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OASIS Blesses E-Document Standard

OASIS has ratified the first version of the Universal Business Standard, a common XML library of business documents that enable global electronic trading, as an official standard.

OASIS' goal with UBL is to move paper-based processes to electronic commerce with software. Jon Bosak, OASIS UBL technical committee chairman, said UBL 1.0 completes three years of work by the technical committee who oversaw it, including members from Sun Microsystems , Oracle and SeeBeyond .

A distinguished engineer at Sun, Bosak said UBL was designed to be a model for global trade and commerce over the Internet and will serve as the backbone for such similar-minded standards as ebXML, which uses Web services to trigger trade.

Software vendors have been trying to find ways to leverage the Internet by moving daily transactions from the paper world to the digital realm, which makes UBL a valuable tool. UBL does not overlap with standards, such as Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) and is technology-agnostic, meaning it will work with virtually any product.

Bosak said he envisions UBL will be the backbone for Web services worldwide.

"It's very difficult to imagine any of the Web services in the world working without defining a standard data format like UBL," Bosak said. "UBL doesn't have a dependency on Web services. But Web services to my mind definitely has a dependency on UBL."

Bosak said UBL maps extremely well with traditional processes. With 1.0, a user can take a fax-based order invoice process and implement it electronically without changing the understanding of what the user is doing.

To ensure a smooth transition between paper and electronic trade, Bosak said UBL 1.0 has mappings from the UBL data model to the fields of the paper documents that correspond with the UN Layout Key, the international standard for laying out a purchase order.

This enables a user to take any UBL purchase order, invoice or shipping notice, put it together with a style sheet, give it to a special formatter, and print out a PDF of the documents. In short, users can render paper copies of electronic documents with UBL 1.0.

UBL has its roots in xCBL 3.0, a set of XML building blocks and a document framework that allows the creation of reusable XML documents to trigger global trading. xCL 3.0 provides a migration path from Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) , a precursor to global electronic trade.

Notable absentees to the UBL table are IBM and Microsoft , although they do support traditional EDI languages like x12, Edifact, RosettaNet and OAG, Bosak said.