PTO joins in clearinghouse effort to improve interoperability

PTO joins in clearinghouse effort to improve interoperability

The initiative's goal is to foster sharing of unbiased information between government and industry

By Patricia Daukantas

GCN Staff

The Patent and Trademark Office will join the Interoperability Clearinghouse's architecture immersion program, organizers announced late last month.

Although the clearinghouse has yet to set up an online repository of interoperable products, it claims about 110 supporters including several Defense Department agencies, software and hardware vendors, systems integrators and testing organizations [GCN, Feb. 8, Page 1].'
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David Smith, PTO's system architectures manager, said he expects a two-year membership contract to be signed this month. He declined to say how much PTO will pay for the immersion program.

John A. Weiler, chief executive officer of the Alexandria, Va., clearinghouse, described it as a nonprofit public-service initiative to promote the sharing of unbiased data about hardware and software components. Interoperability problems persist even though 12.5 percent of the $70 billion federal information technology budget goes to evaluate and install products, Weiler said.

IT personnel pay too much attention to market hype when making decisions about enterprise-level purchases, he said. New standards, product releases and interfaces are too numerous and complex to evaluate.

Weiler said some vendors have worked out their own optimal product mixes but do not publicize them well.

The clearinghouse will work with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' Computer Society to generate interoperability standards, said Thomas J. Mowbray, the clearinghouse's technical director. Although the standards themselves will be posted publicly on the clearinghouse Web site, accumulated case histories and other interoperability data will be accessible only to member organizations.

Organizers have almost finished a Java-based architecture modeling tool called the Distributed Component-based Architectural Modeler, Mowbray said. They are seeking contractors to build the centerpiece, an interactive knowledge repository using DCAM, within a year.

Clearinghouse members will pay fees tied to the types and volume of services they use, Mowbray said. He declined to be more specific.

The architecture immersion program that PTO will join gives an on-site, detailed assessment of the current enterprise environment, Mowbray said. Customized tutorial sessions are part of the program.

PTO needs guidance, Smith said, because interoperability problems have become too complex for any one agency to solve alone. 'I hope it will enable us to make better decisions that we couldn't afford to come up with ourselves through testing,' he said.

PTO has standard servers and workstations running Hewlett-Packard HP-UX and Microsoft Windows NT plus Oracle Corp. relational databases. But they must work together with many nonstandard products, especially public-key infrastructures and electronic commerce software, Smith said.

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