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OASIS releases Universal Business Language draft

Universal Business Language (UBL), a long awaited XML standard, reached a new milestone last week. UBL backers say the technology is designed to save programmers from having to re-invent an XML form every time they include standard business documents, such as electronic purchase orders, in an application.

A first "committee draft" of UBL was released May 1 by OASIS, the Boston-based international standards consortium, and is available on its Web site at http://docs.oasis-open.org/ubl/cd-UBL-1.0/. The OASIS UBL Technical Committee is inviting anyone interested to comment on the draft.

In the introduction to the draft, the UBL committee notes that the ubiquity of XML has resulted in the creation of a variety of basic e-business forms, including purchase orders, invoices and shipping notices.

While the use of the XML standard is a good thing, having the same basic document in a variety of industry-, company-or even application-specific formats is problematic when it comes to advancing Web services for e-business.

Among the disadvantages the UBL committee lists include:

  • Developing and maintaining multiple versions of common business documents, such as purchase orders and invoices, is a major duplication of effort.
  • Creating and maintaining multiple adapters to enable trading relationships across domain boundaries is an even greater effort.
  • The existence of multiple XML formats makes it much harder to integrate XML business messages with back-office systems.
  • The need to support an arbitrary number of XML formats makes tools more expensive and trained workers harder to find.

As envisioned by the OASIS committee, the UBL standard will help to overcome these problems by providing a generic XML purchase order form, for example, that organizations could include in e-business applications for simple and clean Web services communication. Keeping the extensible in XML, the standard would allow for extending the form to meet specific industry or trading partner needs.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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