In July, we looked at Microsoft BizTalk for B2B e-commerce. In August, we considered e-business in general using XML and corporate portals. This month, we will look at the use of extensible markup language (XML) and extensible style language (XSL) for enterprise application integration (EAI) within and across enterprises.

Enterprise application integration is one of the most promising uses of XML. Most enterprises have redundant data in legacy files and other relational databases which has proliferated across the enterprise. In the past, it has been difficult to develop integrated databases ­ where common data can be shared as one nonredundant version that is available to all. Legacy and other nonintegrated databases had to be thrown away and replaced by new integrated databases. This was clearly not realistic as those systems would then need to be redeveloped.

Instead, XML enables meta data, defining each of these legacy systems and other databases, to be used to achieve application integration without having to throw out the systems that depend on that data. Modeling tools can be used to reverse engineer these older databases, to capture the meta data, defining the records and fields in legacy files or tables and columns in relational databases. This meta data can then be used to define the document type definition (DTD) or document content description (DCD) files that are required by XML for integration.

The benefits of EAI can be obtained through this use of XML ­ while continuing to use the systems that require the older data in its original format. This is a win/win situation, as these older systems can also be given a new lease on life. This is achieved not only through integration using XML, but also by utilizing legacy meta data with XML and XSL. With XML and XSL tools which are becoming available for XML application development, XSL can transform XML- tagged data from these older databases by adding a browser front end to those legacy and other applications.

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