CIO Council working group will develop a federal XML guide

CIO Council working group will develop a federal XML guide

Many agencies already use the language for online projects, GSA's Mary Mitchell says.

IT leaders see advantages to promoting the language's use, including improvements in data exchanges

By Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff

With the fast expansion of uses for the Extensible Markup Language, the Chief Information Officers Council is developing standards and best practices for the powerful Web language.

The CIO Council's Enterprise Interoperability and Emerging Information Technology Committee formed the XML Working Group to guide agencies on the most advantageous course of action for XML use.

Faster, easier use

The working group will accelerate and facilitate the effective implementation of XML technology, said NASA CIO Lee Holcomb, co-chairman of the CIO Council's interoperability committee.

'XML offers a nonproprietary and inexpensive way to achieve a high degree of interoperability among heterogeneous systems,' Holcomb said.

The language creates a way to reuse data by locating the data, transforming it and then moving it among applications, he said.

Like Hypertext Markup Language, XML is a streamlined version of the Standard Generalized Markup Language.

HTML describes how information appears on a page. But HTML tags do not contain information about what the data actually is.

CIO Council sets goals
' Develop best practices and recommend standards

' Create partnerships with industry and public groups that are setting standards

' Coordinate federal efforts to accelerate XML use

' Develop results-oriented education and outreach programs

'HTML tells you how data should look, but XML tells you what it means,' said Marion Royal, an agency expert with the General Services Administration's Office of Governmentwide Policy and co-chairman of the working group. XML separates content from presentation, he said.

With XML, designers imbed definitions into the tags, making it possible to use and display information in different ways by building the definitions into its structure and elements, he said.

Users envision creating a simplified grammar for XML that organizations can use as the basis of a vocabulary that will let them communicate electronically. Therefore, XML could streamline data interchange.

Effective XML standards could increase interoperability, said Mary Mitchell, deputy associate administrator for electronic commerce in the General Services Administration's Office of Governmentwide Policy. XML can link legacy systems and facilitate back-end integration, she said.

The language could help replace custom, fragile, error-prone and expensive data exchanges, Mitchell said.

The government has been adopting industry standards to ensure interoperability, Mitchell said. GSA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology educate agencies about such standards.

One task for the work group will be to illustrate the proper use of XML technology to fulfill specific business needs, Mitchell said.

Many projects already use XML. The Security and Exchange Commission's Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval system uses XML to deliver refined searches of SEC filings, Mitchell said.

GSA Advantage is also implementing XML to process specifications for catalog information from suppliers and to manage order processing, she said.


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