Group Forms to End Software Chaos

An impressive IT industry force is assembling to launch an ambitious quest for the holy grail of true interoperability and open systems.

Under the aegis of major vendors, standards organizations, and government and private user groups, the Interoperability Clearinghouse (IC) is preparing to wage war on the chaos confronting IT professionals attempting to pull together workable systems.

The idea is to provide IT organizations with a online knowledge base of industry standards, product specifications, and examples of successful implementations from which users can model their system configurations. Users also can query the repository for interoperability data and standards conformance for technologies ranging from operating systems to networking and hardware.

The group boasts support from the likes of IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp., Sun, Ernst & Young, the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, the Object Management Group, the World Wide Web Consortium, the Open Applications Group, the IEEE, Fortune 100 businesses, and major test labs.

The IC plans a spring 1999 offensive on two fronts. On the one hand, the effort entails the formation of a consortium of standards organizations, which will promote standards adherence and better understanding of the interrelationships of industry standards, said John Weiler, chief technical officer and founder of the IC.

The IC will also form a joint venture with Lockheed Martin, Ernst & Young, SAIC/Bellcore, Boeing, IBM, and the standards body Objective Technology Group to administer the knowledge base.

Users seeking to answer standards conformance and interoperability questions from the knowledge base can draw on an inference engine under development by the IC, with funding from the Defense Agencies Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and private sources.

Product information will be added as quickly as possible, and vendors' claims will be distinguished from end-user performance data.

"The purpose of the DARPA project is to create new technology for modeling distributed architectures, to provide a structural view of the [potential and actual] implementation configurations," Weiler explained.

Access to the knowledge base will likely have both free and paid access.

The associated groups command a combined IT purchasing power of approximately US$100 billion.

The IC promises readily available, real-world information, according to Dave Usechak, a program executive officer for acquisition, command, and control with the U.S. Army, at Fort Monmoth, New Jersey.

"I'm hoping it will provide some well-defined methods and processes by which, at a minimum, the Defense Department can procure hardware and software, such that when we take and plug stuff together, we have reasonable assurance it will work," Usechak said.

Information on the Interoperability Clearinghouse can be found at

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More about BellcoreBoeing AustraliaDepartment of JusticeErnst & YoungErnst & YoungIBM AustraliaIEEEInferenceLockheed MartinMicrosoftObject Management GroupOpen Applications GroupWorld Wide Web Consortium

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