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RE: Genuine interoperability & the tower of Babel

From: Cutler, Roger (RogerCutler) <RogerCutler@chevrontexaco.com>
Date: Mon, 22 Sep 2003 21:25:42 -0500
Message-ID: <7FCB5A9F010AAE419A79A54B44F3718E03132793@bocnte2k3.boc.chevrontexaco.net>
To: "Champion, Mike" <Mike.Champion@SoftwareAG-USA.com>, "Frank McCabe" <frankmccabe@mac.com>, www-ws-arch@w3.org

I agree with Mike's answer -- but I also agree with Frank's analysis.
Three or five years ago we sort of thought that the XML bandwagon was
going to solve this by industry-wide efforts to define common formats
for core data.  I know this very well because I wrote various program
plans based on this assumption that I now either live with or modify
accordingly. Whether this did not happen because it is very difficult,
or whether it didn't happen because there was no analogy to MS/IBM/BEA
to force the process is probably not relevant -- it has not happened.

This is a shame, but we must somehow struggle on.

So, Frank, granted that this is a problem, and an expensive one, just
what do you propose doing about it?  Weeping, gnashing our teeth and
rending our garments is probably indicated, but once we have done all
that, do you have any other suggestions?

I would personally not be very receptive if your suggestions involved
starting over from square one in the WSA. 

-----Original Message-----
From: Champion, Mike [mailto:Mike.Champion@SoftwareAG-USA.com] 
Sent: Monday, September 22, 2003 9:10 PM
To: Frank McCabe; www-ws-arch@w3.org
Subject: RE: Genuine interoperability & the tower of Babel


> -----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 about.  

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
Received on Monday, 22 September 2003 22:26:00 UTC

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