17 September 2002 Software giant Microsoft has decided to abandon its BizTalk XML-based document standard in favour of Universal Business Language (UBL), an open standard being developed under the aegis of XML founder and Sun employee Jon Bosak.
UBL, in development at standards body OASIS, is an attempt to develop a free standard library of XML business documents such as purchase orders and invoices based upon the best features of other existing XML business libraries. These include Microsoft’s BizTalk, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and EBXML (Electronic Business Extensible Mark-up Language).
Microsoft originally intended BizTalk to be a rival and replacement for EDI, the current standard for electronic business to business document exchange. But since its inception four years ago, there has been little interest from other companies, particularly as the open web services standards have created an appetite for non-proprietary data interchange formats. The system also suffered from a lack of maturity compared with EDI, which has been refined over its 20 years of use by its users to fit the requirements of their particular vertical industries.
Gartner research director Charles Abrahams believes that with the backing behind UBL – which now includes Microsoft, Sun and IBM – it should be ready for use within three years.
Microsoft, Sun and IBM have also called a truce over web services, following months of in-fighting over membership of the WS-I organisation that oversees web services testing. Microsoft and IBM sent representatives to Sun on 13 September to discuss improvements to the nascent web services security standard.