The brave new world of the DRM

'If the application revolves around the data, then we have the net-centric effect.'

'DHS' Michael Daconta

Rick Steele

Group plans to put data, rather than applications, at the center

Michael Daconta's work on the Data Reference Model might not be as revolutionary as Copernicus' heliocentric theory was in 1530, but he is proposing a whole new way for the federal government to look at information.

Daconta, the Homeland Security Department's metadata program manager and lead architect developing the Federal Enterprise Architecture's DRM, is focusing the latest release of the fifth reference model on making the data, rather than the application, the center of the IT universe.

'For too long, we have focused on graphics and producing information,' Daconta said earlier this month at an IT Forum on enterprise architecture sponsored by the CIO Council in Washington. 'If the application revolves around the data, then we have the net-centric effect.'

Daconta expects to send Version 1.5 of the DRM to the CIO Council on Oct. 17. The council is to review and make changes, and send it to the Office of Management and Budget by Nov. 17. OMB expects to issue the final DRM by Dec. 17 as part of a report to Congress on the implementation of the E-Government Act of 2002.

Also by Oct. 17, the working group will release the final drafts of the DRM Extensible Markup Language schema and implementation strategy, and the reference model management strategy.

Agencies had problems with the first version of the DRM, which OMB released last fall, because federal officials were unsure of how to implement some parts, such as defining certain data types in the business context and packaging information to be shared.

Daconta's working group is trying resolve many of these issues.

'The DRM is a challenge because we are trying to achieve things that haven't been done before,' he said. 'Data is hidden; it is not flashy or out in front of you. But it is how you represent knowledge and that is what is important.'

The DRM working group has submitted for comment to the EA community subsequent partial revisions of the new model. The latest includes the most specific breakdown of how the draft that will be sent to the CIO Council will look.

Daconta said data would be separated by type'such as model, content or policy'and who owns the data'whether it be an agency, community of interest or cross-government community of interest.

Model is the logical data or the attributes that define the class of information, such as transportation.

Content is the description of the data, such as air, land or sea transportation.

Policy refers to how you maintain the quality of the information and who is allowed to use it.

The agency, community of interest and cross-government community of interest would describe the role and responsibilities for the data of each organization. A community of interest could be data in a line of business that only one or a few agencies perform, such as screening visitors. A cross-government community of interest is a function that nearly everyone performs, such as financial management.

It takes a community

'The biggest difference is that, before, we didn't take into account the communities of interest, so important and well-established groups like geospatial didn't understand their roles,' Daconta said.

Along with the new model, the working group is creating the DRM Extensible Markup Language implementation schema that will help agencies identify the level of granularity they need to share information.

Daconta said DHS would pilot the schema early next year with an information-sharing test case. He said no decision has been made on the project, however.

'We have an unprecedented opportunity to solve a long-standing systemic problem,' Daconta said.

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