LanguagesXMLQ&A with David Webber, Co-chair of the ebXML Joint Marketing Team

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To continue our ebXML series at, I had the chance to interview David Webber, a co-chair of the ebXML Joint Marketing Team. The interview was conducted via email. David is well known in the XML community for his long involvement with e-commerce. I originally met David as early as 1997 (!) in the XML/EDI Group. Most recently David was VP Business Development for XML Global. He has just released his newest baby, VisualScriptXML.
Visual XML aims to “make stuff easier for the little guy.” As a member of the ebXML marketing group, what do you think of the adoption of ebXML?

David Webber: There’s been some great strides recently in private and government sectors – in North America with Energy and Auto industries, and also particularly in government funding in Europe and now Asia too. People are recognizing the long term value of an open alternative to what the giant corporations want to promote. We have an extensive adoption document on that shows that it is worldwide. Still, I hear complaints that there are less tools than expected and the adoption is slower. What is your answer to those concerns?

DW: It’s been hard for people to hear a clear message through the noise of Web Services. Good companies have strong ebXML offerings – like Fujitsu, Sybase, iWay, BEA, and then middle tier like Sterling, Excelon, CycloneCommerce, and then small companies like YellowDragon. How do you position ebXML against Web Services, REST, Semantic Web and, to a certain extend, UBL?

DW: Ben, this always make me smile. All the things you mention here are complimentary to ebXML in some way. In fact you can look at ebXML as providing core web services for e-Business – and then positioned around it is the web service components – it’s a team. See the following figure.

It shows the ebXML specifications, in gold, as part of a web service offering. The ebXML implementation foundation is the four components: messaging (ebMS), collaboration profiles (CPPA), business process (BPSS) and metadata registry. For help with more of the acronym soup, see the XML Acronym Demystifier.

Certain giant corporations have been trying to hide this fact, and promote their own solutions end-to-end instead. Of course you expect them to – that’s their business; so I’m not saying its fair or foul, but it does confuse people. As a marketing team how do you address this confusion and establish the ebXML brand?

DW: I think the ebXML brand is out there, no question. That’s why we are the "target" now for all these other peoples alternatives. And as with any good brand that is successful its a continuing story – evolving and growing. As a developer, what are the specific features that I must work on, especially if I sell ebXML to small small businesses (say 50 employees or less)?

DW: Out the box solutions. But built using standards that will last, so two or three years from now you are not throwing everything away and starting again. We’re going to see whole industries using ebXML, like the Energy industry is starting to do now. So developers need to look at the whole domain with their solutions, and enable cost savings and innovations top-to-bottom. There’s sometimes a conflict between out-of-the-box solution and the generic solutions based on profiles that ebXML encourages.

DW: It is most definitely OK for developers to specialize in their preferred marketplace. And that is what is happening already. People pick an industry and then bring ebXML into that community at different levels as adoption expands across the industry. Up until now – the big problem has been the economy dragging everything back and making new decisions tough. Now we’re coming out of that and people are deciding “we’ve put this off long enough – now is the time to move forward again.” And now the tools are there ready, and UCC certified as proven interoperable. No other XML technology can claim that today. Practically, how do I enable ebXML in my application: a component, my own library or I wait for support in the JDK?

DW: I think all of these are happening! The ebXML-dev is a great resource for developers. If you want something quickly though – the smaller tool vendors offer libraries you can embed. And Sun is continuing to support the source-forge libraries and distribute tools on their XML CDROM; and there are open source items available. It reminds me of where UNIX was about 4 or 5 years ago. There’s a list of tools at Which categories of applications are prime targets for ebXML?

DW: Again, as I just noted – you have to look at the task – then pick the tools. Too often developers focus on the technology instead of the business rationale. Show how your customers can improve their lives, jobs and bottom-line. The ebXML story is about better collaboration, more easily and consistently, creating villages of innovation and productivity. David thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us.

DW: My pleasure.

Benoît Marchal is a Belgian developer. He is the author of XML by Example and other XML books. He works mostly on e-commerce, XML and Java.

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