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Should you make XML part of your organization's strategic architecture? If you have disparate systems that need to communicate with each other more efficiently, it's probably time to decide whether XML can solve your problems. If you want to start trading with an organization from within your industry but you've been stymied by the technical incompatibilities between the systems, you should also be checking out XML.
But don't underestimate the cultural hurdles that have nothing to do with technology. As with the RosettaNet experience, there are still going to be some divisions and some business units that don't want to share their data with others, and that's where aggressive management from the CIO and other executives will have to come in to ease the way.
Don't wait too long to test the waters. According to Gartner, 75 percent of the Fortune 500 used XML in at least one pilot project in 2000, and the firm expects that by the end of 2001, 75 percent will have used XML in at least one application integration project in production. And that's not all: According to International Data Corp., the market for XML servers and XML databases, which was about $390 million in 2001, is expected to grow to $3.7 billionalmost tenfoldby 2005.
While this market activity is encouraging, it shows that many companies aren't rushing into widespread XML deployments. Still, over time, an increasing number of businesses will adopt XML where they can gain cost efficiencies and create new business initiatives without having to make major modifications to their existing applications. Despite the numerous challenges that adopting organizations will facein part created by the rapidly growing popularity of the protocol itselfXML's flexibility will ensure that this new lingua franca will become an integral part of many organizations' strategic architectures.
Charles Babcock, a technology writer based in San Francisco, formerly served as technology editor of Interactive Week, as an analyst with Mainspring Communications and as technical editor of Computerworld. Comments on this story can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.