With what it sees as two major industry problems specified, branded and tucked up tight – XPG4 and the Common Desktop Environment – X/Open Co Ltd has been looking at how to continue to justify the flow of money to its coffers from its members. It’s also keen to get its message over loud and […]
With what it sees as two major industry problems specified, branded and tucked up tight – XPG4 and the Common Desktop Environment – X/Open Co Ltd has been looking at how to continue to justify the flow of money to its coffers from its members. It’s also keen to get its message over loud and clear, appointing ex-Tandem Computers Inc executive Allen Brain as chief marketing officer. Taking a peek into its crystal ball it reckons the future of open systems resides in the information market for mass consumers, a market that X/Open expects to be worth $450,000m every year by 2011. By comparison it estimates the current client-server market to be worth $45,000m. Building on its Common Applications Environment, the standards body plans to address what it has dubbed the Compatible Information Environment, with standards for the network, software, electronic trading and home and office interaction. The Reading, Berkshire-based body says it has already identified five key areas where it thinks it can add some value – an open systems architecture, the information superhighway, interoperability, security and system and network management. Employing its preferred ‘adopt and adapt’ policy X/Open has, as its starting point, gone to the US Department of Defense, and picked up its Technical Architecture framework for Information Management, which is intended to define what information systems should do.
The Pentagon’s framework is intended to encourage the use of commercial, off-the-shelf software running on open systems and based on broadly supported IEEE Posix 1003 architecture. The body has got a technical reference model coupled with information and designed for use with a methodology. At the moment it is thrashing out the methodology and plans to publish a version of the open systems architecture by November. In 1996, X/Open said it will have moved the project forward with a number of collaborations with other standards groups and commercial organisations, designed to enlarge the amount of information in its technical reference model. As it is, the model consists of three tiers – the application software entity, the application system entity and the external environment interface. The application software entity consists of commercial applications, connected by standard application programming interfaces to the application system entity, containing operating system services, data interchange and data management and bound by internationalisation standards, security and management requirements. These in turn are connected to the External Environment consisting of users, communications and information exchange. It claims it has got three vendors and two users developing the project. The X/Open Security Working Group has already delivered an auditing and authentication snapshot specification, a security guide, a distributed security framework – the basis for specification development and Internet Engineering Task Force’s Generic Security Service, Application Programming Interface Preliminary Specifications and Generic Security Services-Application Programming Interface Extensions to support distributed authentication in heterogeneous environments.
By Ray Hegerty
Planning to address security on the Internet, it will deliver a full Generic Security Services Application Programming Interface this quarter, X/Open Baseline Security Specification preliminary specifications for security functionality and configuration in the fourth quarter and in the first quarter of next year a Generic Security Services-Application Programming Interface preliminary specification for cryptographic services. The X/Open Baseline Security Specification will make use of security features already inherent in Unix, but which are normally delivered ‘switched off’, because they adversely affect the performance of systems. Significant expertise is needed to switch security on, claims Mike Lambert, vice-president and chief technical officer at X/Open. The base line security profile will be delivered to users with safe
defaults defined at installation. Lambert admitted it is a fairly lightweight process in the short term, but in the longer term the group will be considering several other recommendations, including the establishment of application programming interfaces for application transmission across the Web, competing ‘de-facto’ standards including HyperText Markup Langaue and looking to brand a minimum specified browser with the World Wide Web consortium. It’s also planning to investigate agent technology and will work with Sun Microsystems Inc on the project. Lambert claimed Sun is keen to get its Java language in standardised form as soon as possible. With Common Desktop Environment specified – it expects branded products this quarter – the X/Open Desktop work programme is currently working on desktop integration, looking at data typing services, compound documents and navigation. It plans a register of data types, both open – a standard PostScript format – and opaque types, which it said are more difficult to define. It recognises that other organisations are already registering data types, not least Microsoft Corp with Object Linking & Embedding, and said it will work with other groups where pos sible. It has identified two approaches, one a traditional file browser/manager found on Windows and the Web browser.
It’s looking to merge these two technologies to make it easier to find information in a distributed system, blurring the boundary between a local file system and a distributed system. It will begin working on the project next year and will work with Microsoft to integrate Windows with volume systems. The main problems with interoperability, said Lambert, are not technical in nature. Having seen groups such as Standards Promotions and Applications Group going out of business, trying to solve interoperability, he said it went wrong because it never figured out who the customers were, or what they wanted. In the systems management arena the standards body will work with other consortia as an integrator and concentrate on performance management, back-up and restore, software management, performance management and personal computer’s. In 1996 it plans to deliver six to eight brands, including distributed transaction processing, the first interoperability brand with remote data access and the baseline security brand. It will also offer brands from new work areas, although it said it is a bit early to say what they might be. X/Open currently employs 55 people, and said it will be recruiting new staff, primarily sales and management expecting 50% compound growth. It claims that its services now account for 45% of its revenues.