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XML (ExtensibleMarkup Language) is a text-based file format for representing and transmitting structured information in hierarchical form.

XML – another way to package information

EDI is dead, long live XML! A few years ago, this was the typical battle cry exclaimed by various gazettes and those who (some to this day) have not understood that XML, just like EDIFACT, VDA, or ANSI X.12, is merely a way to package information whose use in the context of electronic data interchange is subsumed as EDI. The great advantage of XML was that the information transmitted via XML format can be processed not only by computers in an automated way, but can also be read by humans. To this day, however, we have searched in vain for IT departments where XML messages are read on a daily basis.

XML-based data exchanges are further standardized

The initial euphoria, which predicted a bright future for XML on the assumption that it would no longer have to adhere to the restrictions of traditional structures such as EDIFACT, quickly gave way to profound disillusionment. The lack of standardization quickly led to the realization that field length definitions of 70,000 characters were not a good choice for most processing IT systems. Today, on the other hand, a more sober approach has prevailed. XML-based EDI data exchanges are now generally implemented using standardized XML formats such as OpenTrans, RosettaNet, UBL, etc. What these have in common is that they are W3C-compliant throughout ( and thus take into account fundamental standards with regard to machine-readable communication. An increasingly popular application area for XML structures today is found in the definition of ERP interfaces such as SAP XML iDOC or Microsoft Dynamics XML interfaces. The relatively free definition possibilities accommodate the often application- and case-specific requirements. In addition, associated *.xsd schema definitions provide a kind of blueprint that enables third parties to integrate the overall scope of an ERP interface and to manage the associated project activities in the pool of available ERP-native process content.

XML—caution with volume-based billing models

However, one aspect should always be taken into account: the structure of XML with descriptive start and end tags ensures that large amounts of data have to be moved when transmitting relevant content. This results in significant volumes that can lead to reduced processing speed during conversion processes. Users who map their EDI requirements as part of outsourcing scenarios should also avoid billing models with volume-based quantity restrictions, since XML files are many times larger than EDIFACT messages, for example, and should therefore be included in a prudent volume calculation.

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