Much of the early focus in the area of Semantic Web has been on the development of representation languages for static conceptual information; while there has been less emphasis on how to make Semantic Web applications practically useful in the context of knowledge work. To achieve this, a better coupling is needed between ontology, service descriptions, and workflow modeling, including both traditional production workflow and interactive workflow techniques. This chapter reviews the basic technologies involved in this area to provide system and business interoperability, and outlines what can be achieved by merging them in the context of real-world workflow descriptions.
Information systems interoperability has become a critical success factor for process and quality improvement both in private enterprises and the public sector (Linthicum, 2003), and recent technological advances to achieve this include web services and semantics encoded in ontologies. “The Semantic Web” (Berners-Lee, Hendler & Lassila, 2001) is seen as the next generation of web systems, providing better information retrieval, better services, and enhanced interoperability between different information systems. The Semantic Web initiative is currently overseen in the semantic web activity of the W3C, and includes a number of core technologies. Some core technologies that will be relevant to this overview are XML, RDF, RDF/S, OWL, and Web Services (SOAP, WSDL, UDDI). Also newer initiatives such as OWL-S and WSMO are relevant to our work, and will be described in more detail in the article. While these technologies are promising, it can still be argued that alone, they are not sufficient to achieve interoperability in the business domain, allowing for a smooth integration between different information systems within and between organizations. For this to be accomplished, it is not enough to describe ontological metadata about the information and services available – one also needs to know the work context in which the different types of information and services are requested. As observed in (Bubenko, 2007) this is often a challenge, as many ontologists focus on domain ontologies as such, more than their potential usage in applications, as well as having limited knowledge of advances in other areas of conceptual modeling during the last decades. Hence there is a need to integrate ontologies and service descriptions with models of workflows and business processes. Most of the work within these areas focuses on automating routine tasks. While computerization automates routine procedures, knowledge-based cooperation remains a challenge, where we see a role for interactive process models. To the extent that different enterprises use different modeling languages, the interoperability between various models would also emerge as a challenge in its own respect, in which case some unification effort might be needed (Opdahl & Sindre, 2007), one effort in this direction is the Unified Enterprise Modeling Language (UEML)1, not to be confused with the UML.
The purpose of this paper is as follows:
To provide an overview of the relevant technologies (ontology, service models, workflow models, including those being based on interactive models).
To show how these technologies fit together, both in theory (presented as “The interoperability pyramid”) and in practice.
The rest of this paper is structured as follows: The next three sections survey ontologies, service models, and workflow models, respectively. Then an integrated approach to enterprise and IS development is presented, where interoperability among the various systems (and enterprises) would be a major focus. Finally, the last section provides some concluding remarks.Top
Base Technologies And Ontology
We here briefly describe core technologies within the area, including XML, RDF, RDF Schema, and ontologies including an overview of OWL.