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XML-Acceleration Tools Aim To Speed Web Services-Clogged Networks

Web services ease the difficulty of cross-platform integration of business applications, but the emerging technology can also sink data-center performance, experts warned Thursday.

Key to the bottleneck that can accompany the use of web services is extensible markup language. While XML is the technology's greatest strength, it can also be its Achilles' heel.

As a data standard, XML enables cross-platform distribution of purchase-orders, invoices, insurance forms and a host of other business documents across applications. But the files, which are packed with metadata related to business processes, security and more, can be as many as 20 times the size of proprietary formats. Therefore, depending on the amount of traffic, XML documents can consume as much as 80 percent of a computer system's available processing power.

"No one argues that XML is the most efficient way of integration," Ronald Schmelzer, analyst for market researcher ZapThink LLC, said. "There's always a tradeoff. You're gaining effective integration at the expense of network efficiency."

But problems for some are opportunities for others, and a new XML-acceleration market is emerging to tackle the dilemma. Vendors are selling specialized hardware that handles XML processing separately, thereby decreasing the workload on data servers.

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