United Parcel Service of America plans to launch a beta project using XML to exchange shipment, tracking and rate information with select business customers.
But XML file size is a looming issue. The carrier manifest, one of the largest files the Atlanta-based company receives via electronic data interchange and Internet-based data streams, is now no more than 100MB in size.
However, UPS discovered that comparable XML files could be nearly three times as large - which will influence the infrastructure decisions the carrier makes in the near future, said Augie Picado, director of e-commerce deployment.
"The size of files is a key consideration," Picado said. "It's something that we have to plan for."Picado said he doesn't think bloated files will derail adoption of the content-tagging language, nor do many other users, industry analysts and consultants. But they cautioned that file size is one of the many issues companies must take into account as they set up networks, storage and servers to handle large volumes of XML documents. For example, companies that use dial-up modems for EDI might have to upgrade their connections to the data centre.
"Just because it's easy to create an XML document, they shouldn't go hog wild in sending a lot of extraneous, unnecessary data," warned Rachel Foerster, a project team leader for the electronic-business XML standards effort and a principal at Rachel Foerster & Associates, an e-commerce consultancy in the US.
Indeed, several early adopters said they use XML only to exchange small amounts of data and have encountered no problems with large XML files.
Some companies though, have more ambitious XML plans. David Westmoreland, CIO at Arrow Electronics, estimated that his company handles $US3 billion to $4 billion worth of EDI transactions per year, but he said he expects all transactions, large and small, to shift to XML during the next three to five years.
"You have to make sure, as you're scaling your network and computers, that you're getting the business benefit out of the technology," said Westmoreland.
"And if you're not, you shouldn't do it."Westmoreland said he thinks his company will win more business because it can respond to customers in real time, using XML, rather than waiting hours or even days for EDI transactions to turn around in batch mode. While cognisant of XML file size, Westmoreland said he's not worried, since network and storage costs are continually coming down.