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OpenEAI educational middleware launch imminent

The University of Illinois, SCT Corp. and Open Integration, Inc. are about to unveil the open source Enterprise Application Integration (OpenEAI) project. The project will define an XML based message format and a message protocol with standardised APIs in Java for enterprise integration purposes. Certainly sounds like OKI...

The project development will be led by a new OpenEAI foundation that has been closely modelled on the Apache software foundation- though OpenEAI will use the GPL and variants. While the foundation is new, the basis of the project itself dates from 2000, and followed from an effort to properly integrate over 150 enterprise applications in the University of Illinois system. The idea behind the integration effort was to deploy a new ERP system; SCT corp's, as it happens.

Though details are a bit sketchy as yet, the main reason the new project looks like OKI, but isn't, is mainly one of timing. It appears that a lot of the OpenEAI foundation and message object APIs, some reference implementations of typical message-aware applications and message gateways as well as critical infrastructure applications have already been developed. In other words, a lot of it seems to have already been there when OKI took off. Witness also the fact that a prime motivation for open sourcing the lot was interest from outsiders in what Illinois was doing.

There are, however, some other differences with OKI. For a start, OpenEAI corresponds to OKI's common services layer (the bit that does file services, authentication etc.), but it doesn't seem to have an equivalent for OKI's more chalkface Educational Services layer. Also, where OKI is very modular, OpenEAI seems more focussed on glueing existing applications together via gateways. A lot of emphasis is put on not just specifying APIs and message formats, but also on procedures for capturing requirements and how to translate those in OpenEAI terms. Finally, though OpenEAI is also largely based on Java, more emphasis is placed on its own XML applications for the data models rather than just relying on Java messaging.

To have more than one open source project in the educational infrastructure sphere is not actually bad, of course. The strengths of one will provide a good benchmark for the other. And since both projects are open source and very similar in technology, some useful cross-fertilisation of code ought to be possible. If not, than gateways between the two systems should be able to iron out most interoperability issues.

There is no website for the OpenEAI project yet, but interested parties can sign themselves up for a mailing list in which further developments will be anounced.

Source: SCT press release.

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