XML is currently generating a great deal of interest as the
universal language of electronic business. Much effort and expense
has been spent explaining the benefits of XML technology, but not
much attention has been given to answering practical questions such
as "How much data is currently available in XML and where does it
come from?" The XML data that is interesting to you is obviously
dependent on your particular requirements, but it is possible to
identify some general answers and point you to some tools that
support the storage of XML.
In brief, there's no shortage of XML data available on the
Internet, and there are lots of ways to convert legacy data to XML
relatively easily. The amount of data and number of support tools
has increased very noticeably in the past year, and will surely grow
exponentially in the years to come.
In fact, most enterprises will probably soon find themselves
overwhelmed by XML data that may come from all sorts of non-XML
sources and generated by "middleware" components and applications,
but have lasting value and will need to be persistently stored. As
this scenario unfolds, many organizations will find it necessary to
have a scalable, reliable database such as Software AG?s Tamino,
which uses XML and Internet standards to store, retrieve, and query
all this data.
Note that the companies and products noted here are intended to
be representative of what is possible today, and not by any means an
exhaustive list of what is available.
XML on the Web or in messages
Over the next year or two, more and more data that you will come
across in the normal course of your business will be in XML format.
- XHTML. This dialect of HTML in well-formed XML syntax is
becoming fairly common on the Internet. For example, http://www.infoworld.com/
presents much of its content in XHTML.
The sorts of tools that currently produce proprietary binary
formatted data -- such as word processors, spreadsheets, data entry
forms, etc. -- have already begun to be supplemented by equivalent
products that produce XML. The biggest vendors, especially
Microsoft, have shown a clear commitment to accelerate this trend by
saving data in XML format. In the meantime, you can employ products
- XMetaL or other
word-processor-like applications that can be used by ordinary
office workers without XML expertise to produce documents in XML
- Tools are available that produce XML data from online forms
that ordinary users can easily fill out. See the offerings from icomXpress
- eNumerate is
developing spreadsheet-like application that will produce XML data
in a format that can be displayed in browsers via XSL and graphed,
plotted, etc. by a free browser plug-in.
As all the companies that have jumped on the XML bandwagon
actually implement XML support in their products, it will be
increasingly common to be able to simply export data from existing
tools in XML format.
- MS Office 2000 exports specialized markup data in XML
"islands" inside an HTML data format that is almost well-formed
- ERP and other enterprise-level systems are increasingly
supporting XML as an output format. See http://www.mysap.com/ for one
- Software design tools such as Rational Rose are supporting the UMI
XML format for exchange of UML diagrams, rules, etc.
Finally, a number of specialized tools are being designed to
easily convert data in conventional databases and flat files into
is a Windows GUI stream editor that works in a similar manner to
Unix sed, perl, grep, etc., converting the data to XML format and
optionally generating a DTD to describe the result.
- Dave Raggett's famous tidy program
easily converts messy, non-standard HTML such as that found on the
Web to well-formed XHTML.
- upCast, from infinity
loop, has both client-side and server-side tools which convert
the RTF format supported by Microsoft and other word processor
vendors into XML, using heuristics to recreate the logical
structure from the layout.