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Switch tackles XML traffic

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CHICAGO - Sarvega, which means "universal" in Sanskrit, next month is unveiling its debut product - a switch that the start-up says will ease translation, encryption and priority-based routing of XML traffic.

Slated for launch at NetWorld+Interop 2002 Las Vegas, Sarvega's XML switch is designed to handle XML traffic, offloading that processing from servers. The switch includes content-based routing features, which lets users set priorities on important transmissions. So for example, a financial services firm might choose to configure the switch to provide better quality of service for trade orders than for customer address changes. The device also can encrypt or unencrypt messages, depending on the level of security required.

The device is aimed at large companies that are faced with growing levels of XML traffic as vendors in areas such as enterprise application integration and e-procurement shift from proprietary data formats to XML, says John Chirapurath, a Sarvega co-founder and vice president.

Chirapurath co-founded Sarvega in June 2000 with CEO Sunil Gaitonde, a Cisco veteran who founded Internet gateway software maker Internet Junction, which Cisco acquired in 1995; and Girish Juneja, Sarvega's vice president of engineering. Sarvega closed a $10 million first round of venture funding in the fourth quarter of 2001; its key investors are Bessemer Venture Partners, KB Partners and ComVentures.

The idea of a dedicated network device for routing XML traffic appeals to Bill Rocholl, who is first vice president at ABN Amro's services division and is responsible for the financial institution's North American network environment for commercial and consumer client business.

ABN Amro has load-balancing products that make application-level decisions based on packet inspection, but they are not geared for making packet-level decisions about XML content, Rocholl says. Alternatively, software developers can write code to handle XML routing, but if the network grows or something changes, Rocholl doesn't want to have to bring a developer back in to make code changes. Sarvega's XML switch "could put control of the networking portion of it into the hands of people who understand and are responsible for the service delivery topology," he says.

Forrester Research analyst David Truog says hardware for handling XML traffic is timely. "Companies increasingly exchange data among applications using Internet standards - especially XML," Truog said in a research brief published last month. "As this traffic on private networks and the Internet balloons, large companies will need to intelligently process XML messages in the network at wire speed - not just in general-purpose servers."

Sarvega's switch sits on a LAN and scans for XML-based protocols. Incoming packets might be composed in any of several XML variants - there are multiple dialects that exist today, such as ebXML for general e-business transactions and CIDX for the chemical industry. If necessary, the switch translates the XML document into the format that the recipient requires.

Rocholl says XML translation capabilities could be helpful at ABN Amro, which uses standards-based Document Type Definitions to define the structure of information stored in applications. But definitions and schema vary with off-the-shelf XML products, requiring developers to write a translator for these variations. The Sarvega switch could take on translation tasks, Rocholl says.


Rocholl and his team have reviewed Sarvega's technology and were in contact with the vendor during XML switch development. The next step in ABN Amro's evaluation process is a limited pilot test, which Rocholl plans to conduct over the next few months.

If ABN Amro decides to deploy the Sarvega switch, it will coexist with other single-purpose devices that handle caching, Secure Sockets Layer termination and load balancing, for example. Whenever practical, the firm has migrated from software-based network products to dedicated hardware appliances, Rocholl says. "These have simplified our life, and we want to continue that evolutionary process," he says. "We think this [XML switch] might be the next way to do that."

Sarvega's XML switch is a 4U (7 inches) high; the company expects to shrink the box to a 2U size within a few months as it incorporates custom boards. Currently the product is powered by an Intel-based 1.2-GHz dual processor.

Sarvega's competition includes XBridge Software and DataPower Technology, which is developing a rack-mounted device called XA35 that purports to speed XML processing tenfold, Forrester's Truog says. The DataPower device is slated for availability in the third quarter, he says.

Sarvega's switch is available now. The company declined to discuss pricing.

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Contact Senior Writer Ann Bednarz

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