Standards body tackles business XML

The influential OASIS group kicks off a project to create XML guidelines for sharing business documents within the insurance, publishing and human resources industries.

An influential standards body this week set up the first in a series of committees charged with creating XML guidelines for industry-specific business documents.

The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) has joined with consortia from the insurance, publishing and human resources industries to develop and promote XML (Extensible Markup Language) standards particular to each industry.

By establishing agreed-upon XML document formats, businesses should be able to more easily exchange information with and between partners or disparate computing systems, according to OASIS.

The standards body will collaborate with various industries to "put cross-industry standards news and resources in one place," said Chuck Allen, director of the HR-XML consortium within OASIS.

OASIS is building on basic Web services specifications established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), such as XML and the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP). For example, recent specifications for Web services security and reliability defined by the W3C have been submitted to OASIS for further development.

Another standards body, the Web services Interoperability Organization (WS-I), which calls itself a "standards integration organization," makes recommendations on how to implement published standards to ensure compatibility between products from multiple companies.

Though XML is quickly becoming the de facto method for defining business documents, the various industry initiatives connected with XML need to be coordinated, said Jason Bloomberg, an analyst at ZapThink.

"One of the big advantages of XML is its extensibility, which lets you build your own vocabulary. But there also is a downside, because you have this 'Tower of Babel' of vocabularies," Bloomberg said.

"As industries struggle with standardization of (information technology) initiatives, it makes sense for individual industry consortia to standardize their underlying XML vocabularies," he added.

Future committees, or "focus areas," in OASIS will address financial services, defense logistics, education, e-government, security and retail, according to the standards group.

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