The Maturation of XML AutoMation

by Donna Horton, in Ask an ASE, posted 5/24/12
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XML, or Extensible Markup Language, is more than 15 years old now, but, for most, its use in automation is still in its infancy. Since the release of AutoMate 7 in 2009, all of Network Automation software products contain XML data manipulation capabilities, and we are constantly improving upon our XML document interaction to eliminate that complex process required to incorporate XML documents into AutoMate sequences.

The essence of XML was designed to transport and store data.  But unlike its counterpart HTML, Hypertext
Markup Language, XML does not display data. It essentially carries and shares the data structure as plain text in an impressive fashion. Definable tags are encoded containing information that is readable by anyone who understands the descriptive format and terms such as XPath, Nodes and XSLT. 

In the real world, computer systems and databases contain data in incompatible formats. Since XML data is stored in plain text format, it provides a software and hardware-independent way of storing data, which, in turn, makes it much easier to create data that different applications can share. In short, XML is a software and hardware autonomous tool for encompassing and transmitting data.

The benefits of using the AutoMate XML actions allow automation of many common XML tasks, such as transforming, merging, validating and signing XML documents. They are also capable of reading, creating, editing or deleting XML nodes as well as extracting XML fragments (i.e. a collection of XML nodes) and saving them to a file or other means.

 

 XML

Our customers turn to automation to utilize the HTTP Get actions in conjunction with XML to download the XML file structure from internet websites.   The XML actions generally start with creating a session and range from producing XML files, generating XML formats and file structures; parsing data and populating it into other sources with datasets; evaluating expressions and functions; node management and manipulation; XML file importing and exporting; adding signatures for verification and validation. 

Recent customer XML practices include:

  • Placing orders based on product content information from downloaded XML files. 
  • Reading Amazon identification numbers to process orders and generate reports.
  • Integrate SQL data with XML to create quotes for sending email to update maintenance contracts after downloading XML information using the HTTP actions.    

Below is a list of the 16 XML Activities available in the AutoMate and BPA software applications:

Activity

Description

XML - Create Node

Creates a new node in an existing XML file — optionally assigns a value and attribute to the node.

XML - Create Session

Creates a new XML session based on an XML file or specified text. This session can be used in subsequent XML steps to modify an in-memory (saved to memory) copy of the XML data.

XML - Dataset to XML

Allows an AutoMate dataset to be stored into XML text — the dataset must first be created in a previous step and must exist in the task in order for this action to work.

XML - Delete Node

Deletes all the nodes and/or attributes that match the Xpath expression in a given XML file.

XML - Edit Node

This activity Edits a node value or its attribute in a given file.

XML - End Session

This activity Ends the specified XML session.

XML - Evaluate Xpath

This activity Evaluates an XPath expression using XPath functions.

XML - Export

Extracts an XML fragment (i.e. a collection of nodes) located at the specified XPath and saves it to a new file.

XML - Import

This activity Merges two XML files together into one XML file.

XML - Node to Dataset

Retrieves the text value or XPath expression of each node in a document tree or the value of a specific attribute and populates a dataset with the results.

XML - Read Node

Retrieves the XML node value (or attribute value, if specified) located at the position expressed by the XPath and places it into an AutoMate variable.

XML - Save

This activity Saves the in-memory representation of the XML session, for example, to a file or variable before ending the XML session. Using this action does not end the session, thus allowing subsequent XML steps to continue using the session.

XML - Sign

Signs a XML file with the specified key. Signing an XML file provides a means of verification that files have not been modified.

XML - Transform

This activity Transforms an XML file into HTML using an XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformation) file.

XML - Validate

This activity Validates that an XML file is in session and is well formed, schema compliant or DTD (Document Type Definition) compliant.

XML - Verify

This activity Verifies whether the signature of the specified XML file is valid.

As you can see, the AutoMate XML action activities provide all of the features and functionality necessary for managing and manipulating XML.  In fact, our 525+ automation Action Library integrates so well with XML, that you can automate the majority of IT business processes with an ease of configurability and operation.  If XML automation was an infant in 2009, we like to think, with these 16 XML actions, it is now celebrating its Sweet Sixteen, with many more years and many more actions ahead.