XML data formats take center stage in the Financial Services industry
05:11, 27 Jan 2004 UTC | Uche Ogbuji

The 3rd Annual XML for Financial Services conference, held in New York City, USA, casts doubt on the conventional wisdom about Web services and the role of tightly-coupled middleware in real-world XML developments.

This conference is dominated by technical managers from the Financial Services industry rather than the usual idealistic and diverse cadre of XML professionals. The emphasis in discussing technology is firmly on maturity, practicality, enterprise scalability, international scope and regulatory awareness. The standards organizations that convey authority are not the likes of W3C, OASIS, WS-I or the like, but rather ISO, UN and financial regulators.

Under this somewhat different illumination the spectrum of XML-related standards takes on different tints than regular xmlhack readers will be accustomed to. Under this light mainstream Web Services are a curiosity based on intriguing propositions, but not yet proving their mettle for enterprise deployment, and running out of time to prove such mettle. The package of ebXML technologies looks to be on a more solid path to enterprise deployment in this industry, but is still not convincing managers to come out of wait-and-see mode.

The shade of technology that seems most vibrant at this technology is the original basis of XML itself: document formats. The industry has basically chosen to focus effort on natural expression through XML of traditional financial information materials, while making the infrastructure for transmission of such material a generic concern. The main exception to this is the Financial Information eXchange (FIX) protocol, which predates XML and is a transport for real-time financial data.

This trend is an interesting contrast to the seeming situation in the general XML and Web services world, where toolkits and wizards for infrastructure and content are making a lot of noise in the marketplace. The invasion of the middleware crowd into XML has put off a growing number of XML purists, but it seems that the need for vendor independence, local control, document longevity, global regulation and transparency in the Financial Services world means it is a natural home for the sort of richly expressive and loosely coupled systems that were once the main promise of XML.

Among the standards that are being pushed in this conference:

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