Another step closer to B2B
- By John K. Waters
Talking about business forms and purchase orders isn't all that sexy, Jon
Bosak admits, but establishing standard schemas for the electronic versions of
such documents is a critical business issue. ''The global interoperability of
business processes simply cannot occur without the semantic standardization of
the messages exchanged in business transactions,'' Bosak told eADT.
And he ought to know. Bosak, who championed the development of XML 1.0
through the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), has been spearheading efforts to
develop a royalty-free data representation standard for electronic commerce,
currently undertaken by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured
Information Standards (OASIS).
Last week, the OASIS Universal Business Language (UBL) Technical Committee
announced that it was releasing the first draft of the UBL schema.
The purpose of UBL is to unify the various business ''dialects'' of XML
currently used in electronic commerce. Its backers hope that it will become an
international standard for electronic trade.
The UBL schemas contained in the review package specify machine-readable XML
representations of seven basic business forms, including Order, Order Response,
Simple Order Response, Order Cancellation, Dispatch Advice, Receipt Advice and
Invoice. Together, they can be used to implement a generic buy/sell relationship
or supply chain whose components fit existing trade agreements and are
immediately understandable by workers in business, supply-chain management
(SCM), Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), accounting, customs, taxation and
According to OASIS, these generic schemas are intended to work in a wide
variety of business contexts through custom extensions. Automated context
configuration will be addressed in a later phase of the effort, the standards
body says. The schemas are also designed to be used in their generic form in
many ordinary business contexts without further modification.
The business context in which the generic document types are designed to
function is detailed on the OASIS Web site (http://www.oasis-open.org/committees/ubl/).
Visitors to the site will also find the entire semantic model on which the
schemas are based, a description of the methodology by which the schemas were
created, and UML diagrams to aid in software design. The package also contains
alternative ASN.1 specifications for the UBL schemas that allow ASN.1 tools to
be used for UBL document transfers. Additional supplementary materials will be
made available in a following package update to be announced separately.
According to the technical committee, the UBL schemas reflect a number of
inputs, the most important of which are the commercial xCBL schemas from
Commerce One and SAP; the ebXML Core Components Specification; early XSL
stylesheet implementations; and early feedback from the UBL Liaisons. UBL schema
design follows the UBL Naming and Design Rules (NDR) developed by the UBL NDR
Subcommittee. The definition of UBL semantic content, based on existing practice
in EDI and electronic marketplaces, has taken place in close alignment with
ebXML Core Components methodology to ensure optimal integration into the ebXML
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached