Multiple XML Repositories Raise Standards Concerns

NEW YORK (06/30/2000) - The multiple repositories being set up to store the XML schema that businesses will need to exchange data with one another left some end users confused and concerned last week at the XML DevCon show here.

The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), a nonprofit consortium in Billerica, Massachusetts, last week announced that more than 20 organizations have registered to submit XML schemas, Document Type Definitions (DTD) and supporting documentation with its XML.org Registry. Major vendor sponsors and contributors include Oracle Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc., Documentum Inc. and IBM Corp.

But that XML.org Registry is similar in nature to the schema repository that Microsoft Corp. established last year as part of its BizTalk e-commerce initiative.

Microsoft product manager David Turner said more than 150 member organizations participate in BizTalk and more than 500 schemas have been published to BizTalk.org.

And beyond BizTalk.org and XML.org, there are other repositories in the works.

One vendor, XMLGlobal Technologies Inc. in Seattle, is even developing tools to help industries or companies create their own schema repositories.

‘Converge, Not Diverge'

"My fear is there are just going to be slight variations, if history is any indication," said Daniel Paolini, manager of enterprise initiatives for the state of New Jersey's CIO. "The whole point is to converge, not diverge."

"I'm dealing with about four different repositories right now that I'm being asked to take a look at," said Michael Cipoletti, a technology manager at Osram Sylvania Inc. in Danvers, Massachusetts, citing the potential for differing purchase orders in multiple repositories. "If you look at BizTalk.org, it's being flooded with proprietary schemas, and they really have no value whatsoever."

Microsoft, OASIS and other repository hosts don't aim to define purchase orders or any other business document types. They merely want to serve as public clearinghouses for the schemas and vocabularies that industry organizations devise for business-to-business data exchange.

OASIS Executive Director Laura Walker said she expects there eventually will be many interoperable repositories for XML schemas and DTDs.

Turner said that's one possible scenario, but he added that he's not sure how it would work. "I couldn't tell you right now what our definitive plans for BizTalk.org are," he said.

Microsoft Claims Commitment

Microsoft is a member of OASIS but didn't sponsor XML.org because it "didn't see a value in investing $100,000 in it," said Turner.

BizTalk member organizations currently must submit a schema in a special format that Microsoft developed, but Turner said Microsoft has "a full commitment to migrating to and supporting" the World Wide Web Consortium's XML schema specification once it's ready. Any schemas residing in BizTalk.org will then be converted to conform to the XML schema spec, Turner said.

"What's important is the standard, and Microsoft, at least with its words, is committed to the standard," said Steve Garone, an analyst at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Massachusetts.

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