Survey: XML, data formats taxing systems

Growing XML document sizes, multiple data formats vex XML development

It's been an eternal source of debate in IT circles: Can good design overcome the compulsion to simply throw new hardware and systems at a problem? This debate is now front and center in the emerging SOA world, especially with the growing sizes of XML messages.

About 42% of developers surveyed need to boost application scalability, thanks to XML, and most say they need at least a five-fold increase

There are plenty of voices in the industry that say the concern around XML message sizes is not an issue, and that systems will be able to handle anything that's thrown at them. But a new survey shows that at least four out of ten enterprises are already thinking about increasing the capacity of their systems to better handle XML parsing.

The Binary XML format being formulated by the W3C is also considered an answer to this potential issue, but has its detractors. In previous posts and ensuing talkbacks to this blog, some industry experts said that good design is the best remedy for XML issues. Dave Hollander, CTO of Contivo and an XML co-author, for one, agreed that the growing size of XML documents can have an impact on business applications, but "good schema design and protocol development also have a dramatic impact." He also added that "popular compression tools are available for those who must deal with the consequences of bad design. In my mind, Binary XML might just distract us from focusing on good design."

Still, it looks like a surprisingly large number of enterprises are being forced to throw new hardware and software at the challenge of XML messages that are growing in size, and efforts to integrate multiple data formats.  A new survey of 570 developers, sponsored by Rogue Wave Software, finds that XML documents are getting huge. More than a third of respondents, 36%, report they now need to parse XML documents exceeding than a megabyte in size. Half of this segment, 18%, say they are already dealing with XML documents that exceed five megabytes in size.

Where is the bite from these huge documents? About 35% of the respondents say that throughput speed as the greatest challenge to XML parsing, while and 26% see these large documents taxing the memory efficiency of their servers.

Processing multiple data formats are another issue vexing SOA developers. Close to half, 46%, either plan to use data stored in databases as part of a SOA, or already have SOA-enabled database applications in production. About 13% have a strategy for data services in SOA, and 35% are starting to plan such a strategy. Survey respondents anticipate an increase in data sharing and utilize a high number of data formats within their organizations, with a majority using at least six data formats. In fact, 25% report using more than 20 different data formats.

As a result, it looks like a number of enterprises are looking at going out and buying new capacity to handle these growing SOA-related workloads. About 42% of respondents have requirements to specifically increase the scalability of their applications. A total of 33% report a need to increase scalability by five times or more of their current capacity.

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