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Created: September 15, 2003.
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Berkeley Center for Document Engineering (CDE) Promotes XML-Encodable Business Models.

A new Center for Document Engineering has been established at UC Berkeley as a focal point for initiatives in XML and model-based approaches for automatable, standards-based business computing. 'Document Engineering' in the CDE model is a "synthesis of information and systems analysis, business process modeling, electronic publishing, and distributed computing." CDE has been founded by the UC Berkeley School of Information Management and Systems (SIMS) and e-Berkeley Program under the direction of Dr. Robert Glushko and a CDE Advisory Board. The Center's goal is to "invent, evaluate, and promote model-driven technologies and methods that allow business semantics to drive IT systems. The CDE will create, collect, and disseminate XML schemas, software, best practices, and other content for building web services and applications that allow business semantics to drive IT systems and automate business processes."

The first initiative of the CDE is the Berkeley Academic Business Language (BABL), "an evolving set of models and associated XML schemas for the domain of University education and operations." BABL is based upon the Universal Business Language (UBL).

"A second major CDE initiative is an XML application platform that uses models like those in BABL to implement enterprise-class applications whose core data-models are encoded in XML. This platform allows developers to represent data models, business rules, workflow specifications, and user interfaces as externalized XML documents, rather than mixing and scattering them throughout application code. This will make it easier for nonprogrammers to design, develop, and maintain forms and workflow-based Internet applications."

CDE has also developed 'Center in a Box' as a "lightweight, XML-based content management system designed to allow small organizations to quickly deploy rich content to a variety of media, including the web." This XML-based content management application is based upon on the open-source Cocoon project from the Apache Foundation.

From the CDE Announcement

UC Berkeley's School of Information Management and Systems (SIMS) and the e-Berkeley Program have established the Center for Document Engineering (CDE). The CDE's mission is "to invent, evaluate, and promote model-driven technologies and methods" that allow business semantics to drive IT systems.

The CDE's origins date to Spring 2002 when SIMS became the first academic institution in the world to teach courses on Document Engineering, emphasizing analysis and design methods that yield XML-encodable models of business processes and business documents. A collaboration with the e-Berkeley Program began soon afterwards because of the natural fit with e-Berkeley's goal of using the Web to transform the University's information-intensive operations.

Dr. Robert Glushko, an Adjunct Professor at SIMS and an XML industry veteran, is the Director of the CDE. Glushko said, "The complex legacy computing environment of the University is a perfect test bed for XML, information architecture, and web services and the E-Berkeley program is a perfect partner for an academic research team." Jon Conhaim, who heads the E-Berkeley program, will serve as Associate Director of the CDE.

An advisory board whose members come from academic units, campus computing organizations, and industry will help set priorities and define project goals. Board member Hal Varian, formerly the Dean of SIMS and a professor of economics and business, said "the new Center for Document Engineering will provide a valuable research facility for our faculty and training ground for our students. The technology that has been developed at CDE will be a major contribution to information management in organizations."

Board member Shel Waggoner, UC Berkeley's Director of Central Computing Services, suggested that "the Center for Document Engineering offers a unique opportunity for research, academic, administrative groups to work collectively on real world challenges faced by decentralized enterprises. The models developed by the CDE will dramatically reduce the time and cost of building new applications and help enterprises minimize the duplication of systems so prevalent in today's distributed environments."

"I'm delighted to see Berkeley take the lead in the emerging discipline of document engineering, which will be critical to the development of the data standards on which the next generation of electronic commerce systems will be constructed," said Jon Bosak of Sun Microsystems, leader of the working groups that created the XML and the Universal Business Language (UBL). "An enlightened public policy requires the existence of unbiased centers for the development and vendor-neutral evaluation of technologies for business data modeling. The establishment of the Center for Document Engineering represents a milestone in the development of our future business infrastructure and a model for the creation of similar programs in other colleges and universities."

About BABL (Berkeley Academic Business Language)

CDE's Berkeley Academic Business Language (BABL) is "an evolving set of models and associated XML schemas for the domain of university education. Work on BABL began in Fall 2002 with models of 'course' and 'role' as they are used across numerous applications and contexts. For example, 'course' is used in the Course Approval System, the Course Catalog, the Schedule of Classes, Transcripts, and so on.

BABL is being built on top of the Universal Business Language (UBL), a horizontal vocabulary of standard semantic components needed in almost every business domain.Creating common data models for entities like 'course' and 'student' that are used in numerous applications requires an investment in careful and thorough analysis, but the benefits are substantial. System developers are more productive if they don't have to design data models from scratch, and common data enable better integration and interoperability between services. Common data models also facilitate the reuse of information resources and databases, opening up possibilities for creating more user-friendly applications that integrate legacy 'stovepipes' or that enable entirely new applications..." [adapted from the website]

About the XML Application Platform

The CDE XML application platform "is a framework for implementing enterprise-class applications whose core data-models are encoded in XML. The platform has been optimized for a class of applications we characterize as 'form data moving within and between organizations.' The platform allows developers to represents data models, business rules, and workflow specifications as externalized XML documents, rather than mixing and scattering them throughout application code. User interface design principles are embodied in XSL transforms that can automatically generate browser-based user interfaces from the application's data model represented as XML schemas. Likewise, custom views of information for different users, devices, or contexts can be created with different transforms.

The platform is implemented on top of a J2EE application server, but Java programming skills are not needed for many applications because application-specific functionality is represented in XML schemas, XSL transforms, and externalized XML-based configuration files. Orbeon's OXF 'pipeline' processor is used to control the generation and layout of screens and the transition logic between them. 'Long running transactions' and the management of states between user sessions are controlled by a workflow engine that interprets an XML representation of state transition logic..." [description from the website]

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