The notion of a world wide web that anticipates a user's needs, and adds a more human touch to mere surfing and searching, has long been a desire and goal. Yet how closer are we to a more "semantic" web? Will such improvements cross over into how enterprises manage semantic data and content?
Our expert panel digs into this and other recent trends in SOA and enterprise IT architecture in the latest BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition, volume 17. Our group also examines Adobe's open source moves around Flex, and how UDDI is becoming more about politics than policy.
Here are some excerpts:
[But] there is activity at the World Wide Web Consortium that’s been going on for a few years now to define various underlying standards and specifications, things like OWL and Sparql and the whole RDF and Ontologies, and so forth.
So, what is the Semantic Web? Well, to a great degree, it refers to some super-magical metadata description and policy layer that can somehow enable universal interoperability on a machine-to-machine basis, etc. It more or less makes the meanings manifest throughout the Web through some self-description capability.
You can look at semantic interoperability as being the global oceanic concern. Wouldn’t be great if every single application, data base, or file that was ever posted by anybody anywhere on the Internet somehow, magically is able to declare its full structure, behavior, and expectations?
Then you can look at semantic interoperability in a well-contained way as being specific to a particular application environment within an intranet or within a B2B environment. ... The whole notion of a "semantic Web," to the extent that we can all agree on a definition, won’t really come to the fore until there is substantial deployment inside of enterprises.
Conceivably, the enterprise information integration (EII) vendors are providing a core piece of infrastructure that could be used to realize this notion of a Semantic Web, a way of harmonizing and providing a logical unified view of heterogeneous data sources.
Red Hat, one of the leading open source players, is very geared to SOA and building an SOA suite. Now, they are acquiring an EII vendor, which itself is very SOA focused. So, you’ve got SOA; you’ve got open source; you’ve got this notion of a semantic layer, and so forth. To me, it’s like, you’ve stirred it all together in the broth here.
That sounds like the beginnings of a Semantic Web that conceivably could be universal or “unversalizable,” because as I said, it’s open source first and foremost.
If we build on this, it does solve a lot of key problems. You end up dealing with universal semantics, how that relates to B2B domains, and how that relates to the enterprise domains.
As I'm deploying and building SOAs out there in my client base, semantic mediation ultimately is a key problem we’re looking to solve.
The average developer is still focused on the functionality of the business solution that they're providing. They know that they may have data in two different formats and they view it in a point-to-point fashion. They do what they have to do to make it work, and then go back to focusing on the functionality, not really seeing the broader semantic issues that come up when you take that approach.
One thing that’s going to happen with the influence of something like Google, which is having a ton of a push in the business right now, is that ultimately these guys are exposing APIs as services. ... They're coming to the realization that the developers that leverage these APIs need to have a shared semantic understanding out on the Web. Once that starts to emerge, you're going to see a push down on the enterprise, if that becomes the de-facto standard that Google is driving.
In fact, they may be in a unique position to create the first semantic clearing house for all these APIs and applications that are out there, and they are certainly willing to participate in that, as long as they can get the hits, and, therefore, get the advertising revenue that’s driving the model.
[Google] is in the API business and they are in the services business. When you're in for a penny, you're in for a pound. ... You start providing access to services, and rudimentary on-demand governance systems to account for the services and test for rogue services, and all those sorts of things. Then you ultimately get into semantics, security, and lots of other different areas they probably didn’t anticipate that they'd get into, but will be pushed into, based on the model they are moving into.
... Perhaps Google or others need to come into the market with a gateway appliance that would allow for policy, privilege, and governance. This would allow certain information from inside the organization that has been indexed in an appliance, say from Google, to then be accessed outside. Who is going to be in the best position to manage that gateway of content on a finely-grained basis? Google.