The DfE have now published their report on interoperability. You can read it at:
- Online Publications: Product details.
Thanks, interesting.. is this the death knell for SIF?
SIF is not up to it and needs to either be dropped or have a change of focus in the UK
SIFA (UK) is not up to the job because it is down to volunteers doing the work with no real funding
There are too many local / non-standard workarounds for it to be called a standard.
We are still looking to much at what the US have done and we have more complex requirements / rules.
To make this work we need to invest money and then we can see payback in around 3 years (if it is extensively used)
Ok, if I was to try adn read between the lines (and I am not expecting Phil to respond, so not a prod to him) I would say that someone, somewhere is looking for an entity (a body or perhaps a contracted company) to have some money from the Govt to sort out the above.
I am not saying that this would be a bad thing, but I do think that if there was more funds forthcoming to support SIFA (UK) and give it a tad more direction (such as working with LGA to make sure all LAs and other services affecting children being told to share data and this group would be the way it would be designed) then perhaps we would stil get somewhere.
I'm sure there is a publicly funded body that can lead on this if they get the money rather than a contracted company (cos we all love Govt IT Contracts under *any* Govt) ... oh wait ... there won't be soon.
And as for volunteers ... what have they ever done for computers and IT? It is not as if they are the folk that built the internet or regularly work together on projects? Heck ... all those RFCs from people employed by companies but working for the betterment of others ... they are obviously no good at what they do. (said very tongue-in-cheek).
It does raise some valid points abot the structure of vertical relationships, and the changing landscape of BSF and academies needs to be considered ... but I would also like to ensure that flexibilty is built in so that at the next big Govt direction change (not even a change of Govt, just a change of staff or direction) that the systems will deal with the next bunch of political ideas.
The other key thing in there is about the message management capabilities ... I seem to have had discussions about that before without having a suitable answer about broadcast and directed routing.
Thanks for posting this, Phil.
I had to register for this forum just to provide comment on this. It seems to me that "interoperability review", if that's what the intent of this work was, would include not only a holistic review of the interoperability landscape, but a variety of options for moving forward. I'm not seeing either in this report.
Instead of a holistic view of everything being done around interoperability in the UK education space... Instead of showing both the positive and negative outcomes of the work being done by many people... This paper seems to focus its attention solely on SIF and only cares to mention possible negatives, without diving into any detail whatsoever.
Instead of examining a variety of possible ways forward, including finding more funding for the SIF Association UK to do its work, there seems to be only one way forward being proposed, and it seems to happen to include more money for the group doing the review. Hmmm...
I think the paper speaks for itself on its underlying motives, which show quite visibly around the fragile arguments being made. The arguments being made about SIF being "not designed for this" or "not designed for that" seem to beg the question... Are we just all missing some big spec out there that is actually designed to meet the needs for the whole of the educational marketplace? There is lots of work, indeed to be done to get to the goal of seamless, semantic interoperability. Can't we work together to achieve the goal we are all working towards without this attitude of "not invented here"
I could spend lots of time on this, but I want to clear up some of the most glaring statements that personally affect the work that I do.
- Apparently, whoever wrote this paper didn't know who to ask, but the Web Service roadmap for the SIF specification has been very clearly articulated, and will be released early in 2011
- Backwards compatibility of Web Services agents to existing SIF transport agents will be fully covered by the ZIS. It will be a seamless transition
- SIFA has an international governance structure, and is updating their bylaws to better support international governance.
(Full disclosure... I'm the Co-lead of the SIFA Technical board and spent a lot of time on the design of the UK 1.0 spec).
I think what it's saying is SIF is currently beening said as the solution for the interop problem in the UK, but as is, isn't going to work, so don't expect the UK gov to pay out just yet.
They've highlighted a number of issues, that I know Phil has been shouting for what feels like a life time, with regards to routing and security. At least know it's clear what SIFA needs to do before any major money is invested. Unlike Andrew, I don't see it as some faceless person at the DfE (aka UK Gov) sticking the knife in. They quite clearly agree something must be done and a huge cost saving can be made, so they seem willing to put the cash up. I think they want a clear roadmap and a clear project plan. IE this company will design this bit, this one will do that bit. For this part we're accepting bids from companies for designing this new part.
Anyway, my 2p.
Also remember that this is only one aspect of interoperability ... that of data. There is still a battle about interoperability of applications and systems for *educational* use ... ie ODF use in MIS and VLEs, etc.
So much for Osbourne's pre-election OpenStandards When it comes to IT, big is not beautiful | George Osborne - Times Online
Suits me, bonus points for not forcing myself to taint myself with Office 2007 or the convertor of doom.
Isn't there a Microsoft plan for ODF support?? (Getting of the "SIF" discussion).
I just read it as well.
Some of the issues I agree with; others I disagree with. The phrase "don't throw away the baby with the bath water" comes to mind frequently as I read it, though.
One thing I noticed is that they are using one valid SIF architecture (an architecture being how SIF-enabled applications are connected by Zone Integration Servers in larger implementations) out of several possible valid (and standard) architectures, applying it perhaps where it isn't well suited, then drawing the broad-based conclusion that SIF is not fit for ALL situations.
They are referring to things that fix the "traffic management, delivery and routing services" as "proprietary workarounds". I beg to differ. I think they may be referring to Manged Virtual Zones, perhaps (I don't know of others who have addressed this problem with a product yet, but perhaps there are)? First, it is not proprietary - we've shared the details of how to do it with the community. Second, it uses SIF standard protocols. Third, we are certifying our product that implements it (Envoy) (as soon as the Open Group finishes with our backlog of other agents).
I believe the security issues are good to bring up and we have been addressing them for the past couple of years and are making good progress. The folks in AU are making some good progress in other areas (like role management) that the UK could adopt.
The Data Model - this is my opinion (and it is that only) - the Data Model is going to address a much larger set of data than a standard like SIF ever should. The DM would consist of everything that should ever be stored in an educational institution. A standard like SIF consists of only a small fraction of it that needs to be moved from place to place. Determining the difference between the two and how and when that information should be transmitted is really a different conversation. XML specifications are typically similar to data models but they would be badly designed if they were too similar (look at the way companies like Tibco design the data they move around).
Just some random thoughts...
From my perspective I am relieved to have something in the public domain from an independent source that largely supports the stance that we have taken since 2005.
Ironically after this report was commissioned SIFA UK largely accepted the points that Capita has been making and many of the shortfalls are addressed in the latest specifications. The report is accurate in that propriety solutions are being implemented that address the issues. Equally although the new standards do provide a mechanism to ensure that data is only shared with those that have right to see it, it is not mandatory to use those standards.
Even now SIF does not adequately address the most important data sharing requirement of all i.e. school Ė LA data transfer. SIF has no dialogue capacity built into it and as every LA knows there are lots of disputes between schools and LAs about where children live, who their parents are etc. Getting this wrong endangers children.
Interoperability is crucial however and there is a real danger now that with the austerity measures there wonít be enough money around to do anything. SIF isnít ideal and certainly we would not have started from there however it is available and it solves many problems today. I donít think it has to be dead in the UK but it needs to step up to the plate and fast.
matt40k (3rd September 2010)
Hi all - my first post and foray into the world of EduGeek... Andrew Elmhorst's insights are absolutely worth noting. The report succeeds very well in highlighting the current weaknesses in the SIF standard, but fails to provide alternative options, or to make the logical conclusion that in the absence of any other relevant standard for interoperability, it would surely make some sense to explore the well established foundation of SIF and look to build upon it...
Education, Skills and Children’s Services: Interoperability Review | Future2: Mission Knowledge Economy
I think that Andrew's 'over the pond' comment is very valid!
If you are not convinced that a mixed stakeholder, largely voluntary, community can work in developing an open standard then surely the W3C is a very good example of how it can? That's how we're all here isn't it? ;-)
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