The ebXML Initiative
The founders of the ebXML initiative include two organizations representing both XML technology and two decades of business data exchange experience. The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, or OASIS, brings the knowledge of markup languages and particularly XML technology to the table and the UN's trade facilitation agency (UN/CEFACT), the group responsible for the UN/EDIFACT standard, offers twenty years of expertise with EDI.
But ebXML's combination of business and technology goes much deeper than the pedigrees of its founders. It provides companies the ability to step above the former data-centric model, and replaces it with a model based on services and reusable business processes. Making the definition of business processes separate from technology, yet providing the ability to systematically link the two views is what makes ebXML unique as an enabler. This results in a horizontal approach that cuts across industry domains.
The ebXML architecture offers a technical infrastructure that is grounded in interoperable business processes and semantics. It uses the approach started by UN/CEFACT, that of capturing business knowledge as process models independent of technology, then systematically converting those models to machine-processable artifacts, such as current EDI transactions, software code components and templates, or new XML business documents.
As a further goal, ebXML makes use of existing standards wherever possible. It builds on the experience of EDI, while taking advantage of the increased flexibility XML provides and the wide availability of the Internet as the means of information transfer. At the same time the architecture is designed to be modular with layers of increasing sophistication. Therefore industries or companies can choose to initially implement the basic parts of the ebXML technology, and then adopt and scale to more advanced features later. We now give a brief overview of each set of features.