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THE ENTERPRISE NEWSLETTER

Issue No 9:
XML FOR B2B e-COMMERCE

 XML for Business-to-Business (B2B) Trading Communities and Enterprise Application Integration

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XML for Business to Business e-Commerce


XML FOR BUSINESS-TO-BUSINESS e-COMMERCE

PERTH, AUSTRALIA – March 17, 2000: We discussed the role of Enterprise Portals (Corporate Portals) as a central gateway to the enterprise in previous issues of TEN This issue continues the theme. It discusses Business-to-Business (B2B) Trading communities such as RosettaNet, Commerce One and Microsoft BizTalk. It discusses the use of XML for Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) within and across enterprises. It describes some of the products and services that are available to support EAI – such as from eXcelon and Visible. And it points you to further information on these products and services.

Clive Finkelstein
TEN - The Enterprise Newsletter

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XML FOR B2B TRADING COMMUNITIES

B2C and B2B e-Commerce

Much has been written about Business-to-Consumer (B2C) electronic commerce via the Internet. One of the best-known examples is Amazon.com. B2C e-Commerce is growing rapidly. But it pales into insignificance when compared with the rapid growth of Business-to-Business (B2B) e-Commerce.

The Gartner Group in February 2000 projected that the B2B market – which was worth $US145 Billion in 1999 – will grow to $403B in 2000, $953B (2001), $2.18 Trillion (2002), $3.95T (2003) and $7.3T in 2004. In this same period, B2B e-Commerce in the Asia-Pacific region (excluding Japan) will grow from $US9.2B in 1999 to $29.9B in 2000, $93.4B (2001), $258.5B (2002), $510.7B (2003) and $995.8B in 2004.

We are witnessing the most significant and rapid transformation of business as the world moves online. Business-to-Business (B2B) e-Commerce is generating an earthquake of change. Large established "bricks and mortar" enterprises of the old economy will fall, unless they also become as nimble as their new competitors: the “dot.com” businesses of the new economy. And by forming "clicks and mortar" strategic alliances, these old economy strengths are also merging with new economy flexibility.

B2B trading communities are rapidly evolving so that old economy businesses can achieve Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) between the databases, systems and workflows of themselves and their suppliers, customers and business partners. Based on the Extensible Markup Language (XML), access is provided seamlessly by XML to structured data in operational and legacy systems and databases, as well as to unstructured data in documents, reports, email, images, graphics, audio and video resources of these many different enterprises.

The Corporate Portal (or Enterprise Portal) is a central gateway to the databases, systems and workflow of an enterprise. When personalized to the job responsibilities of employees via the Intranet, the Corporate Portal provides a seamless, single point of access to all of the resources that employees need to do their jobs. When further personalized securely via the Internet and Extranets to the interests of suppliers, customers and business partners, the Corporate Portal becomes the integrating conduit of the many disparate databases, systems and workflows each enterprise uses to carry out business with others. It also becomes a single place to manage rapid enterprise change. We will examine B2B trading communities and EAI in the following sections.


B2B Trading Communities

RosettaNet – a trading community for Computer and Electronics industries – was established in May 1998, with IBM and Microsoft testing the first XML-based Partner Interface Processes (PIPs) in April 1999. The initial focus on electronic ordering, pricing and adding products to catalogs had expanded by Dec 1999 to 10 PIPs. These had been completed for basic supply chain functions to distribute product information, for purchase order management, for querying technical information and for transferring shopping carts. RosettaNet now also includes many organizations, such as CompUSA, Compaq, Ingram Micro, 3Com, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, SAP, Quantum, Federal Express, UPS, Arrow Electronics, Avnet and Marshall Industries. More information is available from RosettaNet at http://www.rosettanet.org/.

Commerce One has positioned itself as a leader in global e-commerce solutions for business. It established the Global Trading Web, so that buyers and sellers around the world can trade in a barrier-free environment – creating business opportunities for all trading partners. It offers a number of trading solutions: for companies who want to establish a portal on the Global Trading Web; those who want to host portals for others; and those looking for a comprehensive e-procurement solution. Its products include the Commerce One BuySite, an e-procurement application and the Commerce One MarketSite Solution so that Internet market makers can build open marketplaces and link them to the Global Trading Web.

For enterprise buying organizations, Commerce One offers e-procurement solutions to streamline procurement operations, while for suppliers they offer a way to streamline selling and order entry processes – with access to the buying power of the trading community on the Global Trading Web. For Internet market makers who want to establish an e-marketplace on the Global Trading Web they offer solutions to help set up a B2B portal as a service to customers and partners. More information about Commerce One is available from http://www.commerceone.com/.

Commerce One developed the XML Common Business Language (xCBL) as an XML document framework and set of building blocks for electronic commerce. xCBL 2.0 is available for download from the Commerce One web site at http://www.commerceone.com/, from the Microsoft BizTalk web site at http://www.biztalk.org/ and from XML.org at http://www.xml.org/.

BizTalk has been developed by Microsoft and is supported by many organizations. These are technology vendors such as SAP and Commerce One, to technology users like Boeing and BP/Amoco. BizTalk is not a standards body. Instead, it is a community of standards users, with the goal of driving the rapid, consistent adoption of XML to enable electronic commerce and application integration.

The BizTalk Framework™ is a set of guidelines on how to publish schemas in XML, and how to use XML messages to easily integrate software programs to build new Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) solutions. The design emphasis leverages existing data models, solutions, and application infrastructure – and adapts it for electronic commerce through the use of XML. Details about BizTalk are available directly from the BizTalk web site at http://www.biztalk.org/ or the BizTalk web site at Microsoft – http://www.microsoft.com/biztalk/.  Microsoft plans to release its BizTalk Server 2000 product, to support the BizTalk market, in late 2000.

BizTalk defines XML tags (called “BizTags”) for document handling and routing information. They define information similar to that used by a physical envelope for message delivery. This includes a <header>, with <delivery> tags defining the <message>, <to> and <from> address details and relevant processing applications, a <manifest> detailing for the receiving application information that is transmitted in the message … and then the document <body>, as shown in the following example.

<?xml version=’1.0’?>
<biztalk_1 xmlns=”urn:schemas-biztalk-org/biztalk_1.xml”>
  <header>
    <!--The header defines details for the message envelope-->
    <delivery>
      <message>
        <messageID>12345678</messageID>
        <sent>2000-03-17T10:00:00+10:00</sent>
        <subject>Purchase Order</subject>
      </message>
      <to>
        <address>http://www.supplier.com/po.asp</address>
        <state>
          <referenceID>9876</referenceID>
          <handle>6</handle>
          <process>POProcess</process>
        </state>
      </to>
      <from>
        <address>mailto:receiving@customer.com</address>
        <state>
          <referenceID>9876</referenceID>
          <handle>6</handle>
          <process>RcvProcess</process>
        </state>
      </from>
    </delivery>
    <manifest>
      <document>
        <name>Supplier_PO_9876</name>
        <description>Supplier Purchase Order</description>
      </document>
    </manifest>
    <body>
    <!--The body contains tags for Purchase Order documents-->
    … … …
    … … …
    … … …
   </body>
</biztalk_1>

Figure 1: A Typical BizTalk Message

The typical BizTalk message above shows a platform-neutral XML message with delivery details defined by the BizTalk tags as in an envelope. BizTalk does not dictate any specific hardware, operating system or language for message transmittal, receipt or processing. The sending and receiving organizations can make these decisions independently of each other.

The actual documents to be delivered are contained in the <body> of the message. Clearly, in this example these documents are one or more Purchase Orders. The XML tags that detail the content of these Purchase Orders are defined by the sending enterprise (customer.com in this case) and must be understood by the receiving enterprise (supplier.com). The definition and interpretation of these XML tags must be agreed by both enterprises. Hence the establishment of trading communities as discussed above, typically organized by industry.

For example, in February General Motors, Ford and Daimler-Chrysler, strong competitors in the USA, joined forces to create one of the world’s largest trading communities, to buy $US240 billion per year from tens of thousands of suppliers. In this case, the relevant document XML tags will be defined by these large customers, and must be understood by their many suppliers if they are to do business with them in the future. But in most cases, customers and suppliers that trade with each other in many industries must all agree on their own common XML tags.

As we saw in earlier issues of TEN, XML tags are based on agreed definitions of metadata. This metadata is defined from integrated data models, using established data modeling methods such as Information Engineering (IE) and Enterprise Engineering (EE). Once identified, this metadata is captured and managed in metadata repositories by modeling tools. This integrated metadata is used to generate Data Definition Language (DDL) scripts automatically for integrated databases.

However we are now seeing the emergence of a new class of modeling tools that also use this same metadata to generate XML data files, Document Type Definition (DTD) files and Document Content Description (DCD) files required by XML for use by BizTalk and trading communities. We are also seeing the emergence of new XML database products and B2B Integration servers. Two examples of modeling tools that automatically generate XML are Visible Advantage and Visible Analyst. Examples of an XML database and B2B Integration Server are available from eXcelon. These are discussed in the next section on Enterprise Application Integration.   

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XML FOR B2B ENTERPRISE APPLICATION INTEGRATION

New products have recently been released to support the development of XML applications and XML databases for use in B2B Enterprise Application Integration (EAI). Three of these products are described below:

Visible Advantage and Visible Analyst (Visible Systems Corporation): These two modeling tools support Forward Engineering, Reverse Engineering and Business Reengineering. Visible Advantage is an enterprise-wide modeling tool that provides full support for strategic planning, activity modeling, activity-based costing, data modeling, process modeling, object modeling, database design and generation. It supports large enterprise-wide projects to develop integrated data models for enterprise application integration. Visible Analyst is a workgroup based modeling tool that provides full support for structured methods, objected oriented methods and UML. These modeling tools are described at http://www.visible.com/ and also at http://www.visible.com.au/. Download free evaluation copies from these web sites.

Data models developed with the latest versions of Visible Advantage and Visible Analyst can be automatically generated as DDL scripts for most RDBMS products. They can also be automatically generated as XML data files and Document Content Description (DCDs) files for use with eXcelon (see below). Metadata defined using these modeling tools can be used for BizTalk messaging applications, as discussed above.

eXcelon (eXcelon Corporation, previously Object Design, Inc): One of the first XML database products was released by eXcelon in 1999. They announced the eXcelon B2B Integration Server in February 2000. These products provide a full - function XML application development environment, with high - performance and a highly scalable XML database and XML data server support. It includes the eXcelon Explorer and eXcelon Studio, which support high productivity drag-and-drop development of XML databases and applications. eXcelon Stylus uses XSL to transform XML documents and databases to HTML, for access via browsers. During operation, eXcelon supports very high performance web applications with XML cache databases. This is achieved using eXcelon Manager, with automatic load balancing across multiple XML data servers running on Windows NT/2000.

This technology has been harnessed in the eXcelon B2B Integration Server for the Enterprise Application Integration market. As discussed above, Visible Advantage and Visible Analyst automatically generate the XML data files and DCD files that are required by eXcelon for XML database installation and application development. Further information about the complete range of eXcelon products is available from http://www.exceloncorp.com/.

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AUTHOR

Clive Finkelstein is the "Father" of Information Engineering (IE), developed by him from 1976. He is an International Consultant and Instructor, and was the Managing Director of Information Engineering Services Pty Ltd (IES) in Australia. 

Clive Finkelstein's books, online interviews, courses and details are available at http://www.ies.aust.com/cbfindex.htm.

For More Information, Contact:

  Clive Finkelstein
59B Valentine Ave
Dianella, Perth WA 6059 Australia
 
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http://www.ies.aust.com/cbfindex.htm
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clive.finkelstein@ies.aust.com

(c) Copyright 1995-2015 Clive Finkelstein. All Rights Reserved.


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