Unified messaging standards in the works

Oasis, proponent of ebXML, says it will integrate Microsoft's rival SOAP standard to create a single, broad protocol for electronic business messaging.

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By  Jon Tullett Published  February 25, 2001

Unified standards for doing business online are one step closer as Microsoft and IBM have settled their differences regarding e-commerce protocols.

Since 1999, Oasis, backed by IBM, has been promoting the use of the ebXML (electronic business XML) messaging specification, together with a consortium of about 130 vendors including BEA and Sun. Microsoft developed a rival standard, SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), and submitted the standard to the W3C for review. Oasis criticised SOAP as being too light on features, whereas Microsoft claimed ebXML was taking too long to formulate.

Now, Oasis has announced it is working to integrate SOAP 1.1 and SOAP with Attachments specifications into the ebXML Messaging Specification. This development by ebXML is hoped to result in a single open standard for reliably transporting electronic business messages over the Internet.

"The convergence of these two specifications marks a significant step forward for interoperability," commented Klaus-Dieter Naujok, chair of ebXML and member of the UN/CEFACT Steering Group. "We're committed - not only to integrating ebXML Messaging with SOAP - but also to completing this work in time to meet our original goal of delivering ebXML in May 2001."

"Having the messaging infrastructure of ebXML built on SOAP is a strong signal that standards convergence is both desired by the industry and doable," said Dr. Robert S. Sutor of IBM, vice-chair of ebXML and a member of the OASIS Board of Directors. "As ebXML evolves, we will continue to explore how we can cooperate with others to help develop the foundational open standards for business on the Internet."

The ebXML Messaging Specification encompasses a set of services and protocols that allow an electronic business client to request services from electronic business servers over any application-level transport protocol, including SMTP, HTTP and others. ebXML defines a general-purpose message, with a header that supports multiple payloads, while allowing digital signatures within and among related messages. Although the header is XML, the body of the message may be XML, MIME or virtually anything digital.

"By adopting SOAP in their messaging layer, ebXML puts to rest any worries about interoperability between SOAP and ebXML. This takes advantage of SOAP's role as a key component of XML-based messaging," said Andrew Layman, XML Architect of Microsoft.

"The ebXML Messaging Services Specification retains all the secure, reliable messaging functionality that has been developed to date," explained Rik Drummond of the Drummond Group, ebXML Messaging Services Project Team Leader. "By incorporating SOAP into ebXML, we streamline acceptance and reduce the cost of product implementation for all companies, regardless of their size."

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