Despite all of the advances in computer communications over the last twenty years, the UK association for Business Accounting Software, BASDA, estimates that 95% of documents keyed into computers actually originated on another computer. Obviously, the industry has a long way to go in enabling computer systems to communicate with each other. In an effort to improve this situation, Microsoft have launched the Biztalk initiative, a world-wide project to define master structures or schemas for interchange of data between computer systems and business processes via the Internet. The idea is that instead of each pair of developers wishing to exchange data between their applications defining a bespoke structure for data interchange from scratch every time, there should be a world repository of data interchange formats for common business processes. Then, if a developer needs to interchange data with another system, they first look on the Biztalk Web Site at www.biztalk.org to see if a structure already exists for this purpose. If so, they will use the existing schema, otherwise, they will create a new one and deposit in the repository themselves. In this way, gradually all computer systems will develop compatible formats for sharing data with each other.
Microsoft have this week approved two important schemas from BCP as part of this worldwide initiative. The first schema deals with the letting of property, so that organizations that require to find accommodation for people or businesses can send their requirements to letting agents. The first version deals particularly with student letting, but will be expanded later to include residential and commercial letting also.
The second schema is designed for organisations to pass product and price information from a central source, such as a wholesaler or head office to retail outlets.
Biztalk schemas allow not only data but also routing information to be stored, so that data can be automatically routed between sender and receiver using message queuing software such as Microsoft MSMQ or Progress SonicMQ. The data is encoded using the latest eXtensible Markup Language (XML) technology, seen by many industry pundits as the universal glue that will finally allow systems throughout the world to begin communicating quickly and effectively.
Brian Preece, BCP Technical Director says “Biztalk is the best idea Microsoft have come up with in the last ten years and BCP are happy to be at the forefront of this new technology. As the world becomes a global village and computer systems have to communicate more and more with each other, BCP will be a leading force in our markets of Food Distribution, Retail and Property systems, not just in the UK, but world wide”. To underline this, BCP will be presenting a paper on the topic to both the American and European Progress Conferences in San Diego, California and Barcelona this year.