Massachusetts Promotes Open Standards as SOA

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is promoting an Enterprise Open Standards policy that advocates using open-source office applications while at the same time it sets guides for moving to a service-oriented architecture. According to a statement posted on the state’s Web site, the plan is to standardize on platforms and technologies that will make it possible for state government and its partners to more readily exchange and reuse data.

“Information is no longer viewed as an exclusive agency asset but is leveraged and re-used throughout the enterprise while observing appropriate privacy and security protections,” according to Peter Quinn, the state’s CIO. “Electronic records are preserved in open formats that allow for optimal electronic records conservation and availability to the public over long periods of time.”

One of the most critical SOA decisions for the Commonwealth is the adoption of XML as the primary standard for data interoperability, Quinn says. “XML has become the lingua franca of application integration, facilitating application interoperability, regardless of platform or programming language.”

Unless there are compelling reasons not to use XML, Quinn says, agencies should consider incorporating XML into all their projects. Some agencies are just beginning to create XML-aware applications. The portal uses XML to separate content from presentation, for example.

In addition, Massachusetts agencies have until Jan. 1, 2007, to install applications that support OpenDocument file formats. Massachusetts endorsed using Adobe’s PDF, which meets the “criteria of openness and therefore considered acceptable." Documents need to adhere to a version of PDF that supports XML.

"Given the majority of executive department agencies currently use office applications such as MS Office, Lotus Notes and WordPerfect that produce documents in proprietary formats, the magnitude of the migration effort to this new open standard is considerable," Quinn says.

The OpenDocument format, which the state ratified as a standard last May, includes word processors, spreadsheets and other applications such as Sun’s StarOffice app suite.

Quinn says the state met with industry representatives earlier this year about office applications and its standards, and the discussions centered on office documents, their importance for the current and future accessibility of government records, and the relative openness of the format options available to us, Quinn says.