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IMS Enterprise group considers move to transactions model

In its status report at the IMS Open Technical Forum in San Francisco, the IMS Enterprise working group outlined a future move away from information models to a transaction-based specification.

Geoff Collier, co-chair of the Enterprise Working Group and a consultant for EduWorks, announced a number of developments in the IMS Enterprise specification.

IMS Enterprise has been adopted by a number of vendors and universities, particularly in the UK. Vendors have also been adding extensions to the specification to meet specific needs.

However, because the current specification provides an information model but no model of communication between systems, a number of proprietary transactional interoperability models have been developed.

In a future version of the specification, IMS intends to provide a standard set of interactions developers can use. Although Collier admitted that a completely 'out of the box' Enterprise integration is extremely unlikely, by moving to a transactional specification it is hoped that the process of interoperability will be simplified.

A number of experts in the group are contributing to the development of the transactional model, including representatives from Sun, Blackboard and WebCT. Initial consultation in this area "scared the hell out of us" admitted Collier, but the working group "know what we're up against".

Collier did not mention the specific transaction model under discussion, but we understand it to be based on an open web services model consistent with previous IMS architecture discussions. The group is also looking at SIF (the Schools Interoperability Framework) and ADL's messaging specification for SCORM.

The transaction model will be part of version 2.0 of the Enterprise specification, a public draft of which is expected in May 2002. The new version will also mark a move away from using an XML DTD, instead presenting a binding as an XML Schema. Version 2.0 will also add new features, including a gradebook function.

Collier also announced an interim release of IMS Enterprise, version 1.1. This version, expected in February 2002, codifies a number of vendor's extensions to the specification. Version 1.1 will use a DTD rather than an XML Schema, so as not to "destabilize people working with 1.0".

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