New standard set to bind complex B2B transactions

New standard set to bind complex B2B transactions

Five US vendors have committed to developing a standard for the processing of online transactions between multiple parties in XML-based Web services. In its initial stages, the XAML standard (Transaction Authority Markup Language) will be developed by Bowstreet, HP, IBM, Oracle and Sun Microsystems.

XAML will enable complex business deals, which generally involve multiple parties, to be bound together into a single transaction. So if a procurement purchase is made, for example, XAML will tie together such concerns as the purchase conditions, financing and distribution of the procured goods into a single transaction. If any of these transactions fail, XAML will provide the means to automatically switch to alternative parties to fulfill the missing part of the contract.

The standard will be based on XA (Transaction Authority), an existing standard for processing high-volume transactions, and XML, the language being touted as the future of e-commerce. While the standard will be initially developed by the five vendors, Robert Sutor, director of IBM's e-business standards strategy, told ARN there will be a chance for other companies to come on board in later months. The consortium is expected to submit the standard to one of several bodies, including the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3) and/or The Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS). Paul Marriott, business development manager of Oracle Australia, said that although no official announcement has been made on the matter, his company sees WC3 as the body of choice.

"From our philosophy, the W3C standard is the most important to adopt, as they form the foundations of what the other standards bodies inherit by definition," he said.

The XAML announcement follows an announcement from Ariba, IBM and Microsoft last month for the development of a B2B directory, named UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration) in September. This standard will allow companies to locate each other and foster initial communication. The XAML announcement takes this one step further, but interestingly Microsoft is not involved.

"Microsoft is in a very sticky situation when the rest of the industry is moving away from them on open standards like Java and XML," Marriott said. "They could see the pack moving away so they introduced simple object access protocol (SOAP) to allow their proprietary environment to talk to the rest of the world. But my fear is they will keep enough to themselves to lose the whole point of open interoperability."

IBM's Sutor, who played an important role in the initial discussions with Bowstreet on forming the alliance, is less concerned about Microsoft's absence. He said IBM would love to be a part of every standards movement, but is not able to dedicate the volume of resources, and the same would apply for Microsoft.

"This is another example of industry co-operation," he said. "Ultimately, the thing everyone is saying is that this will be standardised, and that's the sign of a very good thing."

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