XML workflow specification finalized

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is finalizing on Tuesday a specification to organize and share XML workflows.


Called “XProc: An XML Pipeline Language,” the specification provides a standard framework for composing XML processes, streamlining the automation, sequencing and management of complex computations involving XML. It leverages existing technologies widely adopted in enterprises, W3C said.


XProc features an XML vocabulary for describing how various XML processes, such as validation and transformation, are joined, said Norm Walsh, an editor of the specification and chair of the W3C XML Processing Model Working Group. A user, for example, might have business logic that needs to get content from a repository, perform a query, validate results, and use a Web service to find more information about the results and transform the information for presentation in a browser, he said.


“That is something that XProc would allow you to do very quickly,” said Walsh, who is lead engineer at XML content server maker MarkLogic. Two implementations of XProc already exist, Walsh said.


“What’s important here is this is a standard, interoperable way to do this,” Walsh said. He anticipates broad usage for XProc, which becomes an official W3C Recommendation, the final stage of acceptance for W3C technology.


XProc is supported by a test suite covering steps of the language as well as static and dynamic errors. Although development of XProc did not involve major vendors such as Microsoft, W3C is expecting wide adoption and implementations by Microsoft and others.


“Processing XML as XML is a hugely powerful design pattern, and XProc makes this easy and attractive,” said Henry Thompson of the University of Edinburgh, who is a co-editor of the specification, in a statement released by W3C. “XProc exemplifies what W3C does best: we looked at existing practice — people have been using a number of similar-but-different XML-based languages — and we produced a consensus standard, creating interoperability, and critical mass.”


Users will be able to extend XProc.


XML is used in enterprise computing for storing, transforming and exchanging information from tax returns to fuel tank levels, W3C noted. Business processes can be modeled based on a series of operations that involve XML input or output, said W3C.


W3C first published the XML standard in 1998.

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