The Open Applications Group Supports XML

The Open Applications Group Inc. (OAGI, Chicago,, a nonprofit industry consortium comprising software vendors and associated organizations, announced the sixth version of its Open Applications Group Integration Specification, designed to promote the interoperability of business applications across varying hardware and software platforms. Release 6 expands the functionality of the specification with Supply Chain, Logistics, Sales Force Automation and Customer Service interoperability specifications and support for XML.

Perhaps the most noteworthy of these additions, though, is XML support. "As XML came onto the horizon in the middle of last year, we looked at it because it is an industry initiative, and it includes support from some of the most prominent vendors in the industry," says David Connelly, president and CTO, OAGI.

Josh Greenbaum, principal, Enterprise Application Consulting (Berkeley, Calif.), a consulting firm that specializes in technology and market research of enterprise applications, points out two reasons why XML was chosen. "XML is an excellent mechanism for moving documents with data together and enabling them to communicate," he says. "Also, there is market demand for it."

XML support enables the OAGI specification to support the interoperability of business objects. Business objects can be more difficult to integrate than other types of objects because of the various data architectures required for differing business objects. Because of this, each business object is not discrete, but part of a larger, implied business data model and process model. The OAGI specification uses XML to enable such business objects essentially to communicate. "XML provides a universal way to push data out in a self-describing fashion," says OAGI’s Connelly.

Enterprise resource planning business applications, for example, usually have very different business process models from one another, and, therefore, their business components and naming conventions are rarely the same. Each system’s approach toward automating a business process may vary and is often named uniquely. The OAGI specification uses XML to link different business applications -- despite naming, software or hardware platform -- and this is done at the application level, not the database level. "Historically, databases have been seen as a repository of raw data, and moving data between databases has been tougher than it needs to be. XML takes this a level above database connectivity because it is metadata, so it tells the receiving end what it is and what to do with it," says Enterprise Application Consulting’s Greenbaum.

Despite efforts by the OAGI to get Microsoft Corp.’s attention with this specification, Team Redmond has thus far been unresponsive. "I imagine that Microsoft wants to create a de facto standard, while the OAGI is pushing an open standard. These two agendas are often contradictory," says Greenbaum. "However, Microsoft would likely do itself and the industry a lot of good by supporting this specification."