Oasis previews business document XML system

The Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (Oasis) is to preview this week a pre-released version...

The Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (Oasis) is to preview this week a pre-released version of Universal Business Language (UBL), a standard library of XML-based business documents such as purchase orders and invoices that can be used for transacting e-business.

UBL features XML schemas as well as modelling to define how the documents are used. The language is an attempt to solve the problem of disparate document communication between different organisations.

"What we have today in XML is a number of different vocabularies. If I define what a purchase order might look like for my company or my agency, it may not look like what a purchase order looks like [for another agency]," said Marion Royal, vice chairman of the Oasis library content subcommittee.

"XML is the underlying protocol with which these documents are exchanged. A similar exercise was done with EDI and people had to agree on what these transaction sets would look like. This is an effort to do that using XML as a protocol or asyntax."

The version of UBL being presented this week is version .70, but a general release is not expected until later this year. The UBL Technical Committee at Oasis will seek public comment on the document.

An analyst, however, doubted Oasis would succeed in providing standard forms for business. "How can hospitals and manufacturing firms and aerospace industries all share the same notion of an invoice?" asked ZapThink analyst Ronald Schmelzer.

"Even if they all adopt the core business language, they're going to have different extensions on it. I don't think this is going to be any magic pill."

The Oasis UBL initiative is tied in the UN/CEFACT, a United Nations effort for establishing international standards for conducting business.

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