XML and the Web
XML's capability to work with other technologies has greatly expanded the possibilities for navigating the space of the new extended enterprise. Figure 1.3 shows how XML may be used to communicate directly with partners and suppliers. Instead of exchanging data about purchases and orders either manually or over proprietary networks, data vocabularies can be defined using XML and delivered from server to server using standard protocols such as HTTP or FTP.
Figure 1.3 XML fits into the fabric of a new architecture built around Internet protocols and loosely coupled systems.
Associated with this ability to move data freely across the Web is the rise in the use of messaging servers and software that sit between conversational participants. These servers, supporting what is known as Message Oriented Middleware, are playing an increasingly important role in the new extended enterprise by providing guarantees of delivery and the ability to broadcast communications to multiple recipients.
A third aspect of the new extended enterprise is the emergence of Web services. For some, Web services represents the next evolutionary step for the Web, extending it from a network that provides services to humans to one that provides services to software looking to connect with other software. Web services is an ambitious initiative that is moving the Web to new levels of B2B (that is, software-to-software) interaction while trying to fulfill object technology's promise of reusable components from a service interface perspective. In Chapter 5 we take a closer look at Web services, but for now it's important to see the growing momentum behind Web services as an effort (but by no means the only effort) to structure B2B activity over the Web.