OSA Interoperability Roadmap Takes Priorities from Customers, Vendors

Lora Bentley

Lora Bentley spoke with Dominic Sartorio, president of the Open Solutions Alliance.


Bentley: OSA just published its OSA Interoperability Roadmap. What are the top two priorities?
Sartorio: We initially want to focus on interoperability challenges that both business customers and vendors have told us are important. The first of these is single sign-on-a common pain point for customers and relevant to nearly any application. The second is actually non-technical in nature (but an interoperability issue nonetheless), namely, what are the best practices for multiple vendors to work together in delivering and supporting integrated solutions? We have called this "application compatibility" in our roadmap, but what we really mean is operational interoperability between vendors, in how multi-vendor solutions are project-managed and supported. We felt this second area was very important both from a customer perspective and from an OSA perspective. We definitely intend to practice what we preach when delivering our own integrated prototypes, such as the Common Customer View. Beyond those two areas, we expect a rapid succession of other technical interoperability issues, such as UI integration, management and monitoring, and data integration.


Bentley: What are the next steps toward accomplishing these goals, or how, generally, will the process work as the group approaches each successive priority?
Sartorio: The process for driving a specific interoperability proposal is modeled after what we have seen work well in other communities, such as Apache. When, according to the roadmap, a proposal is due to start, our interoperability working group forms a task force, which will publish a written proposal and conduct a 60-day public review period. During this time, anybody in the world can provide comments and feedback and, based on their level of activity, can be invited to join the task force. At the end of the 60-day period, the task force votes on the proposal as it stands at that time, with a majority vote resulting in the proposal being approved.


Bentley: The Web site indicates that the roadmap is available for comment and contribution. How flexible is the roadmap? Under what circumstances will it be revised as far as adding new priorities or changing dates on deliverables, etc? Who can do that and how is it done? Are there processes in place already?
Sartorio: The roadmap is definitely flexible. The roadmap just represents the goals and priorities of our current membership and of those customers we have spoken with, but we fully expect additional priorities and ideas to come from the public. As ideas are presented to us, the OSA's interoperability working group will discuss and decide whether to add to the roadmap. Our overall approach will be to entertain any ideas that will have demonstrable value to end customers, and we encourage the community-at-large to propose ideas early and often.


Bentley: Can you briefly tell us what Common Customer View is and what the end result of the project will be?
Sartorio: The Common Customer View project includes several business applications integrated to provide a single "360-degree" view of a customer's interactions with a retail business. We then plan to demonstrate it at the upcoming Linuxworld Expo in San Francisco. The demo script tells a story about a customer (who happens to be an influential blogger) who had a poor experience after purchasing a new product from a major electronics retailer and then blogged about it in the industry press. The scenario includes walking through records of the customer's transaction and help-desk interactions, followed by analysis of what happened in the retailer's supply chain that led this customer to have a poor experience, and how to prevent it in the future. It includes applications from AdaptivePlanning, Centric CRM and Openbravo; data integration from Talend; analytics from JasperSoft; some integration tools from SpikeSource; and Unisys is lending most of the resources to actually build out this prototype.

The main reason the OSA is undertaking this effort is to prove that our interoperability proposals work in practice. In other words, we are eating our own dog food. It is one thing to get interoperability proposals written and ratified, but another to actually build them out. We hope this prototype will help inform our interoperability proposals, while also reinforcing that the OSA is focused on real-world practical outcomes that deliver customer value. Specific interoperability proposals we expect to implement include single sign-on, common search, UI integration, data integration and, of course, our proposal for multiple vendors working together on a single project.


Bentley: How will the resulting products be marketed/released?
Sartorio: First, our goal is that any organization can benefit from this work, and any other such prototypes that the OSA membership undertakes. We are using only the free and open versions of these respective applications. Also, any new code that needs to be written for this prototype will be open sourced, either by donating to the relevant community, or open sourced as its own project under a permissive OSI-approved license.

Also, the participating members do plan to market this work. We plan to deploy this in a dedicated environment where any interested customers or community developers can connect and explore the integrated functionality that we have built. Moreover, Unisys plans to deliver to its customers as a professional services offering, SpikeSource hopes to leverage its experience to improve its integrated suites, and other participating members will also take lessons learned to make their respective products easier to plug-and-play into larger environments.


Bentley: The OSA also elected its first board of directors. How were nominees selected? How long will each member serve? Will the number of directors remain fixed or will additional directors be elected as the OSA grows?
Sartorio: We just recently finished our first board election and will hold an annual election each year at the same time - the end of March. There are five board seats - a number that the founding members of the OSA believe provides the right balance for a diversity of views and the ability to coordinate discussion and make quick decisions. Board members serve for two years, although this is staggered, such that each year we only elect two or three new board seats. Nominees were self-selected. Any ISV member in good standing can come forward to express their desire to serve, and is then added to the annual ballot.

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