The Bloor Perspective: XML boost, EMC diversification and Xerox's survey knowledge

In their latest round of industry analysis, the Bloor team considers strides forward for eXtensible Mark-up Language, why EMC is getting into software and Xerox's latest customer findings

In their latest round of industry analysis, the Bloor team considers strides forward for eXtensible Mark-up Language, why EMC is getting into software and Xerox's latest customer findings

Web guru Tim Berners-Lee's recent pronouncement that the future web will be 'intelligent', and based on XML, received some further boosts from OASIS and EECMA last week. OASIS (the Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) announced new committees to create a standard business vocabulary and develop a web services component model. EECMA (the European Electronic Component Manufacturers' Association) announced delivery of a standard trading partner agreement. If users are ever to achieve the holy grail of building something once - be it code or some information element - and re-using it wherever possible, they not only need such components themselves to be standardised but also the way in which components are described. The new committee's approach to providing the needed standards will focus on facilitating document exchange between different organisations and take existing XML business libraries as a starting point. It's easy to be cynical about standards and new committees but this one should have a good chance of delivering its proposed Universal Business Language (UBL) in reasonable time. Not content with that, OASIS has also started a committee to devise a Web Component Model that will define web services for interactive application access over a variety of channels: directly through a browser, indirectly through a portal or embedded into a third-party application. This will involve neutrality with respect to web platform, application format and receiving device and so will probably take significantly longer than the UBL initiative. But it is worthwhile nonetheless. XSL style-sheets are typically used at the moment to sort out at least the device differences and some greater standardisation would help everyone. So, one way or another, the XML bandwagon is gathering speed. And Tim Berners-Lee's dream of an XML-fuelled web may be nearer than you think. EMC spreads its bets EMC is about to launch a range of new products and existing technologies under the umbrella of brand of EMC AutoIS, targeted at enterprise storage management. AutoIS stands for automated information storage and EMC plans to supply tools that are simple, open and capable of assisting in the administration of a number of hardware products, including those of SAN switch suppliers and the storage hardware systems of other vendors. EMC kicks off its AutoIS roll-out with a number of products launching over the course of the next 90 days. At the heart of the range is the EMC WideSky tool, described as storage management middleware. It is this abstraction layer of the storage architecture that EMC sees providing integration capabilities in a multi-vendor storage environment. Along with WideSky will come EMC ControlCenter/Open Edition which operates as a repository of standard functions to consolidate operations through a single task-oriented interface. Finally EMC ControlCenter/Replication Manager supplies sophisticated automatic management of disk replication processes and tools and also manages the 'instant' restore process. An important development will see EMC use a common repository to store information on the storage infrastructure, to ensure all applications are able to access common information about the storage resource assets. It is clear this approach to managing the storage infrastructure as a whole is the correct approach and is exactly the type of technology many organisations desperately need. It is equally obvious that this is the first step down a very long path for EMC. EMC quite openly sees these announcements as just the beginning and the plan to widen the breadth of its platform coverage and to deepen the functionality it provides as the markets mature and as customer demands increase. This would be a really good time for all of the interested parties in storage to get together to create and enhance the standards that are so clearly required to help everyone win. Xerox copies Europe on knowledge management Remember Xerox, the photocopier company? Well, it seems that Xerox is now trying to re-brand as a major player in the knowledge management market and has chosen a very interesting way of making its message known. A recently released survey initiated and paid for by Xerox states: "Xerox's Industrial Business provides solutions that lie at the heart of information and in order to provide the best possible service to our customers we need to understand their businesses, sector by sector, country by country." To publicise its findings, Xerox Europe has taken its show on the road under the fulsome guidance of its French European director, Olivier Groue. Its explicit motivation for commissioning this survey and presenting its results to all of the major European analysts is incredibly altruistic. Essentially it wishes to keep its current customers enlightened as to the state of European business and also simultaneously educate itself about its own customers in this particular industrial sector. At the very least, Xerox has provided some interesting data about the nature of European ecommerce at the turn of the millennium. Undertaken this past June, the findings are very interesting. Five hundred and twenty-nine telephone interviews were conducted with senior managers in marketing and finance within the automotive, utilities, high-tech, white good manufacturing and communications sectors. They were carried out in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. At the end of it all, Xerox has documented the obvious - industry is concerned primarily with profitability and customer satisfaction. Measurement of the monitoring of customer complaints is an interesting statistic. Ninety-five per cent of German respondents monitor customer complaints, compared to 54 per cent of French respondents. Could it be that German products - known worldwide for their superior quality - have reached this pinnacle because their makers have actually listened to their customers' feedback? Remember the recent 'Rip-off Britain' campaign? Brits have become so used to paying high prices they see no relief even in the face of increasing online commerce. Consider this statistic: over half of businesses surveyed in France, Germany, Italy and Spain (50 to 61 per cent) agree end users will see price reductions in the next two years due to ebusiness. The majority (53 per cent) of UK businesses surveyed did not agree. Why? Because companies will continue to raise their profit margins? It's the consumer, of course, that continues to pay and pay. Thank you, Xerox, for providing us with this insightful and useful information. Now tell us how you are going to contribute to the increasing knowledge management mix. We await your new implementations.