OASIS Approves First International Dictionary for UBL
- By John K. Waters
The Universal Business Language (UBL) is on its way to becoming truer to its
name. The English-only standard for XML business documents in B2B applications,
approved last November by the OASIS standards consortium, has been translated
into four new languages.
OASIS last week approved the first edition of the UBL 1.0 International Data
Dictionary (IDD), which comprises over 600 business data definitions from the
UBL 1.0 schema, combined with translations of the definitions into Chinese,
Japanese, Korean and Spanish.
The purpose of UBL is to unify the various business “dialects”
of XML used in electronic commerce. UBL standardizes the XML format of basic
business documents, making purchase orders, invoices and other business forms--the
docs used in the “order-to-invoice process”--readable by compliant
XML applications for e-business transactions.
The new dictionaries contain both “normative” and “non-normative”
definitions, explains Jon Bosak, editor and chair of the UBL technical committee.
The 600 business data definitions from the UBL 1.0 schema are standards (normative),
but the helpful translations of English terms--say “line item”--into
the various languages are not yet standards (non-normative).
“In standard work, we try to distinguish between the two,” Bosak
tells Programming Trends, “because when we say that something is normative--a
standard--we’re making a kind of guarantee.”
Bosak, who is a distinguished engineer at Sun Microsystems, has been called
the “father of XML,” because of his role as organizer of the working
group that created XML.
Bosak is excited about the prospects of the IDD as a vehicle for global UBL
deployment, but the idea for the project didn’t come from OASIS, he says.
“They came to us,” he says. “Business groups from Japan, China,
Korea and Spain came to us about a year ago, and they provided the impetus and
UBL defines a royalty-free library of standard electronic XML business documents,
including Order, Order Response, Order Response Simple, Order Change, 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 shipping. UBL is designed to plug directly
into existing business, legal, auditing and records management practices.
The four languages currently translated in the UBL IDD are the just beginning,
Bosak says. Next up: Danish. “This isn’t determined by us,”
he says, “so from here on it’s going to get kind of random.”
As with all UBL specifications, the IDD is freely available under terms of
the OASIS copyright. Copies of the UBL 1.0 IDD are available in Excel and OpenOffice
formats at the following locations:
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached