Greater Toronto Software Symposium 2006

One of the big surprises for me was a talk by Brian Sletten on NetKernel. I hadn’t heard anything about NetKernel before. I was tempted into the talk since the abstract made it sound like a collection of small simple tools. This talk was towards the end of the first day, so I was getting drowsy and the coffee had been taken away and Brian has soothing mellow tones. The most striking thing about this talk was the huge amount of enthusiasm he had for the NetKernels platform.

NetKernel comes from a company call 1060 Research Limited. Note that 1060 = X + M + L (as roman numerals). NetKernel’s primary use case is in processing XML, but that’s not all.

What’s NetKernel? It seems like an application server with a very consistent approach (URIs) to addressing resources and scripts. The current version has a thorough set of abstractions for XML (e.g., to treat a document as a file, as a DOM, as a string), and a strong wrapper around XQuery. There’s also a scripting layer in either BeanShell, JavaScript, Java, DPML. They’ve added a language for manipulating XML documents with methods that insert nodes at arbitrary points within a document, or switch namespaces.

The RESTful resource naming allows for a high level of caching of responses.

By the end of the talk, I was quite excited about learning more about NetKernel, but I’m still not sure where it’s sweet spot would be. I could imagine a whole system being built around NetKernel. I could see it interacting pretty easily with existing systems, however I’m not sure that I see where the breakdown would be between things we might do in Spring or a normal J2EE container and things which would be done in NetKernel. My gut tells me both could be used at the same time for a powerful result.

I’ll be looking into NetKernel some more.

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