XML in 2021

This morning, I woke up in 2021, and things have certainly changed! Global warming is a real issue, fuel cell-powered cars are the norm, nobody rents videotapes anymore, and the Chargers have actually had a few winning seasons.

Other things have changed, too. More people telecommute than go to an office. Full-screen, 60 frame-per-second multisession video conferencing makes working remotely the preferred way to live. And XML is everywhere. Even my car and my wristwatch have XML parsers.

A scene in The Matrix revealed the fabric of the matrix as 0s and 1s. The movie had it wrong; it should have shown XML style sheets and Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI) directories exchanging all types of information, forming the fabric of the matrix.

In 2021, those 0s and 1s you saw in The Matrix are now XML messages that feed Global Positioning System (GPS) and roadway use information into the CalTrans transportation management network, automatically adding high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes and predetermined flow rates for all the cars on the road. In 2021, a stalled car reports itself and tow trucks respond automatically. Even the tow trucks contain an XML device that manages dispatch and billing events.

In Redmond, in 1999, when I first looked under the hood at BizTalk, Microsoft spoke optimistically of the cool things we could expect of business orchestration. With mere mouse clicks, the demo we watched altered a company's order-processing system to include more raw materials to respond to the increased demand that an overzealous ad campaign created. I wondered then how that old MVS-based materials requirements planning (MRP) system would magically accept an XML stream. In 2021, we know that BizTalk and other systems that leveraged XML took a long time to weave their way through industry and society. The bleeding-edge technology companies jumped right on XML, but the school systems, churches, hospitals, and Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) took a long time to adopt it and adapt to it; no one could really leverage XML until all the Application Interface Components (AICs) were written and implemented. In 2021, we have that luxury in every device with which we communicate.

For example, I've just finished cataloging all those hours of old videotapes. I had to manually tag all the content because no video camera I owned ever spoke XML. My Web site has all the video content now, and the kids regularly stream live video to and from us. I see every soccer game, and I subscribe to my vaunted Huskies' season package. XML orchestrates all of it. Even Napster got into bed with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and converted the company's inept metadata system (or lack thereof) to XML. I've downloaded video footage from those epic Madison Square Garden rock concerts I attended in high school. Movie moguls in Hollywood figured out that if they didn't have to physically distribute media, their costs dropped dramatically; they reap huge profits from charging less than the DVD prices we paid 20 years ago. XML manages the content, delivery, and billing.

In 2001, we could see the benefits to weaving XML into the fabric of business, but we underestimated the complexity of the AICs. They were tough to write and tougher to implement. We had to get the MRP guys and the mainframers to agree to let us introduce a new way to communicate with their inner sanctum. We had to map data sources the way we did in the old binary Distributed COM (DCOM) days. AICs wanted to make life easier for the BizTalkers, when the reality was that you were usually trying to make the AICs talk to legacy IBM systems that still depended on "nicely packaged interfaces" that COBOL programmers wrote. Similarly, AICs that talked to the Sun world still depended on UNIX programmers to expose interfaces.

But we seem to have worked through most of that now, although global warming is very bad. Hmmmm, could we apply XML to that problem?

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