EbXML partners show off EDI for the rest of us

By , IDG News Service |  Development

Ten vendors Tuesday joined forces to demonstrate business transactions over ebXML (electronic business Extensible Markup Language), a specification designed to make electronic trading possible for small and medium-sized businesses around the world.

Sun Microsystems Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., IBM Corp. and other vendors participated in the demonstration, in which simulated buyers and sellers found each other, sealed a contract for supplies and exchanged information about materials being transported.

The specification is intended to provide a framework for companies to exchange all information necessary for e-commerce without the need for relatively expensive and complicated EDI (electronic data interchange) software. A PC and an Internet connection may be all that is needed to participate in online commerce using ebXML, event organizers said.

Sponsored by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Systems (OASIS), ebXML also is backed by the United Nations Center for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Commerce (UN/CEFACT), the body that created the current international standard for EDI.

Tuesday's demonstration here marked the completion of the core of ebXML's messaging (transport, routing and packaging) service, which OASIS officials said was finished ahead of schedule. That part of the specification has been agreed to by representatives of development groups worldwide and is unlikely to change significantly, so vendors can start to write it into products, said Bill Smith, president of OASIS and an employee of Sun's XML Technology Center.

The overall specification has not yet received final approval. The other key parts of ebXML -- repository registration and CPA (collaborative partner agreement) -- will be essentially complete by a February meeting of OASIS in Vancouver, Canada, Smith said. At that date, ebXML will be ready for vendors to confidently implement it, two months earlier than had been projected.

About 2,000 developers at 100 companies on six continents are working on ebXML, he said. OASIS also is working with the retail industry's Global Commerce Initiative and the Automobile Industry Action Group on developing the standard.

Among the other companies participating in the event were XMLSolutions Corp., Sterling Commerce Inc., Fujitsu Corp., NTT Communications, Savvion Inc., Viquity Corp. and TIE Holding NV subsidiary TIE Commerce.

The specification is not intended to compete against traditional EDI or against the UDDI (universal description, discovery and integration) standard, but to complement them, according to Sun's Smith and other participants. Whereas UDDI acts simply as a Yellow Pages-type directory, ebXML will include strong provisions for reliability and security, Smith said. For example, UDDI might be adequate for finding a babysitter, ebXML meets the requirements of $100 million deals, he explained.

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