Infoworld reviews our product

Gordon Mohr
Mon, 18 Mar 2002 20:36:58 -0800

Congrats! I thought that was a great review.

But what *is* Infoworld's "narrower, technically specific 
definition of Web services"? 

They seem to imply the reader would be familiar with
their definition -- and thus never spell it out in local
context. But the term is a fairly new catchall, and to 
lock in any one ornate definition, prescribing certain 
vendors' chosen technologies, would seem to me premature. 

- Gordon

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Rohit Khare" <>
To: <FoRK@XeNT.Com>
Sent: Monday, March 18, 2002 5:08 PM
Subject: Infoworld reviews our product

> I have a lot of respect for the team at InfoWorld. If I were still 
> writing in the trades, I'd be hard-pressed to do much better -- Tom 
> did an excellent job for such an early product.
> The sidebar is fairly exceptional for InfoWorld to add in, but it's 
> not unfair if we take the longer view that this is one release in an 
> ongoing series. I am certainly glad to see our marketing align itself 
> with SOAP routing.
> Anyway, here you go -- I believe it's actually front page news!
> Rohit
> PS. No, I don't want to hear more about the pun in the headline!
> >KnowNow Event Router Version 1.5
> >
> >KnowNow's software provides simple, reliable, and comparatively 
> >affordable messaging middleware for EAI (enterprise application 
> >integration) and browser-based applications.
> >
> >KnowNow's elegance and openness are a welcome departure from overly 
> >complex, overpriced proprietary middleware solutions.
> >
> >+ HTTP transport easily integrates with existing networks
> >+ Client APIs in C/C++, Java, JavaScript, Python, and ActiveX
> >+ Clustering and transparent cross-server routing of events
> >
> >- Inadequate administrative tools
> >- Poorly organized documentation
> >- Touted Web services capabilities lacking
> Flexible messaging
> By Tom Yager
> March 15, 2002
> CHIEF AMONG THE challenges facing enterprise developers is a task 
> most people assume was mastered long ago: messaging. Not messaging in 
> the sense of e-mail or other person-to-person collaboration but 
> messaging between applications. Shipping arbitrary data from one 
> program to another across a network, through firewalls and filters, 
> and over platform and programming language boundaries is no easy 
> feat. Message-oriented middleware from vendors such as IBM, Tibco, 
> and Progress Software can tie applications together but can carry 
> high development and deployment costs and require a lot of skill to 
> use and manage.
> Following a welcome trend toward simpler solutions to complex 
> problems, KnowNow offers an HTTP-based messaging subsystem that runs 
> across platforms (Solaris and Windows) and works easily with multiple 
> programming languages. KnowNow's publish-and-subscribe approach and 
> multilanguage APIs free programmers from having to understand the 
> intricacies of network protocols. After our testing, we were 
> impressed with the simplicity of KnowNow's design. We would like to 
> see broader platform coverage, better administrative tools, and more 
> formal documentation, but we think KnowNow's comprehensible, 
> adaptable, and scalable architecture deserves consideration for 
> integration projects.
> We evaluated Version 1.5 of KnowNow Event Router on a pair of Windows 
> 2000 Advanced Server machines -- one equipped with an AMD Athlon XP 
> 1900+ CPU and 512MB of RAM and the other with dual 2.2GHz Intel Xeon 
> CPUs and 1GB of RAM. We used Version 1.2 of Sun's Java SDK (software 
> developer's kit) and Visual Studio .Net to create our test 
> applications.
> Jumping hurdles
> In the publish-and-subscribe messaging model, a subscriber is an 
> application that asks to be notified whenever new data is presented 
> on a particular named channel (or topic, in messaging parlance). The 
> publishing application delivers information to subscribers by 
> inserting data into the appropriate topic. On publication, KnowNow's 
> Event Router uses HTTP to deliver topic data, called events, in real 
> time to all of the subscribers registered for that topic.
> As simple as this model is to describe, it is fraught with technical 
> obstacles. For one thing, it's tough to provide scalability and 
> availability under the publish-and-subscribe model because each topic 
> is usually hosted by a single server. For another, every programming 
> language has its own notion of how events are defined and processed. 
> And finally, events can be lost if a server is unavailable at the 
> time the data is published.
> KnowNow tackles these problems with ingenuity. The KnowNow Event 
> Router, which keeps track of subscribers and delivers published 
> events, does not run in isolation. Servers may be clustered for load 
> balancing and fault tolerance, and any server may subscribe to topics 
> hosted on other servers. By allowing Event Routers to subscribe to 
> other topics, KnowNow enables topic hierarchies and transparent 
> routing of events between servers. We especially appreciated the 
> ability to aggregate data from multiple topics under a single new 
> topic.
> The KnowNow Event Router is further insulated from failure by 
> constantly maintaining its operating state in a persistence database 
> on disk. We intentionally terminated the router several times and 
> found that no published message failed to be delivered after the 
> server was restarted. Because it uses HTTP as a transport, KnowNow's 
> Event Router requires no special client software. To smooth out 
> differences between languages and to add an extra measure of 
> reliability, however, KnowNow supplies messaging clients that it 
> calls Microservers. The Microservers also queue messages locally when 
> a server is unavailable.
> Microservers
> The primary client interface to KnowNow is JavaScript. The JavaScript 
> Microserver code (about 50KB's worth) loads into a Web browser using 
> hidden frames. The programmer accesses KnowNow topics and events 
> using native JavaScript objects and an extremely simple API. 
> Navigating to a KnowNow-equipped Web page automatically loads the 
> necessary objects directly from the KnowNow Event Router.
> The Java Microserver API is as easy to use as JavaScript, but it has 
> the added capability of subscribing to topics on multiple servers. 
> Published events on subscribed topics trigger callback functions. It 
> couldn't be simpler. In Java, we also found it easy to create an 
> event handler for status events, so our test app was notified when 
> the Event Router had received and digested an event we published. 
> When running on a BEA Weblogic or IBM WebSphere J2EE (Java 2 
> Enterprise Edition) server, KnowNow's Java Microserver can present an 
> API subset compatible with Sun's JMS (Java Message Service) 
> specification.
> KnowNow supplies C/C++ Microservers for Solaris and Windows, along 
> with an ActiveX API that gives Visual Basic and Windows Scripting 
> developers access to KnowNow messaging. A Python Microserver is also 
> available. In the latest release, KnowNow has added APIs for modular 
> filters and transforms. These custom modules, written in C/C++ and 
> dynamically loaded into the Event Router, make it possible to change 
> or block messages programmatically. KnowNow has also created a 
> facility for plug-in authorization and authentication, partially 
> addressing a shortcoming of previous releases that relied solely on 
> text files for security data.
> Not perfect
> We observed a few holes in KnowNow's implementation. Supplied 
> administrative tools, all browser-based, manage one Event Router 
> server at a time. In the clustered or distributed setting likely to 
> prevail in enterprise deployments, administrators need to be able to 
> view and change the operational status of groups of servers. There is 
> also no facility for monitoring the health of Event Routers and 
> alerting administrators (or taking other action) when they're in 
> trouble. The configuration interface is generally lacking, presenting 
> only a two-column display of unexplained, named parameters and 
> associated values. The topic and event explorer is the strongest of 
> the administrative utilities.
> The KnowNow documentation is reasonably well-written but is delivered 
> as a handful of huge HTML files. Although the documents are useful as 
> guides and introductions to KnowNow technology, they are inadequate 
> as developer and administrator references.
> Near press time, KnowNow began touting the Web services capabilities 
> of its router (see "Gambling with trust," below). Some new KnowNow 
> marketing literature refers to the KnowNow Event Router as the Web 
> Services Router, a moniker that's a bit ahead of reality. The KnowNow 
> Event Router uses HTTP as a transport, and events can contain SOAP 
> (Simple Object Access Protocol) data, or any other kind of data, for 
> that matter. Otherwise, the software, documentation, and code samples 
> we evaluated had no special provisions for SOAP, WSDL (Web Services 
> Description Language), or UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery, and 
> Integration). KnowNow intends to add Web services features to its 
> software in the coming months. Even so, KnowNow's literature takes 
> pains to point out that future Web services capabilities will not 
> supplant KnowNow's core architecture.
> As with all solutions of its kind, KnowNow's integration platform is 
> not perfect. Even so, we concluded that KnowNow's software is an 
> efficient and elegant alternative to large, costly, and complex 
> middleware systems.
> KnowNow Event Router Version 1.5
> KnowNow's software provides simple, reliable, and comparatively 
> affordable messaging middleware for EAI (enterprise application 
> integration) and browser-based applications.
> KnowNow's elegance and openness are a welcome departure from overly 
> complex, overpriced proprietary middleware solutions.
> + HTTP transport easily integrates with existing networks
> + Client APIs in C/C++, Java, JavaScript, Python, and ActiveX
> + Clustering and transparent cross-server routing of events
> - Inadequate administrative tools
> - Poorly organized documentation
> - Touted Web services capabilities lacking
> $15,000 for developer's license; enterprise licenses start at $50,000
> Windows 2000, Solaris 8
> KnowNow Inc.;
> Scores
> Ease of use 7
> Implementation 8
> Innovation 8
> Interoperability 7
> Scalability 8
> Security 7
> Suitability 7
> Support 7
> Training 6
> Value 8
> Overall: 7 (Consider)
> Gambling with trust
> While I was researching this review, KnowNow began adding the term 
> Web services to its Web site and marketing and technical materials. 
> The company also changed the name of its Event Router to Web Services 
> Router. Within a few days Web services had found its way into 
> virtually everything on KnowNow's site, with one key exception: its 
> software.
> The KnowNow software available at this writing has no Web services 
> capabilities. Yet none of the documents on KnowNow's site even hint 
> that as-yet-unimplemented features are being discussed. Indeed, 
> KnowNow brashly attempts to redefine the term in its favor as 
> anything that uses HTTP to transfer data. KnowNow may find the 
> narrower, technically specific definition of Web services 
> constraining, but it is reality. When an IT professional goes 
> shopping for middleware that's Web services-enabled, he or she 
> shouldn't have to sift through a load of doublespeak. Either a 
> product does Web services or it doesn't. At this point, KnowNow 
> doesn't.
> As was every other company in the middleware market, KnowNow was 
> blindsided by the rapid uptake of Web services. It must be 
> frustrating to have a product as technically sharp as KnowNow's and 
> still be asked at every trade show, "Does it do Web services?"
> There is also a disturbing rise in the use of hyperbole as a 
> marketing tool, with the most blatant offender being Oracle and its 
> "unbreakable" campaign. Although disappointing, it is easy to 
> understand how KnowNow went astray.
> KnowNow tells me that Web services capabilities will debut in June. 
> If that's so, the company can afford to drop the subterfuge. The 
> tactic of luring prospects with wordplay and overselling damages 
> trust. For a vendor that sells such a critical piece of IT 
> infrastructure, trust is an invaluable asset.