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Toward a Conceptual Foundation for Interoperation

Jack C. Wileden

Convergent Computing Systems Laboratory
Computer Science Department
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Box 34610
Amherst MA 01003-4610 USA
Tel: (413) 545-0289
Fax: (413) 545-1249



There is steadily growing interest in constructing software applications that incorporate components from a variety of sources. Individuals and organizations involved in developing, operating or maintaining such applications increasingly face interoperability problems - situations in which components that were implemented using different underlying models or languages must be combined into a single unified application. To aid in overcoming such problems, a range of interoperability approaches have begun to be employed. Unfortunately, existing approaches suffer from various shortcomings. These shortcomings can often be traced to a lack of suitable foundations for understanding important aspects of interoperability.

This position paper advocates the development of some necessary foundations for interoperability. Such foundations would contribute to the conceptual base of several areas of computer science, notably including programmming languages and software engineering. These foundations would also have potential practical value, since they could provide a basis for developing improved tools and techniques applicable to interoperability problems facing practicing software professionals.

Our primary focus, in our own research and in this position paper, is on two crucial aspects of interoperability: name management and typing. Name management - how computing systems allow names to be established for entities, permit entities to be accessed using names, and control the availability and meaning of names at any point in time - and typing are both important issues that have been addressed in many computer science domains. From the perspective of interoperability problems, however, previous work on name management and typing is not sufficiently general or robust to contribute to the desired foundations. We therefore see a need for a conceptual foundation for interoperation in the form of rigorous, formal models for relevant aspects of name management, typing and possibly additional aspects of interoperability.

Keywords: Components, interoperability, conceptual foundation, name management, typing

Workshop Goals: Learning; networking; developing a research agenda for foundations of component-based systems.

next up previous
Next: 1 Background Up: FoCBS

Jack Wileden
Sept. 2, 1997