Keywords ODP, distributed systems, ANSA, distributed systems architectures, open systems
Start Date: 01-MAR-89 / Duration: 48 months
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End-users are increasingly indicating a need to move away from a single-vendor central IT system policy and towards multi-supplier distributed systems. This growing market trend offers an opportunity to turn the fragmentation of the European IT industry into a strength by developing a standard generic architecture for such systems, enabling integration and interworking of applications from a wide variety of domains using heterogeneous equipment from multiple vendors.
The existence of an architectural platform for distributed systems will create important opportunities for European suppliers. It can be exploited not only by the major product-supply companies but also by skilled niche-suppliers, enabling them to integrate their products into a wide variety of IT systems and facilitating their ability to produce integrated multi-supplier offerings. By leading in the development of the architecture important advantages are gained, such as an early ability to produce conformant systems.
The ISA project has developed and demonstrated just such a generic architecture for Open Distributed Processing (ODP) in multi-vendor multi-domain heterogeneous systems.
As systems become distributed, the future of IT lies in the ability to achieve integration of computing and telecommunications; the ISA consortium has been structured to include strong representation by companies in both sectors so that each may benefit from the experience and insights of the others, and so that the architecture may cater for the needs of both.
ISA had three important themes: interworking, integration and standardisation. ISA will enable the integration of systems from multiple vendors by creating a set of common architectural constructs for distributed systems and by using these constructs in the development of standards. Achievement of integration has proved by practical demonstrations of heterogeneous applications interworking via the software platform.
The objectives of the ISA project were to:
The architecture places important emphasis upon "evolution not revolution", so that existing systems may be encapsulated and incorporated; it must incorporate existing programming languages and many different operating systems and infrastructures while at the same time making proper provision for future developments. In order to provide a common focus the project has established a "core laboratory" in Cambridge, where staff from partners' companies meet and work together.
Different applications (for example, office, CIM, CAD, telecommunications, network management, corporate information systems) require appropriate levels of functionality from the architecture and an ability to optimise it for a particular domain and emphasise suitable quality attributes, such as response time, throughput, security and robustness. This requires an approach which pays careful attention, for example, to corporate goals and managerial issues, enabling their requirements to be described by means of viewpoints or projections of the architecture. Multi-media aspects, both in distribution and computation, have a key role in ISA, as has the ability to scale upwards to multi-country distributed systems and the need for federated management.
The project focuses on the architecture, interfaces, platforms and standards and on transferring the technology into demonstrators within product development divisions in the partner companies. The major deliverables from the ISA project were:
The software suite, known as Testbench, is already installed and in use in a wide variety of applications in many different countries and by most of the project partners. Many of these applications are outside of the ISA project itself and include research projects, advanced developments, feasibility demonstrators and main-line products; for this reason the issue level of the software is carefully controlled and supported.
Mr Michael Eyre
Poseidon House, Castle Park
UK - CAMBRIDGE CB3 0RD
tel: + 44/ 223-323-010
fax: + 44/ 223-359-779
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ISA - 2267, December 1993
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html version of synopsis by Nick Cook