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Expert’s Corner: Introducing Technical Advice from iSOA Professionals

Welcome to iSOA Group’s Expert’s Corner.

In addition to launching our new website, we are excited to announce another valuable service – the Expert’s Corner. iSOA Group’s trusted advisers are leaders in our industry and, as such, have a wealth of knowledge at their disposal. And, as the Dalai Lama said, “Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.”  Whether you are new to IBM’s DataPower© or CA’s API Gateway©, a long time operator, or a newbie developer, we hope you will find our Expert’s Corner of interest.

Topics will range from discussing the pros and cons of NFS with DataPower, when to use Exact Match or PKIX for authentication, or some “tips and tricks” from our Gateway Consultants. Less fluff, more stuff!

If you have questions on, or suggestions for, a post, please email us at social@isoagroup.com. We are always looking to provide relevant content to our readers!

Expert’s Corner: When to Use DataPower XSLT vs. Gateway Script

In April 2014, IBM introduced a new Scripting Language to customize and configure DataPower for deployment based on Javascript.  This introduced a new approach, beyond XSLT, and also opened up the ability to leverage Javascript skills common in the marketplace.

Our trusted advisors did some research on when to use XSLT vs. Gateway Script:

IBM continues to upgrade GWS (GatewayScript) with each firmware release. Initially, it lacked some of the extension functions that are provided for in the XSL functions.

They are now pretty much have caught up, with a few exceptions, primarily in the various protocols that are supported in URL-open extensions. What they have done with GWS is add a lot of JSON capabilities and security updates for JSON (JWE, JWK, JWT). GWS is more traditional programming versus XSLT’s template model. It is much easier to handle things like setting up conditionals or loops. Output messages to the log are as simple as typing: console.debug (“accessCount = %i, accessCount); You can still use a combination of XSL and GWS in a service policy. Also, you have a debugger in GWS which means now you can step through your GWS code. You can build functions in GWS, which is much easier than writing call-template or apply-templates. E.G., Var PO = producePurchaseOrder (bookOrder, booksDB). You can also execute GWS from dynamic content and run it out of the temporary folder. From a performance standpoint, GWS is a secure and optimized Javascript. It is probably a shade slower since you cannot take advantage of the XML chip on physical DataPower appliances, but many folks on virtual appliances won’t have that option anyway.

Bottom line is as follows:

  1. If you are new to XSLT and have javascript skills, go with GWS.
  2. If you have existing XSLT written and need to perform specialized scripts that are easier to do in a traditional javascript, go right ahead. Example might be some calculations or date manipulation.
  3. If you want to use more of the latest JSON capabilities, using GWS makes it easier because JSON is just javascript notations.
  4. You can also check out the store:/// folder for examples of GWS.
  5. If you are dealing with XML transformation and are familiar with XPATH, then it’s OK to use XSLT.

Expert’s Corner: Is DataPower a Firewall or a Layer 7 Protocol Proxy?

When discussing the capabilities of DataPower with colleagues, the topic of routing capabilities of the DataPower appliance often comes up.  It may seem convenient, at first, to compare it to a firewall, but it actually behaves much differently.   Keeping a clear understand of its behavior and how it handles routing of messages is important, as you determine the correct architecture and use cases for deployment.

DataPower operates almost exclusively as a non-transparent, Layer 7 protocol proxy, handling only an explicit number of protocols, such as HTTP (HTTPS) and FTP (FTPS). While it may appear that DataPower passes data, or messages, from one network segment to another, messages are actually terminated on the inbound TCP connection, introspecting message based data, and then a separate and distinct TCP connection is created from the device to a destination host.

 

Unlike Router/Firewalls, DataPower devices DO NOT route IP packets directly. They employ a high degree of interface isolation which is controlled by the configuration set in DataPower, but they will not connect two network segments for random protocols.

A protocol specific proxy service (XML Firewall, Multiprotocol Gateway, WS-Proxy, etc.) must be configured on the device in order to pass any data through said device, to a destination host.

For some supported protocol types – namely asynchronous messaging protocols such as IBM MQ Series™, IBMʼs WebSphere Messaging Engine™, or Tibcoʼs EMS™ protocol – the device does not act as a protocol proxy at all, but instead is responsible for establishing TCP level connections to support both the ingress and egress message path associated with an integration service.

Expert’s Corner: When to Use an NFS Hard vs. Soft Mount

If you are connecting your gateway to an NFS file system, there are two options for how to mount it.

  1. A soft mount, which means that the application, or gateway, connection will attempt to mount the drive and once connected, will start to process the file. If for some reason the gateway cannot reach the file system after a period set by the nfstimeout parameter, then it will receive an error. However, if the file system goes down during the transaction, the transaction will stop and there may be some data corruption.  The advantage of a soft mount is that it has minimal impact on gateway performance; a disadvantage is the potential for data corruption.
  2. A hard mount; once the gateway is connected to the file system it is more of a “hard connection”, meaning that the gateway or server will continue to attempt to reconnect if the file system is unreachable. Once reached, it will continue the transaction, assuring the integrity of the system and data. The advantage is that data integrity and messaging is assured; the disadvantage is there is a performance impact with the constant connection.

We recommend a soft mount when the data integrity is not as critical and therefore your application, or gateway, will know there was an error in the connection.  As an example – a backup that was interrupted and not completed.   We recommend a hard mount when data integrity and the need to complete a transaction is of utmost importance.

If you would like to speak with an iSOA Trusted Advisor or engage our team for assistance please email us at info@isoagroup.com, or call us at 707-773-1198

Expert’s Corner: When to Use PKIX vs. Exact Match for Certificate Validation

 

DataPower, as many other gateways, can validate certificates via different standards depending on your requirements, as well as those of the systems, partners, and clients that will need to be secure as you are exchanging information.

As an example, DataPower supports three different “validation modes”; the command to set the validation mode:

  1. cert-validation-mode legacy: This mode is maintained for backwards compatibility. This is where validation credentials contain the exact peer certificate to match, or the certificate of the immediate issuer. These might be an intermediate CA or a root CA.
  2. cert-validation-mode pkix:  The complete certificate chain is checked, from subject to root, with this validation credential for certificate validation.
  3. cert-validation-mode exact-match: The validation credentials contain the exact peer certificate to match.

Choosing which mode to standardize on may be a challenge depending on the industry and your security needs, but as a best practice, we recommend using PKIX.

When using PKIX, DataPower will verify that the client certificate is either matched exactly in the certificate list, or that a complete signer chain from the incoming cert, all the way to the root certificate authority, can be established. Since this is your primary method for verifying client identity, you should ensure that it is fully validated.

PKIX implies that you understand the signers of the clients. You need to include all the intermediates and root signer certificates. If you don’t, DataPower will reject the connection.

For more information for DataPower users, we recommend this link in the IBM Knowledge Center

If you would like to speak with an iSOA Trusted Advisor or engage our team for assistance please email us at info@isoagroup.com, or call us at 707-773-1198.

Learning in Las Vegas: iSOA’s Insights and Observations from Interconnect 2017

iSOA Group, Inc. rolled out our very own red carpet to capture attendees’ minds and share our vision of the foundation for digital innovation.
We started the week prior to Interconnect by rolling out our new website; launched with our continued focus on helping companies build a secure, flexible, and integrated foundation for digital innovation.

During Interconnect, we focused not only on informing prospects and partners of iSOA’s strengths, but also on our own education in the latest industry trends and IBM offerings.  We were also a sponsor, with a pedestal in the Hybrid Cloud Test Drive section of the concourse.

Our CTO, Bryon Kataoka, shared the stage with two clients in breakout sessions.  1) With Cuna, which concentrated on migration of DataPower to I
BM’s API Connect, and 2) with Quest Diagnostics on the implementation of a strategic SOA solution.  Slides of those sessions are available for download, below:

Move from IBM DataPower to IBM API Connect with Custom User Policies; Guidance from Cuna

Quest Diagnostics: From Strategy to Implementation with Our SOA Strategy

Brian Silverman, iSOA Group Sales and Marketing Leader, led a Lightening Talk in the IBM Hybrid Cloud Integration booth centered on API’s as a foundation for standardization of infrastructure and security.

From a learning perspective, the iSOA team found IBM’s Interconnect agenda and content insightful and innovative.  A few highlights from our team are include:

Bryon Kataoka presenting at Interconnect ’17

  • Sherlock Holmes was right, it is “elementary, my dear Watson”, as IBM’s Watson and cognitive computing were at the center of keynotes, the solution expo, and presentations throughout the event. From language translation, to emotional awareness and energized bots, to integrated weather forecasting, IBM’s Watson was at the center of the conference and positioned as a leader in the cognitive AI space. IBM did not just highlight this, but also in announcements including the exciting partnership with Salesforce and their Watson-powered AI offering, Einstein.
  • Watson capabilities are accessible via API’s on IBM’s Bluemix platform-as-a-service (PAAS) platform, enabling companies to include services such as language translation, and helping companies enable their own applications and bots.
  • Yes, API’s and API management were a hot topic of their own. Not just in our own presentation with Cuna, but in numerous sessions on different use cases and the capability of IBM’s API Connect solution. Our team attended many of the breakouts, swhere many  were standing room only.
  • Cloud and hybrid cloud are not just a trend – it is the norm. Did you know that analysts estimate most companies have more than 5 cloud providers?  It isn’t too hard to get your head around that if you think of the different services available for infrastructure, application platforms, and cloud based applications.  The key, as we have been promoting for years, is the need to have a hybrid integration framework that enables flexibility and trust across cloud and on-premise systems and applications.
  • Finally, looking to the future, Blockchain is more than just bitcoin turned on its side. Blockchain and IBM’s focus is on the hyper ledger standard supporting a new approach for companies to securely share trusted transactional information in a productive manner. From a few companies, to many around the globe, all sharing the same trusted information.  The example in Monday’s keynote was tracking diamonds, and their authenticity, to assure value and reduce the black market for stolen gems.

Look for more insights from our team in our soon to be launched Expert’s Corner and CTO Insights.

Interested in learning more?  Please reach out to Brian Silverman at bsilverman@isoagroup.com or contact our office at 707-773-1198.

iSOA Interconnect 2017 Hybrid Cloud Integration Session Recommendations – Follow Up

As a continuation of our last post (link) that listed our recommendations on API Connect sessions to attend at Interconnect 2017, below we provide our suggestions on hybrid cloud integration and IBM’s integration solutions presentations that will be worth attending. Read more

Follow iSOA to IBM’s Interconnect: API Management Session Recommendations

Interconnect 2017 is just around the corner and with so many great session topics, it may be difficult to decide which to attend. With our recent focus on API management, we wanted to share a few API themed recommendations to include in your schedule.
Read more

View from 40,000 Feet: IBM’s InterConnect 2017 Conference

How time flies!  Last year at InterConnect 2016, I hadn’t planned to speak but, at the last moment, I was added to the DataPower Customer Panel.  However, this is a new year and I’m presenting at two sessions:
Read more

The Security of Digital Assistants: Who is Listening?

IBM’s Watson is creating the cognitive enterprise

Matching the value of technology to bring real business value has always been a focus here at iSOA Group. And, what we learned at Worldof Watson Conference at the end October that we no longer have to use imagined images of movie-inspired AI to envision the new cognitive era – these new opportunities are already a reality! Read more