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RE: Genuine interoperability & the tower of Babel

From: Champion, Mike <Mike.Champion@SoftwareAG-USA.com>
Date: Mon, 22 Sep 2003 20:10:23 -0600
Message-ID: <9A4FC925410C024792B85198DF1E97E406982CFC@usmsg03.sagus.com>
To: Frank McCabe <frankmccabe@mac.com>, www-ws-arch@w3.org


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Frank McCabe [mailto:frankmccabe@mac.com] 
> Sent: Monday, September 22, 2003 9:40 PM
> To: www-ws-arch@w3.org
> Subject: Genuine interoperability & the tower of Babel
> The tower of Babel referred to above is the huge number of 
> application-specific systems that can't leverage each other 
> because of trivial but lethal incompatibilities. There has to 
> be a better way.
> Before we look at solutions, it is helpful to see that there 
> is a problem. Is this analysis off the mark, and if so, why?

I'm not sure.  There's a danger in taking things one step at a time if the
steps don't lead anywyhere, e.g. climing a tree as the first step to get to
the moon. But there's also a danger in saying that it does no good to get to
the moon if you really really want to reach the stars.

Let's look at the world of 15 years ago vs the world of today, the near term
future, and the future we want to shape.  15 years ago a typical computer
simply could not communicate with another computer chosen at random, except
very inefficiently and with all sorts of human intervention (remember zmodem
etc.?). That's because there was no common wire level protocol or addressing
scheme (in widespread use anyway).  10 years ago the Internet solved that
problem at the lowest level for at least the typical commercial/university
system, but there wasn't much in the way of common data formats or
application-level protocols.  5 years ago HTTP and HTML solved those
problems for human-readable text, but not for machine-machine interaction
without human intervention.  Today XML and SOAP/WSDL are providing the
framework for machine-machine interaction, but there are a bazillion details
such as transactions, choreography, security, etc. etc. etc. that have to be
worked out in an ad hoc way.  In 5 year we'll presumably have this stuff
standardized, BUT THEN we will still face the problems that Frank is talking

So, I think that the WSA document needs to focus on the issues facing the
next few years, and simply make reference to the problems of automating the
semantic alignment of operations and data that will still be there when the
short-term issues are solved. 

So, there is a problem, but lots of useful work can be done without solving
it, and there are worse problems to solve first. After all, businesses have
been coping with these semantic mismatches for centuries while the
mechanical aspects of business communication have been improved.  Sure, at
some point the mechanical stuff will be nailed down and then the
labor-intensive, error-prone approaches used by application writers to align
semantics will be the worst problems that systems integrators face, but
there is a lot of work to do before we are in that situation.
Received on Monday, 22 September 2003 22:10:29 UTC

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