Apache Xindice 1.0 review

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Apache Xindice is a database designed from the ground up to store XML data or what is more commonly referred to as a native XML datab

License: The Apache License
File size: 5179K
Developer: The dbXML Group
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Apache Xindice is a database designed from the ground up to store XML data or what is more commonly referred to as a native XML database. The name is pronounced zeen-dee-chay in your best faux Italian accent. Don't worry if you get it wrong though, we won't mind. We just care that you spell it correctly.

You might be wondering what a native XML database is good for? Well it pretty much has one purpose, storing XML data. If you don't have any XML data, don't want any XML data or think XML is the most over-hyped technology of the new millennium, then Xindice is not for you. We're not out to change the way data in general is stored, only to provide a good solution for storing XML data. If you survey your projects and see XML popping out of every corner, then Xindice might be a real help for storing that XML.

The benefit of a native solution is that you don't have to worry about mapping your XML to some other data structure. You just insert the data as XML and retrieve it as XML. You also gain a lot of flexibility through the semi-structured nature of XML and the schema independent model used by Xindice. This is especially valuable when you have very complex XML structures that would be difficult or impossible to map to a more structured database.

At the present time Xindice uses XPath for its query language and XML:DB XUpdate for its update language. We provide an implementation of the XML:DB API for Java development and it is possible to access Xindice from other languages using built in XML-RPC API. As standards in the XML database area mature Xindice will include support for those that are most important.

Xindice is the continuation of the project that used to be called the dbXML Core. The dbXML source code was donated to the Apache Software Foundation in December of 2001.

Native XML database technology is a very new area and Xindice is very much a project still in development. The server currently supports storing well formed XML documents. This means it does not have any schema that constrains what can be placed into a document collection. This makes Xindice a semi-structured database and provides tremendous flexiblity in how you store your data, but, also means you give up some common database functionality such as data types. In its current state Xindice is already a powerful tool for managing XML data. However, there is still much that needs to be done. Feedback and contributions are actively encouraged.

This document attempts to describe those features that are working and can be used today. You should review the README file that is part of the Xindice distribution for the most current status on the project.

Here are some key features of "Apache Xindice":
Document Collections: Documents are stored in collections that can be queried as a whole. You can create collections that contain just documents of the same type or you can create a collection to store all your documents together. The database doesn't care.

XPath Query Engine: To query the Document Collections you use XPath as defined by the W3C. This provides a reasonably flexible mechanism for querying documents by navigating and restricting the result tree that is returned.

XML Indexing: In order to improve the performance of queries over large numbers of documents you can define indexes on element and attribute values. This can dramatically speed up query response time.

XML:DB XUpdate Implementation: When you store XML in the database you may want to be able to change that data without retrieving the entire document. XUpdate is the mechanism to use when you want to do server side updates of the data. It is an XML based language for specifying XML modifications and allows those modifications to be applied to entire document collections as well as single documents.

Java XML:DB API Implementation: For Java programmers Xindice provides an implementation of the XML:DB API. This API is intended to bring portability to XML database applications just as JDBC has done for relational databases. Most applications developed for Xindice will use the XML:DB API.

Command Line Management Tools: To aid the administrator Xindice provides a full suite of command line driven management tools. Just about everything you can do through the XML:DB API can also be done from the command line.

Modular Architecture: The Xindice server is constructed in a very modular manner. This makes it easy to add and remove components to tailor the server to a particular environment or to embed it into another application.

Database Structure

The Xindice server is designed to store collections of XML documents. Collections can be arranged in a hierarchy similar to that of a typical UNIX or Windows file system.

In Xindice the data store is rooted in a database instance that can also be used as a document collection. This database instance can then contain any number of child collections. In a default install of Xindice the database instance is called 'db' and all collection paths will begin with /db. It is possible to rename the database instance if desired though it is not necessary to do so.

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