Friday, February 02, 2007

APEX Implementation Pilot Program

In last month's APEX TAC meeting, EJ Siwek announced our intention to set up pilot programs between early adoptor trading partners in order to implement the XML standards that we developed with OTA last year.

The objective is to demonstrate the pratical application of XML standards for data exchange within the meetings and group travel industry. The immediate tactics, however, are to build the development framework needed for software programmers to implement the APEX XML standards. This foundation includes:

  1. Design a "Test Harness" framework, in order to:
    • Validate XML well-formedness
    • Validate against OTA XSD schema
    • Validate to APEX implementation of OTA XML
  2. Build a Test harness for each XSD:
    • Request for Proposal (RFP) – Request and Response
    • Rooming List – Request and Response
    • Event Specification Guide (ESG) – Request and Response
    • Functional Setup Order (FSO or BEO in hotel terminology for Banquet Event Order) - Exhibitor and Normal
  3. Create an XSLT to transform valid APEX XML into Word / PDF / Excel formats
    • RFP – Request or Response
    • Rooming List – Request or Response
    • ESG (ESG, FSO, FSO – Exhibitor) – Request or Response

As I discussed previously, each company who implements APEX standards will need to build their own translator routine that converts their proprietary data structure into the APEX standard XML format. However, once that is done, all APEX-compliant organizations will be able to share common tools that will allow them to test and validate their translator routines, and convert the XML output into human-readable versions of the standard APEX reports in Word, Excel, or PDF format. This interoperability is the key benefit of becoming APEX compliant.

For the test harness framework, we plan to accomplish the first two tests (XML well-formedness and adherance to OTA XSD standard) by requiring developers to use an editor such as XML Spy that already performs these functions. Developers will have to "self-certify" that they have passed these tests prior to being able to use the final validation test, where they will submit their XML output to our engine for conversion into Word or Excel and comparison to the validation standard. In any case, XML that is not formed properly or does not adhere to the XSD schema likely will fail the third test.

In the next APEX-TAC meeting on February 15, we plan to assign portions of this project to participating companies, with the hope of having something to demonstrate at the quarterly meeting in Ft. Lauderdale in March.

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