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Registering XML...

Registering XML...

My wife gave birth to a baby boy in May. When my mother called from India to congratulate us, she told me: "We were thinking of nicknaming him 'Java,' but that sounds feminine. So we decided to call him 'XML' after your magazine." She was kidding, of course. However, the thought of XML becoming a household name that even Mom can use so casually is, to say the least, unsettling. I wonder if I can register his vital statistics with OASIS as an XML schema. More on XML schemas and repositories later.

XML DevCon, held in New York City in late June, was the largest XML event ever - 3600-plus attendees. The show was totally sold out. Kudos to the folks at SYS-CON who made it happen. Missed it? Couldn't travel from Silicon Valley to Wall Street? Well, we're holding another event just for you. Please check this issue for details on XML DevCon San Jose, November 12-15. I have a feeling this follow-up conference will be even bigger - and probably sold out too. Please register early if you plan to attend.

XML Repositories and Registries
My colleague said something to me last week that applies so well to the XML industry today: "Last year it was all about private exchanges and portals. Now it's all about consortia." This is so true. He was referring to the B2B industry in general. And as you know, B2B is intimately related to XML. XML provides a standard for defining data formats for transportation across the Web. XML data format types are expressed in the form of XML schemas. An XML schema is a document that describes a set of XML document instances. In that sense it's like an XML document template. The only way that enterprises will agree on common schemas is if there's a shared resource that makes the same schema available to multiple organizations. Such resources should be governed by industry consortia so that multiple organizations can be represented and the acceptance criteria can be as unbiased as possible.

However, shared resources need careful management. As different industry verticals define unique schemas for exchanging XML-based information, the proprietary nature of these schemas will lead to a lack of portability across different e-business environments. There will also be an explosion in the number of redundant schemas that will emerge to express the same type of data. There is a growing need in e-businesses for compatible processes and vocabularies to reduce this redundancy and the consequent complexity. For industries to exchange data using XML across multiple enterprises, standard repositories are needed for sharing vocabularies. These repositories serve as data stores for DTDs and schemas, XML-based directory mechanisms, database structures, UML modeling tools, glossaries for relationships, context-specific terms and so on. These repositories are usually owned by consortia of industry verticals that hash out things like the meaning of an "SKU" or the elements of an "invoice." Repositories will eventually contain standardized business components, tags, and industry terms and definitions.

XML registries, like repositories, contain common information for industries. However, they're mainly stores for XML schemas and DTDs. The idea behind registries is that different industry representatives can submit XML schemas. Later, when some other party is looking for a similar schema, they should be able to find one they can use directly or extend. This is an excellent example of the power of the "X" in XML, which stands for "extensible." Currently the XML industry has two main organizations that offer registries for XML schemas - the BizTalk registry from Microsoft and the recently announced XML.ORG Registry from OASIS, a consortium that consists of several organizations. The registry was formed with resources donated by Sun, IBM, Oracle, Documentum and DataChannel. It seems that the XML schemas will be split across two camps again - Microsoft and the rest of the world. At the same time other XML repositories and registries are appearing on the horizon. Obvious problems of redundancy and complexity will have to be resolved between these registries.

At XML DevCon I spoke with representatives from both Microsoft and OASIS. Microsoft has the more mature registry as it has been functional for several months now. OASIS announced theirs in June at XML DevCon. While each organization acknowledges the other's presence, neither seems to have given much thought to interoperability between schemas registered in either one of the registries. Similar or redundant schemas may be registered in these registries, and when someone searches for a schema, he or she will have to go across both registries. As the number of organizations offering registration services increases, this problem will be compounded. Now may be a good time for someone to create Internet directory services that can span multiple registries. Hopefully the owners of the existing repositories and registries will eventually offer cross-access capabilities over the Internet.

The other point of concern is that the registry owners aren't very discriminating about who submits the schemas and which ones get accepted. The submittal process is fairly well defined, but almost any organization can submit a schema. The BizTalk Registry already represents schemas from 150 organizations and XML.ORG has 20 so far. By the time you read this the number will undoubtedly have increased tremendously. Proprietary schemas are also finding their way into these registries.

While this article highlights the problems that accompany repositories, I'm in favor of having standard repositories in the industry. I'm glad such efforts are taking place as they'll reduce the chaos that inevitably emerges from open standards like XML. However, these efforts will have to consolidate at some point so the developer and business community benefit from true cross-enterprise open standard XML schemas.

XML-J Goes Monthly
With this issue XML-J will be published monthly; XML is evolving so rapidly that we felt you should get valuable information as soon as possible. This change is also the result of reader support and appreciation. We hope to continue to satisfy your needs in the field of XML and related technologies. This month we have several articles that focus on XML protocols and messaging. Bob Sutor and Simeon Simeonov introduce you to the rationale behind SOAP in their respective columns. Nirmal Patil and Majeed Ghadialy offer their insight on the synergy between XML messaging and JMS. Mark Wardell provides an introduction to XML. Seit-Leng Lai discusses how WML can be used to access remote devices.

Enjoy the issue, and send us your feedback - good and bad.

More Stories By Ajit Sagar

Ajit Sagar is Associate VP, Digital Transformation Practice at Infosys Limited. A seasoned IT executive with 20+ years experience across various facts of the industry including consulting, business development, architecture and design he is architecture consulting and delivery lead for Infosys's Digital Transformation practice. He was also the Founding Editor of XML Journal and Chief Editor of Java Developer's Journal.

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