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SOAPstation manages Web services

Feb 19, 20033 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsWeb Development

* Easing the management of Web services

I think that Web services are going to be a bigger problem than people think. The trouble is not that they are hard to build or hard to integrate. Nope, the trouble is that they are hard to manage.

Sure, managing one or two services isn’t a huge task but that’s not what happens. You build one service, get it running, and then sometime later you find you need to change it. And that change affects another service you have and the users who are allowed access to the new service are different to the old one and … well, it gets very messy very quickly.  That’s just a single service – most organizations find that Web services start to multiply and don’t stop.

And the trend for huge, monolithic applications such as SAP to become federations of components communicating via Web service based messaging will increase the headache.

I just had a discussion with Actional ( about its product SOAPstation. SOAPStation is, in effect, a proxy for Web services and supports a wide range of Web services standards including SOAP 1.1, SOAP 1.2, SOAP with attachments, RPC and document styles, WSDL 1.1, UDDI 1.0, UDDI 2.0, SAML, WS-Security, and XML Signature.

Architecturally, SOAPstation provides service access points that are mapped to managed services via XSLT transformations, WSDL descriptions, security controls and business rules all managed through a graphical interface.

The business rules controls are a powerful feature. You can monitor and control based on time, date, data content, requester, service, system loading (there’s a watchdog interface that can be linked to the actual service provider to monitor actual load), and service state (up or down). SOAPstation can also route to multiple services via round robin allocation.

Add to this the ability to monitor and control service level (to meet service-level agreements), log all service transactions and validate all access (against SOAPstation’s internal security services or any Lightweight Directory Access Protocol-compliant service such as Oblix) and you have a pretty interesting and powerful product.

One of the most interesting abilities of SOAPstation is that it provides nondisruptive versioning of services. This means that if a service is changed for whatever reason the consumers that depend on the previous service version can still be supported by creating a new service access point that maps the new service onto the old service.

In practice, SOAPstation sits between the client and the service. Where load balancing is used, SOAPstation can front-end the load balancing subsystem. If really high volume Web services are involved a load balancing subsystem can front-end multiple SOAPstations which, in turn, would front-end the load balancing subsystem for the service. SOAPstation is designed to be capable of clustering so multiple SOAPstations can operate in parallel.

Implementation is claimed to be very simple. For example, E*trade is using SOAPstation and apparently integrated the product into its system of 1,000 services in about 45 minutes.

SOAPstation runs on Windows, Solaris, Red Hat Linux and is written completely in Java. It is priced at $50,000 for a server with one or two CPUs and $100,000 for 3 or more CPUs.


Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

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