Update your XML knowledge -- Part 3

Find out how XML can make the lives of content developers easier in our third part of a series on this markup language.

Since the Internet took off, millions of Websites have been created to offer information, news and services. Web publishing and content management market size grew tremendously. With the wide spread acceptance of Internet as a medium for source of information and commerce, enterprises have to embrace the Web for survival.

Most brick and mortar companies have their enterprise information and knowledge locked in different databases and legacy information systems. With the need for enterprises to bring information such as product catalogues online or allow customers to access their information online, preparing and staging content for the web is now a necessity. Using XML as a format for staging content has its benefits and enterprises should leverage on the flexibility provided by XML to offer better services and content online in intranet, extranet and on the Internet.

Here's a look at why enterprises should use XML to stage content for the web:

1. Aggregates content To protect investments in existing IT infrastructure and systems, businesses need to find a solution to support Web-based applications architecture while leveraging on existing databases and information systems. Large enterprises have data required for Web services stored in distributed databases with varied sources of data. In such a scenario, to support a Web site and provide updated content continuously will require an expensive and complicated solution to handle different data formats from different data sources. By introducing a XML staging content repository, the web based applications and services need not be concerned with where and how to retrieve from different data sources of information.

XML is an excellent format for data aggregation and exchange with disparate systems while maintaining data integrity in the enterprise environment.

2. Simplifies content management XML being a meta language, it's tags and structure allows better description of data, enables content applications to better interpret data and understand how content are organized. It decouples the content from the presentation logic and thus simplifies content management. Presentation changes frequently but content can be reused and thus keep content management costs down.

3. Facilitate content delivery XSL (XML styles sheets) allows content owners to transform XML data for presentation in HTML on the Web or into another format i.e News Markup Language (NewsML) for direct input into a business partner system if you are a content provider. Having ready content in XML format offers flexibility to deliver them in different exciting ways. For example, content owners can easily format XML content into WML (Wireless markup language) for WAP delivery or exchange information with partners via SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) messages.

4. Enhances multi-language Support XML supports unicode and thus is able to store content in different languages. Enterprises needs to cater to international customers and provide localize content in each market. You may have to build different version of Web sites with specific content contained in Web pages or stored in different data sources. Storing your content in XML enables you to utilize third party translation services which receives your content for example in English and returns you the same XML document but containing the translated content. Web services and applications only require access to these XML documents and present the translated information. Literally, only one version of Web site is required. This exploits the content separation offered by XML from presentation logic to the fullest.

5. Increase competitiveness The flexibility of XML in offering customized content easily and with ready XML content staged in a repository, you can quickly deploy and offer content and web services to meet market demands and increase your competitiveness. XML enables you to explore new markets and services while efficiently maintaining your Web-based systems.

6. Improves knowledge management As enterprises grew, new information acquired through business or gathered from customers online need to be stored efficiently for retrieval and use. A learning organization needs to manage its intellectual property to leverage on. XML structural nature facilitates information organization. Using a staging layer to aggregate information in XML format makes this information easily accessible and can be readily exported to different mediums and formats for print, delivery and exchange with different information systems and trading partners.

With the emerging Web Services trend, enterprises needs to address the need for data integration and at the same time protect their existing infrastructure investments. XML provides a way to future proof your investment in face of technological changes and at the same time exploit the potential of XML in offering new services and manage changing enterprise environments.