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ebXML: as close to a sure thing as there is

We are very close to unified standard for back-end business language.

Editor’s note: After a six-month hiatus, I’m back to writing this opinion. When last I wrote, I was also writing ReleVents on five times a week. Needless to say, six opinions a week can be a drain on one’s creativity. So, Sara Aase took over for me and did a fine job until the weight of researching such a broad range of topics literally stressed her shoulders beyond their limits, and she asked me to carry the load for a while. Since I’m only writing three ReleVents columns per week now, I said, “Sure.”

Some trends are subtle and others hit you over the head so often and so hard, you can’t ignore them. The Microsoft.Net trend falls in the latter category. We’ve been following it as part of the XML standards issue since before Bill Gates announced that the company’s various XML-related technologies–Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), BizTalk, etc.–would fall under the Microsft.Net initiative. The trend hit me over the head again this past week when it was announced that ebXML, once a competing set of standards for BizTalk, will now incorporate many of Microsoft’s protocols –including SOAP. And the new standard is backed by such competitors as Sun, Microsoft, IBM, and HP–a veritable Yalta conference of industry titans. This means we are very close to unified standard for back-end business language. As described by Nelson King in last week’s Enterprise Pursuits column, this is perhaps the most monumental news in the IT world since Y2K.

And Nelson and I are not the only ones to ponder the power of a unified business language standard. Last week, ComputerUser presented a panel discussion to more than 1000 IT professionals in Minneapolis. The panelists were three local CEOs of companies heavily invested in the Web at various stages in their business cycles: Richard Lawson is chairman of Lawson software, the first ERP vendor to Webify its products. Tom Kieffer is CEO of Agiliti, one of the first companies to successfully exploit the ASP/MSP model. And Joel Ronning is CEO of Digital River, one of the largest e-commerce hosting providers on the Net.

The panel was moderated by Vance Opperman, CEO and owner of Inc. At one point in the discussion, Vance asked the panel what they thought was the most important coming trend in technology. To a man, they all said .Net and ebXML. Kieffer’s words were most poignant, “For the first time, there will be a substrate on which all B2B commerce can be built.” While Lawson was more cautious in his appraisal of .Net, a member of the audience (a CEO of a Wall Street firm specializing in tech investments), convinced him that ebXML will be a boon to Lawson’s company. “It will allow Lawson’s ERP packages to plug into those of Oracle or SAP implemented at other companies,” he said. This left the audience buzzing at the possibilities.

What does ebXML mean to your company’s e-commerce initiatives?

James Mathewson is editorial director of ComputerUser and

For more information, see:

Nelson King’s column on ebXML

Maggie Biggs’ column on Web services

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