UBL: Yet another business language? (1/2) - exploring XML
UBL: Yet another business language?
Starting a new thread on XML for business, let me introduce yet another XML vocabulary for business terms, the Universal Business Language (UBL). After several interest groups have pushed their definitions, through the respective implementation in their products, we ended up with a handful of partly incompatible, partly duplicated XML definitions. OASIS, the international consortium that develops XML-based industry specifications, has now commissioned Jon Bosak, the key person behind XML 1.0 at the W3C, to clear up the current state of confusion with UBL.
Currently there are plenty of business schemas around, such as cXML, xCBL, RosettaNet, biztalk, etc. While it is theoretically possible to transform most of one dialect into another using XSL transformations, this is cumbersome, inefficient and unnecessary. Most industries have standardized their business so that one schema should be sufficient for all major business processes. This way a car manufacturer can order parts from many suppliers using one schema rather than needing transformation software to talk various dialects to different suppliers.
Most progress has been made in reformulating and replacing existing EDI infrastructure in multi-national organizations with their less esoteric and less expensive XML equivalents. Little has been done for utilizing the Internet's global reach and the low entry barrier of XML technology to help smaller business get better exposure and have them exploit the international trading zones of the present, such as the NAFTA and the EU.
The only way to achieve this is to incrementally automate the parts of the existing systems of commerce that can be automated the most easily, and standardizing basic business documents in XML is probably the easiest and quickest way. Neither large software investments nor huge consulting contracts need to be signed in order for a small company to participate in the Net of XML-based business processes. All it takes is an email account and a validating XML editor to get started, with integration into existing business systems as a second step.
Adding to the complication is that various intellectual property constraints hamper the XML business schemas currently in use. UBL wants to create a "Universal Business Language" that will be a synthesis of existing XML business document libraries. It will be based on xCBL 3.0, because it is already widely deployed and freely available, and then modified in order to align it with the other widely used XML business languages, with EDI, and the Core Components of ebXML. The result of this will be a standard set of XML business document schemas for anyone to be used anywhere without having to pay for the privilege.
Produced by Michael Claßen
Created: Nov 26, 2001
Revised: Nov 26, 2001