Jon Bosak, a distinguished engineer at Sun Microsystems Inc. and chairman of the OASIS UBL technical committee, said UBL 1.0, which OASIS released for general use over the weekend, represents six years of development in building a standard XML business syntax.
Bosak said business is built on the use of standard, legally binding documents and that UBL is an effort to bring those documents—such as purchase orders, shipping notices and invoices—online. UBL schemas plug into traditional business legal and records management practices, and they fill the "payload" slot in XML-based, business-to-business frameworks, Bosak said.
According to a speech Bosak is scheduled to make at the next UBL technical committee meeting, to be held May 14 at Hong Kong University, "In industrial supply chains, it is not possible to define XML schemas that will work without modification in every context," so UBL "is explicitly an 80-20 solution" that standardizes only the most basic and common business data structures and requires users to customize the basic schemas for use in unique or special trading situations.
In the presentation, acquired by eWEEK, Bosak said the reasons for building UBL that way are to minimize software development costs "by standardizing the parts we can agree on" and to "bring the small- and medium-size businesses into the EDI [Electronic Data Interchange] world of machine-to-machine electronic commerce."
Bosak said UBL supplements ebXML (Electronic Business XML) and leads to Web services that are optimized for B2B or what he calls XML EDI.
Bosak said he expects the initial large adopters of UBL to be government procurement agencies, which can provide open-source ebXML and UBL software bundles to their suppliers.
Moreover, Bosak said he sees broader implications for the XML EDI framework enabled by UBL and ebXML that extend beyond B2B relationships and into interactions such as those between governments and their citizens, retailers and consumers, and tenants and landlords, because those relationships depend on the same features required for B2B.
UBL 1.0 provides a library of XML schemas for components such as Address, Item and Payment, and other schemas such as Order and Invoice are constructed from the UBL library components.
Meanwhile, UBL schemas come with such supporting materials as Unified Modeling Language class diagrams, spreadsheet models, sample instances and formatting specifications.
The next step for UBL is full OASIS standardization and then submission to the International Standards Organization. Already the Danish government has adopted UBL for its e-government portal, OASIS said.
And OASIS UBL localization subcommittees have been formed to translate the UBL specification into Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Spanish.
The next version of the specification, UBL 1.1, will feature support for specific industries and more localization, Bosak said.