Aerospace group backs VCML

As technical standards bodies attempt to harmonise data-sharing specifications of XML, an aerospace industry group is adopting a...

As technical standards bodies attempt to harmonise data-sharing specifications of XML, an aerospace industry group is adopting a new approach that converts existing electronic data interchange (EDI) data formats and definitions into XML.

Announced this week by Vitria Technology, the Value Chain Markup Language (VCML) retains the structure, business terms and industry specifications of the x12 and Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport (EDIFACT) standards, and translates them into formats that can be understood by XML-based systems.

The Washington DC-based Aerospace Industries Association of America (AIA) said it plans to publish business-to-business collaboration specifications based on VCML in November, for use by its members in exchanging documents such as purchase orders and invoices.

"Basically, it means we don't have to throw out 30 years of development on the EDI side," said Bob Moore, co-chairman of the AIA's Electronic Enterprise Working Group and an e-commerce executive at US-based aerospace corporation, Goodrich.

XML resolved the problem of the value-added network and connectivity charges associated with EDI, but it failed to solve the problems of back-end integration, Moore said. "In fact, it exacerbated the problem because there are so many XML dialects out there," he added.

Vitria executive Daryn Walters said the application integration software vendor has developed iterations of VCML for 11 different vertical industries. It also plans to make VCML available to all XML standards bodies, he said.

During the past two weeks, the major standards groups that support x12, EDIFACT and electronic business XML (ebXML) have been trying to define a common set of core technology components. And last week a joint ebXML/EDIFACT committee for use in creating transitional XML standards accepted VCML.

Ralph Berwanger, a member of the joint standards committee, said: "We all agree a final state is not here now, and we have to do something transitional. We need to give users something in the next months that they can actually use."

The joint committee also accepted submissions from the Open Applications Group, a nonprofit consortium, and from ebXML's own core components committee. VCML has been criticised for perpetuating some of the problems present in EDI, such as variations between the specifications for different industries, Berwanger said.

But companies that use VCML "might find out it works, and that might be what counts most at the end of the day," he added.

Joanne Friedman, an analyst at Meta Group, said VCML-based systems should be relatively inexpensive and uncomplicated to implement and maintain.

"It's something people can get their heads around," she said. "XML remains esoteric to many [users]."

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