VARs and Web integrators are being urged to acquire XML skills after several industry heavyweights moved a step closer to establishing an XML-based standard for linking applications and services for e-commerce transactions.
Analysts and industry observers have been touting XML as the common language of business for some time (CRN, 14 July 1999). Microsoft and 10 other companies have submitted simple object access protocol (Soap) 1.1, a Web standard for data exchange, to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) for review.
Supporters of the standard include IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, CommerceOne, Lotus and SAP, but so far, Sun Microsystems has refused to back it.
Soap 1.1 supports message transport, using the standard simple mail transport protocol (SMTP) and IBM's MQSeries middleware.
It also supports file transfer protocol (FTP) and TCP/IP, and the latest version extends Soap's asynchronous messaging capabilities.
According to a recent report on the standard by analyst Zona Research, the coalition of sponsors makes this a "major political step". Zona said Soap has evolved from being part of Microsoft's attempt to control XML to becoming a cross-platform, cross-messaging protocol for XML-based business-to-business.
Microsoft last year submitted a version of Soap to the Internet Engineering Task Force for review, but the company said it believes the W3C is a more appropriate standards group because XML is a Web-based technology.
Meanwhile, Novell has teamed up with business-to-business developer Netfish to create products that help trading partners work together and exchange data using XML.
The alliance includes an undisclosed investment by Novell in Netfish, which recently closed a $30m (£22m) round of equity funding.
Lubor Ptacek, product manager for Novell's iChain, said: "This partnership is the first one announced specific to business-to-business." Forrester Research predicted that by 2004, 53 per cent of business-to-business transactions will be via process hubs or 'e-hubs'.
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