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SchemaServer Provides Interoperability and Information Flow for OntologyStream

Published
  • July 01 2003, 1:00am EDT
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REVIEWER: Dr. Paul S. Prueitt, research professor at George Washington University and Founder of OntologyStream, Inc.

BACKGROUND: OntologyStream is a Virginia-based company focused on incorporating knowledge science and technology into eGovernment and intelligence applications. The company integrates computer science, social science and biology for deliverables to clients, including government agencies and universities. Expertise includes intellectual property evaluation using a latent semantic index on patent disclosures and development of the Knowledge Sharing Core System.

PLATFORMS: We use Internet Explorer 6 to display the Java-based interface, which connects via XML and SOAP to an ASP- hosted version of SchemaServer. The host machine is an Intel Pentium II with 256MB RAM, with Windows 2000 Server SP2, SQL Server 2000 and the .NET Framework SDK. A UNIX/Oracle/J2EE version is available. The "no-install" browser interface is instrumental to distributed access and remote collaboration, a key aspect of enterprise schema management.

PROBLEM SOLVED: In government intelligence operations, information exchanged is often produced by analysts who seek to integrate information from disparate applications, while preserving original context. Automating the reconciliation and propagation of shared schema and meta data definitions across distributed systems saves time and enables real-time information production.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The gift that SchemaServer presents to the enterprise is a way to simply import, reconcile and export collaboratively defined schema and meta data specifications, enabling interoperability and information flow among disparate systems. A comprehensive Web-based interface controls object ownership, attributes, workflow for remote collaboration, impact analysis, change management and synchronization of various databases, software applications or content management systems that utilize the enterprise schema. SchemaServer v2 provides the means to increase the availability, exchange and fidelity of intelligence by exposing the structures and terminology needed for interoperability. The product supports productivity increases among the data managers, application integrators and information consumers. It supports multilingual taxonomy, ontology and controlled vocabulary constructs. Individual terms are localized into an object that is attached to a hierarchical structure. This structure supports several patent-pending processes, including an advanced indexing and search mechanism. A key capability is community-based control over vocabularies, which serve to eliminate the "impedance mismatch" that otherwise blocks information flow. Vocabulary construction and index maintenance tools support shifts of viewpoint. As community needs change, these tools facilitate the modification of shared terminology. Impact analysis and change management rules govern schema evolution.

STRENGTHS: SchemaServer v2 provides cutting- edge enterprise schema modeling, collaboration and change management capabilities, while preserving subtle nuances that improve clarity. It is the best choice for cross-application, enterprise-level schema management and for people trying to enable information sharing and reuse, ranging from databases and content management systems to XML schema. For our clients, information production work involves a reconciliation of different informational structures. This is a collaborative (sometimes political) process requiring ownership definition, consensus-building, voting, veto-power, etc. SchemaLogic is the best I've seen in this domain, providing granularity and flexibility.

WEAKNESSES: A cultural shift toward "schema as shared asset" is required to adopt SchemaLogic's full capability. We made the judgment that enterprise schema management is a cornerstone of information sharing, but individuals will find SchemaLogic uninteresting if they prefer "data silos."

SELECTION CRITERIA: We selected SchemaLogic because we wanted an active schema repository that unifies disparate systems, designed for distributed collaboration within active communities of practice and rapid change. Our goal is information sharing, reduced integration costs and adaptable systems. Because nuances and local variation contribute to information fidelity, we wanted a solution that can balance between mandated compliance to the "meta" schema and arbitrary diversity. We also wanted a Web- based client interface to eliminate desktop installation issues.

DELIVERABLES: The software is made available either through a Web-based interface to a hosted repository or through an installation of a .NET or J2EE SchemaServer within corporate or agency networks.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The tech support staff is friendly and helpful.

DOCUMENTATION: The technical documentation is in the form of online help and PDF documents, which provide a reasonable foundation beneath a well-developed knowledge management methodology.

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