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This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to IVR Development and custom IVR software and products. Business phone systems and toll free answering systems (generally 800 numbers and their equivalent) are very popular for service and sales organizations, allowing customers and prospects to call your organization anywhere in the country. The PACER and WIZARD IVR System is just one of many DSC call center phone system features..

What Is IVR?. An Interactive Voice Response (IVR) processes inbound phone calls, plays recorded messages including information extracted from databases and the internet, and potentially routes calls to either inhouse service agents or transfers the caller to an outside extension.

Contact DSC today. to learn more about our IVR services and IVR application development software.

Databases, Tools Push XML Into Enterprise


Immaturity and a dearth of development tools have prevented XML from penetrating the enterprise. But a new crop of tools designed to manage large data stores could change that.

Also boosting XML's prospects are product road maps from Oracle and other large vendors, as well as a proposal to add traditional database-style querying to XML documents.

Of particular importance is XML's move away from its roots as a document technology toward becoming a solution for data integration challenges.

"We're using XML to do enterprisewide integration. For us, it's not about documents and text manipulation," said Bill Gougler, managing director of Thoughtworks Inc., a distributed object consulting company with customers in the financial services and retail sectors. "We see XML as a method to meet a business need: Give me access to diverse data sources and manipulate them many times on my desktop without a trip back to the database."

One vendor championing the cause of managing large-scale XML data stores is Object Design Inc. The company said the underlying technology in its ObjectStore object database has found its perfect application in XML. It describes its new product, eXcelon, as an XML data integration server that creates a middle tier between enterprise applications and clients and also converts legacy data to XML.

"If you want to use XML on the server side this is what's going to get you there," said Object Design XML evangelist Coco Jaenicke. "Now that XML and multitier applications are in vogue, it's given ObjectStore new life."

That's a bold statement, given the amount of XML work already being done on the server side by vendors and end users. But it's given some weight by the fact that Object Design's object database technology is already embedded as an XML repository in some of the most popular XML tools, such as Inso Corp.'s DynaBase.

Unlike DynaBase, however, Object Design's eXcelon server isn't about Web publishing, but rather about managing, distributing and caching large amounts of XML data in the middle tier.

"You can take relational data from tables and turn it into XML by doing run-time joins. But there's no scalability, and performance will kill you," said Jaenicke, of using relational databases to manage XML. With eXcelon, by contrast, "you can have 100 app servers banging on your data store, and attached to each app server is a data cache, synchronized with all the other app servers. There's never been a screaming demand for a big, fat data management middle tier but, with XML, it's a requirement."

EXcelon's major application is to help integrate disparate data types across the enterprise, including data from enterprise resource planning, e-commerce and customer service systems, Jaenicke said.

EXcelon works with any database, app server or Web client. A public beta of eXcelon is expected by year's end, with the final product shipping in the first quarter of next year, initially on Windows NT. Pricing has not been set.

Object Design isn't the only object database vendor with an XML story, though most are targeting Web publishing, rather than data management.

Poet Software Corp. last month released its Content Management Suite 1.1, which offers an environment for Web publishers to contribute to, collaborate on, share and reuse structured XML content. It is built on Poet's Object Server 5.0.

Ardent Software Inc. next month is expected to release details about an XML content management solution based on its O2 object database.

But perhaps the biggest bang will come from Oracle, which last week provided its own XML road map for the first time.

Oracle said it will support XML in Oracle 8i, Oracle Application Server 4.0 and its development tools beginning later this year. For instance, Oracle 8i includes an XML parser for processing XML documents; Oracle Internet File System will automate rendering of data between XML and the database.

"A lot of people are going to already have 8i in the shop and say, 'let's try to make do with that,' " said JP Morgenthal, an analyst at consultancy NC.Focus.

Although Object Design's approach has its advantages, a limiting factor for some applications is that it can't write changes made by a client all the way back to a relational database back end, but only to its own ObjectStore data cache, said Srini Sankaran, president of Global Automation, a consulting and custom software development firm, and a member of the eXcelon product steering committee.

Yet dealing with relational databases and XML is no slam dunk, either. "We've done prototype work with XML parsers with relational data, and we can't get the speed we want. That's where eXcelon would be useful," Sankaran said.

Hitting the market with a new product is ArborText Inc. Its new Epic authoring and publishing tool, due to ship at month's end, is designed to enable the creation and management of XML-based product documentation, particularly in its first release for the telecom and computer industries. Other vertical industry releases will follow.

Key Epic functionality includes support for both XML and SGML, WYSIWIG document authoring and preview, document personalization, and automatic publishing and page layout.

XML markup of documents, especially technical ones, changes those documents from static data containers to applications in their own right, according to Rita Knox, vice president and research director at the Gartner Group, a consultancy. Knox expects XML document markup to exceed the use of HTML for publishing applications by the first half of 2000.

Epic will ship Nov. 30 on Windows NT. Support for various Unix platforms is due in February. Pricing starts at $85,000.

In other XML news, Microsoft, webMethods Inc. and Texcel International AB last week submitted a proposal to the World Wide Web Consortium for the Extensible Query Language, or XQL. It is a set of extensions to the Extensible Style Language specification to allow users to make database-style queries on XML documents.

XQL is supported in Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 beta 2. Other vendors, including webMethods, Texcel and Object Design, plan to support XQL in future products.

Meanwhile, a group of development tool vendors led by IBM, Oracle and Unisys Corp. last week submitted a final proposal to the Object Management Group for using XML to enable interoperability between development tools and data repositories.

Called the XML Metadata Interchange, or XMI, the spec would let teams of developers exchange object programming data in a standardardized way.