When I read about the Semantic Web, it's generally described as having a preternatural ability to figure out exactly what you want to find on the Web.
As it turns out, semantic technology can also be used as "the best glue ever put into practice" when it comes to enterprise integration, contends Uche Ogbuji, a specialist in the integration of next-generation Web systems, in this Intranet Journal article. Ogbuji is a partner at Zepheira, a knowledge management company specializing in Semantic Web standards.
Ogbuji admits that Semantic Web technology "has suffered a lack of pragmatic focus," and, I would add, outright exaggeration. But where the technology really shines, at least at this stage of development, is when it's used with enterprise data architecture.
The article begins with a discussion of EDA's emergence as a discipline for organizing unstructured data. The problem with current integration efforts, according to Ogbuji, is that they usually involve a vendor of one sort of another, and the vendor generally hides the integration behind a black box solution controlled, naturally, by said vendor. Meanwhile, the Internet has nicely demonstrated it's possible to provide seamless integration without all the smoke and mirrors.
What's great about semantic EDA is that it can start in one department and grow organically, as opposed to requiring a major, enterprise-wide deployment.
The article focuses more on the broad implications of semantic EDA for integration, with little space given to how it works. However, he does promise he'll follow up with a piece on simple techniques you can use to get started in Semantic Web technology and EDA. I'll keep you posted.
While you're waiting, you might find these articles useful reading:
Web 2.0 Arrives to Find Web 3.0 Under Way: This InformationWeek article looks at Semantic Web technologies designed for enterprise use. It includes a discussion of how real-world organizations are using semantic technology, including the U.S. intelligence community - for identifying terrorists - and Eastman Kodak Company - for organizing digital images.
Taming the World Wide Web: Ignore the flippant BusinessWeek title. This three-page piece is full of real-world examples of how Semantic Web technologies could impact search online and in the enterprise. There's also a short discussion of how this could impact security and a longer, considerably less-useful discussion on whether the term "Semantic Web" was a good idea - but there are lots of subtitles in the article, so you'll know where to skip.
A Relational View of the Semantic Web: O'Reilly's XML.com offers a more technical piece, with an explanation of the W3C's proposed standard query language (SPARQL) for the Semantic Web.