Building B2B Applications with XML: A Resource Guide

Building B2B Applications with XML: A Resource Guide

by Michael Fitzgerald, Mike Fitzgerald
     
 

A guided tour of the resources and technologies you need to create simple B2B exchange systems

Building B2B Applications with XML

To take advantage of new opportunities in the trillion-dollar B2B marketplace, you need to find out why XML is fast becoming the backbone of ecommerce and B2B enterprise solutions. This book cuts through the hype surrounding the recent

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Overview

A guided tour of the resources and technologies you need to create simple B2B exchange systems

Building B2B Applications with XML

To take advantage of new opportunities in the trillion-dollar B2B marketplace, you need to find out why XML is fast becoming the backbone of ecommerce and B2B enterprise solutions. This book cuts through the hype surrounding the recent surge in B2B development and arms you with the freely available technologies you need-such as XML, HTTP, and MIME-to create effective B2B applications. Among the simple Java programs in the book are examples that show you how to transport documents, digitally sign and verify documents, and log document exchanges.

You'll also learn:
* How to move documents with hands-on examples of HTTP, FTP, SMTP, and POP3
* How to encrypt and sign B2B documents using Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) and XML Signatures
* Why ebXML (Electronic Business XML) is poised to become a vital global standard for business communications
* How to create orders and invoices using Commerce One's xCBL (XML Common Business Library), the largest B2B collection available
* How to manage catalog data with Ariba's cXML (Commerce XML)-one of B2B's most mature vocabularies
* How Microsoft is banking on Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) as a messaging envelope for business documents and passing method calls
* How to package business documents with Microsoft's robust SOAP implementation, BizTalk
* The companion Web site at www.wiley.com/compbooks/fitzgerald features:
* Java code from the book, plus additional Java programs and resources
* Links to XML and related recommendations and drafts, XML vocabularies and protocols for B2B, and other associated standards such as RFCs
* Information on RosettaNet, the electronic component industry's B2B solution

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Fitzgerald would be excellent background reading for the legal teams" (Computers and Law, April/May 2002)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780471404019
Publisher:
Wiley
Publication date:
03/01/1901
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
7.48(w) x 9.18(h) x 0.77(d)

Meet the Author

MICHAEL FITZGERALD is principal of Wy'east Communications, a writing and training consultancy specializing in XML. He is Series Editor for the Wiley XML Essentials series and author of XSL Essentials and XML Schema Essentials ( both forthcoming from Wiley). He is also Series Architect for Quessing Courseware Corporation's XML training series.

Read an Excerpt

1. Getting Down to Business-to-Business

On June 17, 1812, the United States Senate passed by just six votes a resolution declaring war on Great Britain. Unknown to the American Congress, however, an English act called the Orders in Council, which had curtailed American shipping and commerce and was an incentive to war, had been repealed by the British on June 16, only the day before. Nonetheless, on June 18, United States president James Madison signed an official declaration of war against Great Britain. So began the second American revolutionary war, or what later became known as the War of 1812.

That's not the whole story, either. Slow, faulty communication was not unusual for the early nineteenth century, and it was the first and last tyrant of the war. A treaty of peace formally ending the conflict had been signed by American and British delegations in Ghent, Belgium, on Christmas Eve, 1814. Unwittingly, the American "dirty shirts" and British redcoats fought on in the Battle of New Orleans and other skirmishes until word of the peace treaty finally arrived in February 1815.

The War of 1812 might never have began, nor ended months after the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, if someone could have picked up a telephone, sent a fax or an email, updated a Web site, or pushed a document across the Internet. Technology has not put an end to war, but I wonder if things would have turned out differently if at the beginning of the nineteenth century the United States and Great Britain had the technology that we have at the dawn of the twenty-first.

That's what this book is about: using the Internet to speed communication and to reduce or even eliminate the obstacles to commerce. I'm talking about business-to-business (B2B) communication.

What Is Business-to-Business?

The meaning of the acronym B2B seems to be expanding daily, but we can nail down a couple of definitions for now. First of all, I think B2B means businesses doing business with each other, not just in traditional ways, but across the Internet and using virtually instant communication to make their enterprises not only increase sales but run more smoothly, quickly, and cheaply.

B2B, then, is about businesses working with other businesses to increase their profits and about organizations and governments communicating rapidly and efficiently. It means exchanging documents, such as orders, invoices, prices lists, scientific papers, legislation-you name itnot by fax or ground mail, but over the Net. Instead of heaps of paper jammed into filing cabinets, it's electronic documents stored on disk drives, still available to be printed at will. It's a year of transactions written onto a single optical disk and tucked away in your desk drawer. B2B is about legal agreements signed digitally by parties on different continents, executing them in minutes rather than weeks. It's about increasing the velocity and volume of commerce between remote systems running on incompatible platforms, now bridged via a mutually agreed-upon B2B interchange.

B2B is about sharing ideas, software, secrets, services, products, plans, goals, deals, and customers, all as fast as the Internet can carry them, which, if you have a decent network connection, might amount to only a second or two. It's about doing business faster, more efficiently, more accurately, and far less expensively so that you win, your organization wins, your government agency wins, your trading partners win, your customers win, everybody wins.

One of the most important technologies relating to B2B commerce is Extensible Markup Language, or XML. XML undergirds most, if not all, the technology that will support the new B2B commerce model. This book's main focus is how XML and other Internet technologies will make B2B as common as the desktop computer.

B2 B, B2C, C2C, A2A, and All That Jazz

Well, you know what B2B means by now, and you've probably seen the terms B2C and C2C. B2C stands for business-to-consumer. This refers to a direct business-consumer connection via the Internet, such as when you order a product from an Internet-based vendor. That business might be a product manufacturer, such as Dell, which markets directly to buyers, or it could be a vendor that takes on the traditional role of wholesaler, hawking an array of goods from disparate sources, such as Amazon.com.

C2C stands for consumer-to-consumer. This arrangement makes it possible to purchase items in single units or small quantities person-to-person such as through an online auction house-eBay.com, of course, comes immediately to mind, or auctions.yahoo.com. These sites, as well as portals to them like biddersedge.com, let individuals purchase from individuals somewhat efficiently. Buying one-on-one has been possible in the past by national print publications, but never before the Internet could you search for, find, and pay for your purchase so fast.

B2C and C2C are important components in the Internet marketplace, and they sometimes even share space, such as at JCPenney.com. This book, though, deals with B2B space almost exclusively.

A2A stands for application-to-application. What this means is that an application can communicate directly with another application, usually across a network. As the name implies, this process is automatic and requires no human intervention. Even though it can also require human interaction, one of the obvious goals of B2B is to set systems up so that they can communicate with one another automatically.

What about EDI?

Electronic Data Interchange, or EDI, is a format for electronic trade and commerce that has evolved into national and international standards (ANSI X12, ISO 9735, and UN/EDIFACT). A number of major corporations have adopted EDI, but it has not made its way down to smaller companies because of cost and other barriers. While a larger company can benefit from reducing transaction costs through EDI, it must also be able to foot the bill for consulting, infrastructure, and maintenance. Even the cost of EDI specifications alone, amounting to hundreds of dollars, might be enough of a hurdle to keep the little guy out of the race.

If you take a close look at EDI, you will see that many of its concepts have been incorporated into the B2B model, and efforts are underway to wrap EDI in XML vocabularies, such as Open Buying on the Internet (OBI).

EDI will be around for a while, and it won't be replaced by XML anytime soon. Just as the simplicity and minimal cost of HyperText Markup Language (HTML) opened the doors for the small operator to get on the Web, so B2B will make it possible for just about anybody to automate and quicken the pace of business transactions.

Tired of the Hype?

Is all this blather about B2B making your eyes roll back in your head? I have to admit that the hype drives me a little nuts, too, and that chatting with high-tech hucksters about the virtues of B2B on a trade-show floor is not my favorite way to spend an afternoon, either.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that B2B is a cure-all or even a done deal, but I'll hold firm in my conviction that, all hype notwithstanding, B2B is enormously promising. I'll even go so far as to predict that its impact on commerce will rival the Industrial Revolution in its reach. I won't say that it will happen tomorrow or even next year-these things often take more time than you think but it will happen.

How dare I be so bold? Well, I think B2B will succeed because its concepts are built on a small framework of simple, universal, proven, and readily-available Internet technologies that are easy to understand and implement. Now because of this, everyone and his pot-bellied pig is putting together a prepackaged, off-the-shelf B2B system to sell you, and maybe that's the best way for you to go. But because I suffer from being cheap, curious, and confident, I ask, "Why let them have all the fun? I can do this myself."

I have not put together a full-blown, point-and-click B2B solution in this book. Far from it. But what I have provided is some instructions, some ideas, and a lot of examples on how you can put together your B2B package, without spending very much money. I believe that if you put the simple examples in this book into practice, you will have the pieces and resources you need to build your own basic B2B system, and you will have fun while you are at it...

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