll develop as soon as there's a sound business reason to schedule this.

XML-J: Why do people need XML Schemas when they have DTDs, which are used for the same purpose? What is CARD?
Schemas offer broader functionality such as data types and can be written in XML. In addition to being more limited, creating DTDs requires you to learn yet another markup language. CARD stands for Commerce Accelerated Relational Data. It's an XML Schema that enables bidirectional exchange of relational data. It provides all the necessary information to re-create relational database structures and populate them with data.

XML-J: The CARD Schema defined by infoShark is compatible with BizTalk and the W3C working draft. It's also a part of the xml.org registry supported by OASIS. What are your thoughts about the registries and repositories that are emerging in different XML organizations? Do you see the problem of overlap between schema definitions? Will each new schema have to be submitted to all registries?
The blessing of XML's flexibility is also its curse. There are already thousands of individual and industry-based XML Schemas and DTDs so there's a bigger issue than multiple registers. One benefit that XMLShark brings into play is the capability to automatically translate between XML Schemas and DTDs.

XML-J: I noticed you had authored a chapter in The XML Handbook. The application you chose to illustrate the CARD Schema was a "Law Enforcement Agency." Any particular reason you chose such an unusual scenario? How does it highlight the features of your products?
Yes, I chose that because it's based on a real-life business case scenario. In that scenario crime information is accessed by crime analysts, detectives, patrolmen, and judges from remote locations as well as from PC workstations. This information must be accessible and secure. Identities of minors must be protected. Data is also exchanged between the law enforcement agency and the ATF and FBI. All of this data is stored in totally different formats.

Last but not least: according to the law, every pawnshop transaction must be provided to law enforcement agencies. Although this data needs to be automatically gathered to be useful, any access to the crime data by pawnshops must be tightly controlled. XMLShark provides all the capability necessary to translate data between different formats and make that data accessible anywhere. This level of data mobility is accomplished without compromising the integrity and security of the original sources.

XML-J: CARD assumes that massive amounts of data need to be transported across the Web between distributed database stores. Won't this result in a severe performance problem? Wouldn't it be better to move data using some offline mechanism?
XMLShark addresses this concern in a number of ways. There's an optional separation of data and structure (keep in mind structure rarely changes) during transport, as well as between existing and updated data. Also, XMLShark compresses the data prior to transportation and decompresses it upon receipt.

XML-J: Can you give our readers an overview of your product line as well as some insight into what's coming down the pipe in the future?
Our products are datacentric: XMLShark is a data integration and transportation tool; DataShark is an extraction, transform, and load tool; and ViewShark is a browser-based, end-user query and export tool.

A great majority of what's needed in today's e-business environment can be supplied via the data alone. Data is the raw material that fuels today's economy. All future products will be developed to further the effective leveraging of data into information.

The XMLShark product establishes and maintains data integration. It does the actual translation and transportation of enterprise data files. These files are small, secure data packages for rapid transmission around the World Wide Web via XML. The components of XMLShark include the ability to analyze data sources and map data between systems, and a translation and transportation engine. Transmission can be initiated by either a sender or receiver, and be scheduled or event-driven. The product also includes a Web-based browser as the end-user interface.

XML-J: XMLShark seems to be your flagship product. Does it achieve data integration via programmatic means or do you interact directly with the databases? What does the API look like?
XMLShark interacts directly with the databases utilizing JDBC. The product contains two types of interfaces: a GUI for easy point-and-click navigation and an API interface for technical personnel, which is very useful to third parties for OEM purposes. There's also a Web-based browser for end users.

XML-J: I understand that XMLShark provides the capability for extracting, transforming, and transporting data. Does that put you in the same space as other players like webMethods? For example, can XMLShark leverage SOAP to transport XML documents?
We're different from webMethods in that we take a datacentric approach that's environment (hardware/software) independent. This allows infoShark customers to rapidly implement a B2B infrastructure. Companies using XMLShark can implement an infrastructure for conducting business inside and outside the enterprise in one tenth the time and at one tenth the cost of other approaches. XMLShark does support multiple messaging envelopes including SOAP, Biztalk, and cXML.

XML-J: Your other tools - DataShark and ViewShark - work with Oracle. Do you plan to expand to other databases in the future?
Absolutely, and in fact ViewShark already supports SQL Server. The next release of DataShark will also support SQL Server and DB2, and the next release of ViewShark will include support for DB2.

XML-J: Do you use XSLT or XML namespaces for data transformation? Do you deal at all with XML presentation using XSL or do your tools deal exclusively with data content?
Data content only, but data can be accessed via the Development Environment interface (GUI) and the ViewShark interface (Web-based browser).

XML-J: Who are your competitors in this market? How are your offerings different from your competitors?
Again, infoShark takes a very fundamental datacentric approach to solving today's critical business requirements for responding quickly to changes: new business economies/models and emerging technologies. Our datacentric approach means that we can bring an implementation to market faster and for less money than other vendors who take a more process-oriented approach and integrate at the application level.

XML-J: I noticed that you're also in the training business. Do you plan to continue that as a source of revenue or do you plan to grow that section into a consulting-type environment?
Our training focuses on effective use of our products so our customer can be successful. Our products are easy to implement and work out of the box.

XML-J: Who are your biggest customers? How did they select you?
They are Qwest, Hireability, and Convergys. They found us at Oracle and XML trade shows.

XML-J: What are your plans for future expansion? Are you also going to ride the IPO wave?
Current plans for expansion include an acquisition that's in process. Our exit strategy will be dictated by conditions at the time. But everyone in the company is working toward an IPO.

XML-J: Where do you see the XML market going in the future?
XML has the potential to be the next Java. In fact, it complements Java on the data side. XML's openness and flexibility demand significant cooperation from the software community, which has not always been forthcoming. If the community doesn't cooperate and define and adhere to reasonable standards, the only alternative would be products such as XMLShark that automatically translate between different XMLs.

XML-J: What do you think about XML-Journal and other SYS-CON offerings? Do you plan to participate in the XML DevCon conferences?
XML-Journal is a great publication with a very strong handle on the flexibilities and potential for XML beyond content management applications. We've participated in XMLDevCon conferences in the past and in fact will be exhibiting at the San Jose conference in November.

XML-J: What's the easiest way for our readers to start playing around with your products? Are there any evaluation copies available?
As I said earlier, our products work right out of the box. We can get users up and running and productive in about two days. The best way to start playing around with XMLShark is to call us, make an appointment for us to come on-site, and we'll demonstrate the product liveÉI guarantee your readers will see the value and want to buy a copy immediately to start using for their projects.

More Stories By XML News Desk

The XML-Journal News Desk monitors the world of XML and SOA /Web services to present IT professionals with updates on technology advances and business trends, as well as new products and standards.

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