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Interview with Sanjay Manchanda of B-Bop

Interview with Sanjay Manchanda of B-Bop

XML-J: What is your role as the chief marketing officer at B-Bop?
Manchanda:
As CMO at an early-stage start-up I wear several hats. However, my main focus is on marketing and product strategy as well as business development, that is, establishing partnerships with ISVs and VARs to create revenue opportunities for B-Bop.

XML-J: Can you give our readers a brief introduction to what B-Bop does and how you started?
Manchanda:
B-Bop started from the simple idea that the real value of the Web was in automating the intercompany business processes and information exchange. We realized, Soumitra Sengupta and I, that the Web infrastructure, which was built on HTML and HTTP, wouldn't be enough to realize this vision. We bet that XML would provide the underlying information model that was necessary for the realization of our vision. B-Bop's mission is to provide a robust, enterprise-scale, high-performance XML management system that powers intercompany application automation, much like RDBMSs provide application automation within the enterprise.

XML-J: B-Bop is an unusual name. Does it relate to your business in any way?
Manchanda:
B-Bop refers to bebop, a form of jazz. We liked it because it represented a form of music that was innovative, fast, frenetic, and harmonically and rhythmically complex. Bebop essentially transformed the way jazz was played and listened to. We started the company in order to focus on transforming the way e-businesses would manage their content for new classes of Web-enabled applications.

XML-J: I noticed that you recently joined OASIS. What role do you plan to play in this organization? How has your experience with OASIS been so far?
Manchanda:
At B-Bop we believe that XML is the key standard that will drive application development over the Web. As a standards-based company, our sponsor membership with OASIS allows us to make ongoing contributions in achieving standardization across all industry segments.

We've been able to reach the wider XML application community easily and effectively via OASIS and, at the same time, share ideas with fellow members.

XML-J: Describe XML and its impact on your niche in the computer industry.
Manchanda:
XML is a platform-independent way to describe information and its structure. We see XML as the fundamental information model for the development of a new class of highly flexible and interoperable intercompany applications that are fast becoming a requirement to remain competitive in this Web-based economy. Compare this to relational data models that provide the information model for the development of applications within a company.

B-Bop provides businesses with an innovative platform to easily write and deploy powerful new applications that use this new information model.

XML-J: The term 'XML Server' is overused in the XML industry. How would you describe an XML Server from your perspective?
Manchanda:
You've really hit the nail on the head. Everything from an application server with an XML parser and an XSLT transformation to simple transformation servers that provide XML data format conversion is being called an XML Server.

At B-Bop we view an XML Server as a system that provides a complete set of management services to manage native XML, including the ability to provide native XML storage and retrieval. This is what allows applications and users to harness the real power of XML - its ability to define hierarchical relationships and provide precise control over information. An XML server must also provide a rich set of APIs to allow application developers to directly process XML. This eliminates the expense and development burden of creating custom, ad hoc programs to solve point problems when dealing with XML.

In short, an XML Server provides a comprehensive framework for deploying robust, enterprise-scale, XML-based applications over the Web.

XML-J: Could you describe your product line?
Manchanda:
B-Bop's Xfinity suite provides a complete system that automates the production and management of XML content for use in Web applications. It has three key components. The core of the product line is the Xfinity Server, an XML database management system. XMapper, a drag-and-drop stylesheet design tool, allows developers to visually create XSL transformation stylesheets. And Xfinity Author, a value-added module, provides both MS Word and Excel integration with the server, allowing business users to publish their business content in XML using their familiar productivity tools.

XML-J: As an XML information management company how do you fit into an overall e-business solution? For example, how would your products complement/overlap with those provided by XML vendors like webMethods and Web application servers such as WebLogic or ATG Dynamo? Do you partner with any Web application server providers?
Manchanda:
The best way to look at our product is as an XML layer between your e-business application and e-business content.

B-Bop's Xfinity is a full-blown XML management system, not an application server. It focuses on managing the XML content. Application servers such as WebLogic, WebSphere, and Dynamo are used as a platform for an application's business logic. Xfinity currently supports the Servlet API to allow easy integration with these systems.

Trading partners use webMethods to integrate their business processes. All the messages and message envelopes that fly between the trading partners are XML documents. These XML documents are repeatedly mapped back and forth from relational schemas to XML, a costly and programmer-intensive process. B-Bop Xfinity can be used with webMethods products to solve the problem of managing these XML documents by storing them directly as XML, eliminating costly mapping and database redesign. As compliance issues make auditing and reporting a requirement, B-Bop Xfinity allows customers to query the actual XML documents used to automate the transaction using a native XML query language that allows powerful reporting capabilities.

We're currently pursuing partnership opportunities.

XML-J: Who are your competitors in this market?
Manchanda:
B-Bop is focused on two markets: multitarget publishing and intercompany e-commerce.

Most of our competition is from homegrown or custom solutions designed to solve point problems. For multitarget publishing applications we have competed successfully against Interleaf's BladeRunner product. For e-commerce applications our competitors would be Software AG's Tamino product and Excelon's object database, although we haven't encountered them yet.

XML-J: How do your offerings differ from your competitors? How do you plan to offer unique value in the e-business space?
Manchanda:
We have the first standards-based XML database that provides the storage and retrieval of any well-formed XML. B-Bop Xfinity is the first product on the market to provide this ability using a standard RDBMS. It eliminates the burden of designing complex database schemas and mapping programs to store and query XML content. It also provides the ability to write ad hoc queries and query across XML document collections.

B-Bop Xfinity also breaks the performance bottlenecks associated with retrieving and transforming XML content. Its rich set of APIs provides application developers with a robust platform that ensures easy development and fast deployment of XML-based applications.

We offer unique value by delivering a comprehensive set of software services and tools to dramatically reduce the cost of development and shorten the time-to-market of such applications while allowing e-businesses to leverage their existing investments in IT.

XML-J: Your collateral states that your Xfinity Server is "the first platform that gives you native XML data management." Could you elaborate on that?
Manchanda:
Xfinity is really the first standards-based platform that provides native XML data management. It's written entirely in Java and provides a full set of XML management services including the ability to store, index, and query any well-formed XML with or without a DTD. By native we mean that Xfinity can store and retrieve XML documents and document fragments with their hierarchical structure intact. This makes XML-enabled applications easier to develop and significantly improves their performance and time-to-market.

XML-J: The server obviously has to deal with XSL transformation issues. This is usually a major problem in developing XML applications. Have you done any work in abstracting XSL presentation from XML formatting?
Manchanda
: I'm glad you asked this question. Anybody who has written XSL stylesheets will really appreciate our solution. B-Bop has developed a patent-pending technology that allows a developer to pipe multiple XSL transformations together to run very complex rendering and data transformation logic. You can literally have many transformations run in parallel and in pipelined mode, even across multiple JVMs. This makes transformations faster and more scalable and allows developers to build a library of stylesheets that can be easily reused.

To further simplify stylesheet development, we've developed a visual XSL design tool that allows a developer to create transformation stylesheets using drag-and-drop.

XML-J: Wireless seems to be the next big wave in high tech. Can you comment on XML's role in this industry? Does B-Bop plan to enter into this area? If so, how?
Manchanda:
XML is ideally suited to help with the problem of repurposing the same information for different uses; this includes different devices. You're probably familiar with the term 'write once, publish many.' By using XML as a way to tag content, the same content can be automatically repurposed for wireless devices.

B-Bop Xfinity already provides the ability to render content into formats such as WML and HDML for many of today's widely used handheld and wireless devices.

XML-J: Nowadays almost every XML vendor is positioning itself as an "XML platform" company.
Manchanda:
I know. But we were the first company to position ourselves in the center of a very exciting space and have the most complete standards-based solution in the market today.

XML-J: Who are your biggest customers? How did they select you?
Manchanda:
Our early customers were a top-five online brokerage and one of the top 10 investment banks in the country.

Both selected our product after careful evaluation of other potential solutions on the market and concluded that we had a truly unique solution to solve their XML data management problem. They were attracted by two things. First, the fact that our platform offered them a 'future-proof' solution, that is, it allowed them to rapidly adapt and evolve their applications as customer needs dictated without costly redesign; second, our completely standards-based approach that includes the ability to use an RDBMS for native XML storage and retrieval.

XML-J: How do your enterprise products scale? What type of solutions do you provide for high availability and fault tolerance?
Manchanda:
B-Bop Xfinity has a J2EE-compliant, distributed, n-tier architecture that's designed for enterprise scalability. It also leverages the scalability and performance of leading RDBMSs such as Oracle and SQL Server. To further improve performance, it provides caching of frequently accessed data.

Xfinity leverages the high-availability and fault-tolerance features of the UNIX and NT operating systems and the RDBMS.

XML-J: What are your plans for future expansion? Are you also going to ride the IPO wave?
Manchanda:
We intend to continue to expand our product development and sales and marketing teams as we bring our products to market. At this point we're focused on building a successful business and establishing the company as the leading provider of an innovative XML-based e-business platform.

XML-J: I noticed that B-Bop attended our XML DevCon this past summer. What do you think about SYS-CON's publications and conferences?
Manchanda:
We found the XML DevCon to be an excellent show for us, allowing us to create awareness in the XML developer community. XML-Journal is also a popular publication at B-Bop. The XML space is evolving very rapidly and SYS-CON is doing an excellent job of keeping the development community at the cutting edge of the evolution of the standards and tools in this space.

XML-J: What is the easiest way for our readers to start playing around with your products? Are there any evaluation copies available?
Manchanda:
We do have an evaluation program for customers who are interested in evaluating our Xfinity server product. Customers who are interested in signing up can contact us at [email protected] or [email protected]

More Stories By XML News Desk

The XML-Journal News Desk monitors the world of XML and SOA /Web services to present IT professionals with updates on technology advances and business trends, as well as new products and standards.

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