Microsoft rivals adopt its B2B messaging spec

Without much fanfare, a group led by vendors such as IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc. yesterday announced plans to incorporate the messaging specifications from a Microsoft Corp.-backed e-commerce protocol into its proposed ebXML business-to-business standard.

Called Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), the Microsoft specification gives basic information about an electronic document received by a business partner – a procedure referred to as “enveloping.” It’s now being embraced by the Boston-based Organization for the Advancement of Structural Information Standards (OASIS).

Officials at the nonprofit OASIS consortium said they had decided that the SOAP specifications for enveloping were similar enough to a version planned for ebXML that they could support both methods. The converged specification is to be released March 26.

“We really wanted to find a way for the different standards to work together rather than compete,” said Rik Drummond, who heads the ebXML messaging team at OASIS. “Our hope is this could be the best of both worlds.”

Some analysts had been concerned that the different approaches would create two separate and incompatible standards for business-to-business trading. But the move by OASIS to adopt SOAP in the ebXML messaging layer “puts to rest any worries about interoperability” between the two protocols, said Andrew Layman, an XML architect at Microsoft, as part of the announcement by OASIS.

Drummond said query capabilities built in to SOAP could be added to guaranteed one-time messaging technology planned for ebXML. The move to support SOAP “doesn’t add or subtract anything, but it aligns things as we put the finishing touches on ebXML,” he said.

The ebXML standard is being developed by OASIS and the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business, which is known more informally as UN/CEFACT. The two organizations are trying to establish transport, routing and trading-partner protocols for businesses looking to trade with each other via the Internet.

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