by February 6, 2003 0 comments



The Uniform Code Council (www.uc-council.net/) in the US has the distinction of launching the Universal Product Code (barcode) seen on many products today. Way back during the late 60s and early 70s, the barcode (the 11 vertical lines) on products significantly changed the way manufacturers packaged and distributed their wares to retailers. The supply side of the equation became more organized and spoke a common language, easing exchange and resulting in huge savings for the manufacturers and suppliers. 

Standardizing e-biz
RosettaNet aims to supply a common language to e-business, just like barcodes did to the manufacturing industry. Named after the famous Rosetta stone that was used to decipher the hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt, RosettaNet is a non-profitable, self-funded organization based in the US. It merged with the UCC (Universal Code Council) in August last year and is working towards standardizing e-business processes using XML and targets primarily the supply chain of IT, electronics components and semiconductor manufacturing companies. It’s developing a host of specifications for documents, like purchase orders, invoices, product descriptions and shipping schedules, that may arise in an e-business interchange. These specifications are called Partner-to-Partner Interfaces or PIP. 

Sample PIP Interaction Diagram showing the business roles, messages and their sequence of exchange in the PIP 

RosettaNet has board members from three high-technology areas: IT, EC (electronic components), and SM (semiconductor manufacturing). Plus, it has a Solutions Provider or SP board. There are over 450 partners worldwide, besides the board members. The board members drive the formulation of specifications for e-business processes, and the partners can vote (if they have paid the additional annual fees of $5,000 to enable their voting rights) for or against them. Currently, it operates in US, Europe, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan.

How it works
To understand RosettaNet e-business standardization, consider the following example of a transaction between two companies in different parts of the world. 

Mr A from Apples Corp wants to sell apples to Mr O from Oranges Ltd in exchange for oranges, over the Internet. Let us assume that both Mr A and Mr O are sitting in RosettaNet covered countries, in the US and Singapore, respectively.

This figure shows which part of the supply chain
RosettaNet PIPs focus on. As can be seen, XML is the substitute for the Alphabet and PIP replaces human dialog 

Primitive e-exchange
Mr A with apples in the US will inform Mr O in Singapore of the details of his bunch of fruit and request the same from Mr O.

This exchange will take place over e-mail, and Mr A would describe several things about his merchandise such as how many apples he has to sell, their weight, when they were plucked, etc and how many oranges he wants in return for them, their weight and when they were plucked, when he expects to send apples and receive the oranges. 

Mr O in Singapore will then reply to this e-mail answering Mr A’s questions, negotiating the deal, etc. The details of dispatch,
payment, delivery, etc will also be worked out. All set to carry out the exchange,
Mr A will send the apples and Mr O will dispatch the oranges. Both will receive their merchandise, and everyone will eat well and be happy.

Yes, the above is possible if we live in a Utopia of some sort, but in the world as we know it, too many things are amiss in the above picture. The complete business transaction has been done over e-mail alone. Both parties are going by each other’s word in the transaction. There’s no defined mode for the payment, shipment, etc. Even if one party backs out on the payment, the other can’t do much about it because they’re sitting in two different countries. That’s why the Internet as a means for doing business requires standardization. Let’s see how RosettaNet will help. 

Advantage RosettaNet
If Mr A and Mr O sign up as RosettaNet partners, they will be transacting under the RNIF (RosettaNet Implementation Framework). This includes a messaging service for transmitting messages between partners, and uses encryption and digital signatures for security. It also includes a business dictionary (describing elements used in e-business documents), technical dictionary (describing the form, fit and function of each product within the supply chain) and business processes, which are the
PIPs.

Three Levels of storage virtualization

For Mr A and Mr O to use the RNIF, three broad areas will be standardized and used to carry out any transaction electronically. First, they will each get a unique identification as a business entity through what is known as the GBI (GlobalBusiness Identifier), currently a DUNS number, a unique nine-digit number used to identify businesses, from Dun&BradStreet. You can get one for your business from www.dnb.com/ eupdate/duns form/ 
Next, their products will get unique identification. And further on, each business interaction they undertake will follow a standard specified in the PIP.

For example, the figure above shows how a purchase is initiated from a buyer and accepted by
the seller. 

What’s so great? Well, if the whole scenario is documented and each entity involved is uniquely defined and identified, the whole process can be greatly streamlined. This makes it much more efficient to write applications to perform this exchange.

So, if Mr A wants to request a purchase order from Mr O, he will need to provide a set of details as outlined in RosettaNet’s PIP3A4 specification. These will be sent as an XML schema, which will look something like this. 

<?xml version=”1.0” encoding=”UTF-8” ?> 
<!DOCTYPE Pip3A4PurchaseOrderRequest (View Source for full doctype…)> 
– <Pip3A4PurchaseOrderRequest>
– <fromRole>
– <PartnerRoleDescription>
– <ContactInformation>
– <contactName>
<FreeFormText>Free Form Text Field</FreeFormText> 
</contactName>
<EmailAddress>email@mail.kom</EmailAddress> 
– <telephoneNumber>
<CommunicationsNumber>1234567</CommunicationsNumber> 
</telephoneNumber>
</ContactInformation>

</fromRole>

This is a part of the XML schema. The whole PIP3A4 specification is designed such that it leaves nothing to chance. It describes each detail that needs to be covered for requesting a purchase order, and also includes all possible outcomes of this process, such as order accepted, rejected or pending. 

RosettaNet’s future
The success of the RosettaNet standard, like any other standard, depends on its acceptance. A few Indian software companies are already providing RosettaNet implementations through their products but none has yet earned the RosettaNet Compliance badge for RNIF or PIP. Also, RosettaNet does have a strong Asian presence in countries like Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan. It has yet to make its presence felt in India. Perhaps, this is because India is not very strong as an electronics/semiconductors manufacturer but once the standards are in place, the software will come from India without much pushing. You can download a Self Test Kit from the RosettaNet website that has some example test scenarios and PIPs. The test kit also includes Apache web server and Tomcat to run Java server pages.

Shruti Pareek

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