Bulletproofing XML

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"Mixed messages"

Adoption of Extensible Markup Language for business messaging will increase once the approach has taken on the industry-strength characteristics of value-added networks.

That's the thinking of industry executives who are working to bolster Internet-borne XML messaging to enhance its security and reliability. Electronic data interchange (EDI) traditionally used value-added networks, according to Mark O'Neill, chief technology officer of Vordel Ltd., a firm specializing in securing Web services. Such networks, he said, offer the advantages of protection and confidentiality because they are private. Another value-added feature: A customer can call someone or review the records of transactions happening on the network.

Vordel's objective is to strengthen message-based Simple Object Access Protocol — based on XML — as an alternative to EDI. The company uses such technologies as Security Assertions Markup Language (SAML), which enables business partners to exchange authentication and authorization information. The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) ratified SAML this month as a standard.

O'Neill said his company also works with Web Services Security, or WS-Security, a specification for building security protocols. WS-Security, developed by IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp. and VeriSign Inc., has been submitted to OASIS for standardization.

XML Signature is another important technology for re-creating the advantages of value-added networks because it enables the use of digital signatures.

Two specifications aim to ensure delivery of business messages: Web Services Coordination and Web Services Transaction. BEA Systems Inc., IBM and Microsoft are behind the effort.

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