The foundation stone for the next killer internet application is here and it is labelled XML (eXtensible Markup Language).
Microsoft delivered that message loud and clear to 1500 developers and IT operations managers when it kicked off its premiere technical education conference, TechEd 99, in Brisbane yesterday.
In the keynote address kicking off the four-day conference, XML guru James Utzschneider advised developers to pay serious attention to the multi-threat content modelling language.
A next generation standard for delivering documents over the internet, XML is fuelling the hot new sector of internet-based corporate procurement applications, Utzschneider said.
It also holds what he labelled "profound implications" for how to integrate applications and pipe real-time data flows between them.
Utzschneider spearheads BizTalk Framework, Microsoft's core infrastructure for harnessing XML to electronic commerce and application integration.
Across the company, 300 to 500 internal developers are currently building XML into virtually all new Microsoft offerings.
That's only the tip of the iceberg, according to Utzschneider.
"Every ISV (Independent Software Vendor) I know of is moving to XML as fast as they possibly can."
Two leading ISV's with corporate procurement solutions, Ariba and CommerceOne, saw revenues explode from near-zero to US$100 million inside a year. That rate hasn't been seen since the glory years of the ERP vendors, Utzschneider noted.
The same commitment is being shown by the largest US corporates, all of whom have XML-based procurement applications on the go while in Australia, the Tax Office is putting together an XML pilot and retailer Coles Myer is expressing interest.
"XML is turning out to be a great mechanism for companies to standardise on because it is all about the data flows moving between the applications, not about interfaces or rewriting bits of each application.
"Big companies like Boeing are telling us that this is the mos sensible thing Microsoft has said about applications in four years."
Transmitting data objects as XML documents avoids getting bogged down in the complexities of integrating disparate systems using distributed object architectures such as CORBA or DCOM. By the end of this year, more mission critical applications will have been cemented together using XML's platform-neutral protocol than all DCOM and CORBA applications combined, he predicts.
Simultaneously, XML offers a simpler, cheaper and more flexible document handling alternative to EDI (Electronic Document Interchange).
Putting its money where its mouth is, Microsoft set up an XML-based corporate purchasing intranet application about 18 months ago. So far the system has saved US$40 million through economies of scale and efficiencies generated by integrating all employee purchases, Utzschneider claimed.