Getting Started with XML

Introduction

Traditionally, organizations have conducted business on paper. Preprinted formats were most widely used to exchange information between businesses. As the number of transactions between different organizations increased over the years, there was a need for a more effective way of communicating and processing business data. Electronic Data Interchange (IDE) emerged as a result of this need. EDI refers to the process of exchanging documents in a standard format between two computer systems.

The two widely used EDI standards for transmitting data between computers are ANSI X12 and UN/EDIFACT. if data is transmitted using EDI standards, the data can be translated to or from the end-user's application format with the help of EDI software, such as RealWorld and Macola.

Consider an example of two companies, X and Y, using RealWorld and Macola, respectively to convert their files into EDI formats. Without an EDI standard, company Y cannot translate the EDI files received from company X into Macola-compatible format. This is because the EDI formats of RealWorld and Macola are dissimilar, However, if the files formatted using RealWorld are converted into one of the EDI standards, then company Y can translate invoice files received from company X into Macola-compatible format.

Although EDI standards provide an effective solution for e-commerce transactions, they Have not been widely accepted due to the following  limitations:

  • Rigid transaction set: Traditional EDI was built on fixed transaction sets. Consider The following example. Company A’s invoice bill currently includes the customer Name, company name, phone number, and cash amount. If one of its trading partners Starts accepting  credit cards, then company A has to modify the invoice bill to Include credit card details. If Company A uses EDI to exchange data, then the EDI Format has to reflect this change. This is a tedious and time-consuming process, Because the Accredited Standards Committee X12  sub-group of ANSI or the UN/EDIF ACT working group must recognize the new format. Therefore, the fixed Transaction set becomes a bottleneck to business units that evolve new services, Products, and business processes.

  • Fixed business rules: The business rules of small, medium, and large business units Of the same industry widely vary. Due to this, the same set of  EDI standards cannot Be uniformly implemented across all of them.
  • High costs: It can be expensive for small- and medium-size business units to Implement EDI standards as compared to large business units, because of high Networking costs. Even large business units that have high investments in automation Will not be ready to replace their systems based on EDI standards. Therefore, Acceptance of EDI is restricted to a few business units who are willing to invest in EDI.
  • Slow pace of standards evolution : As EDI standards cater to companies with different needs, the process of developing these standards is time consuming. In addition, the standards may not cater to the needs of all companies.
Therefore, EDI does not server as a cost-effective solution to implement data interchange among heterogeneous systems.

Introducing XML

XML is a text-based markup language that enables you to store data in a structured format by using meaningful tags. The term "extensible" implies that you can extend your ability to describe a document by defining meaningful tags for your application. XML is a cross-platform, hardware and software independent markup language. It enables computers to transfer structured data between heterogeneous systems. XML is used as a common data interchange format in a number of applications. In the example of the B2B e-commerce model, xml can be used to exchange data between the trading partners, thus eliminating the problems faced by EDI.

Web Architecture Using XML

In a traditional Web architecture, a client sends a request to the server in a predefined format and receives the appropriate response. The advantage of using XML in Web architecture is that the structure of the request can be obtained from the server at runtime. This is possible because the data stored in a XML document does not assume its intended use. Different applications can extract data according to their customized needs. Since XML is used to exchange data between various Web applications, the coupling between the server application and the client application is relatively loose.

XML can encode non-relational data, as well as, relational data structures. This enables the server application to extract data from any data source, and helps the programmers to quickly build applications for the manipulation of that data.

XML Web Architecture
XML Web Architecture

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