At a recent NCC workshop on we spent a while discussing what is meant in terms of Integration and Interoperability. Both heavily used terms in the industry but that actually are hard to define once you come down to it. The used Wikipedia definitions for “Joined up” and “Seamless” and as such suggested that:
Integration equivalent to “Joined Up”
Interoperability equivalent to “Seamless”
I’ve looked for these definitions on Wikipedia and must confess I couldn’t find them. Having said that I am not sure why they didn’t just look up Integration or Interoperability directly – that said the definitions leave you with wondering why there are two words at all?
Digital integration is the idea that data or information on any given electronic device can be read or manipulated by another device using a standard format.
Interoperability is the ability of two or more systems or components to exchange information and to use the information that has been exchanged (IEEE)
Wikipedia does go on to say that Interoperability is the capability of different programs to exchange data via a common set of business proceduresall of which doesn’t add much clarity.
They also include the ISO/IEC 2382-01 definition that adds ... in a manner that requires the user to have little or no knowledge of the unique characteristics of those units” which could lead back to the ‘seamless’ interpretation which to my mind is also a concern.
Personally, I don’t think any of these fully capture the essence of Integration and Interoperability and come to that matter, I use them so frequently that I am now not sure how I would define them myself!
Anyway, by the end of that part of the workshop I did end up with a mind map from what was discussed that I think provides quite a good coverage of the issues that integration interoperability encompass.
Oh yes, and as for the rest of the workshop ... that’s more than enough for another blog but I need to do some more thinking on that first!
But if you’re interested take a look at the NCC EA-SE professionalism programme and join in the fun!
Integration simply means to put things together in a causaly connected way. In other words to create a system. Interoperability means that our system is created out of components that are connected via a defined interface that allows them to be removed and replaced without damage to the rest of the system. For example: If I were to weld the wheels on my car they would be integrated. However, the fact that they are bolted on via a standardized hole pattern, they are interoperable with all of the other wheels on the market that are manufactured to that same pattern. The acid test of a pluggable architecture is in the unplugging.