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Universal Biz Language Ready for Web Services

E-commerce standards across the globe could start to align now that standards body OASIS has approved for public use a description language for XML-based purchase orders, invoices and shipping notices.

After six years in development, the Universal Business Language Version 1.0 is now available in draft form for users to freely test the specification, according to an OASIS document published Friday. UBL, which aims to provide a universal syntax for business documents, is geared to work within a larger standard business framework such as ISO 15000 (ebXML).

Messaging exchange languages such as UBL and ebXML define how enterprises can conduct business across the globe, knocking down barriers associated with distance and language with e-commerce facilitated by Web services.

Because of the breadth and depth of disparate transactions, XML-based languages are being tested as Web services , which enable application-to-application communication, and are gradually reaching fruition as standards within OASIS and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

UBL technical committee chairman and Sun Microsystems Distinguished Engineer Jon Bosak said in a document that UBL and ebXML can be used in tandem to act as an XML Electronic Data Interchange, where Web services "could be used to create a 'business Web' with profound implications for businesses, governments and consumers."

The UBL v1.0 library features XML schemas for eight business document types designed for standard order-to-invoice trading, and support for the customization of UBL in specific trading scenarios.

The commercial draft release contains modularized common XML schemas, including Business Information Entities (BIEs), which are assembled into document models such as Order and Invoice, as well as reusable data type schemas, a metadata schema, and thirteen code list schemas.

Within these schemas, there are also restricted sets of coded values which may populate particular UBL data fields, including Acknowledgement Response, Allowance Charge Reason, Channel, Country Identification, Currency, Document Status, Operator, Payment Means and Substitution Status.

UBL stewards Sun Microsystems and vendors Arbortext, Boeing, Commerce One, SAP, and others forged the UBL committee in October 2001 and have been toiling away at the detailed spec as other Web services standards for reliable messaging, security and interoperability continue to bake.

Healthcare organization HL7, finance group SWIFT, eye care concern VCA, and SCM purveyor e.centre signed on as liaisons in August 2002 to provide additional guidance for the spec.

The UBL v1.0 Committee Draft release is distributed for public review as a ZIP archive with documentation, XML Schemas, UML diagrams, spreadsheet models, formatting specifications and sample instances.

Moreover, OASIS UBL localization subcommittees have been formed to translate the UBL specification into Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Spanish.

UBL TC's Bosak will give a presentation on UBL at Hong Kong University May 14. 2004. He and the committee will then set the work schedule for UBL localization, refine the technical basis of UBL, and begin to develop a process for the creation of specific UBL profiles.