Covisint Crafts XML Schema

Working with OAG, specifically for the auto industry; will adopt OASIS' ebXML framework standard.

Covisint LLC, the auto industry e-marketplace backed by such heavyweights as DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp., is making decisive standards moves to improve efficiencies for its members.

The Southfield, Mich., company will announce during the first week of January that it has aligned with the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards and will adopt that groups ebXML (Electronic Business XML) messaging standard. In addition, Covisint plans to announce in the first quarter that it has aligned with the Open Applications Group Inc. standards body to create an XML schema for the auto industry.

Sponsored by two standards bodies, OASIS and the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business, ebXML is a modular suite of specifications that provides a messaging and enveloping standard for companies to exchange electronic business messages, communicate data in common terms, and define and register business processes.

Covisint currently receives XML purchase orders from DaimlerChrysler, Ford and GM, but they are received in three different flavors. Covisint also receives electronic data interchange documents from other members that are also enveloped in a variety of flavors.

What Covisint is attempting to do with ebXML is define a standard envelope as well as a standard payload, according to Jeffrey Cripps, the companys director of industry relations.

An XML schema is a data structure for documents that not only defines the syntax of a document—what a field is called—but also defines semantics, or what a specific field means. Cripps said the exchange seeks to create for the auto industry a schema for a global dictionary that can be used for interoperability among vertical markets—a huge gap in business-to-business.

While aligning with ebXML is a significant move for the exchange, Covisints work with the OAG could prove even more worthwhile by enabling it to develop proprietary standards for the automotive industry under the umbrella of an open-standards group, officials said. Cripps is in talks with the action groups of the North American and European automotive industries—Automotive Industry Action Group and Odette, respectively—to see if they will join Covisint and the OAG in developing the schema for the industry.

Covisint isnt alone in its efforts to create a global dictionary for interoperability. OASIS is developing its Universal Business Language, also a global dictionary.

"The OASIS group is presumably vendor-neutral," said Rita Knox, an analyst at Gartner Inc., in Stamford, Conn. "The idea is to keep a catalog of what standards are emerging, an idea of the breadth of whats going on."

Automotive supplier ArvinMeritor Inc.s CIO, Perry Lipe, said he will support Covisints effort for both an XML standard and a schema. However, Lipe is concerned that one exchange backing an industry schema might not be viewed as an open standard.

"I think one exchange is not going to excite [industry players]. But interoperability will," said Lipe, in Troy, Mich.