Enterprises of all types see increasing value in standards-based development and integration, and they often look to the TM Forum for deep and consistent models of business process, data, applications and system architecture. Moving from analysis through design to implementation, a portion of a project’s focus typically shifts from process and data models to message specifications.
Like other standards organizations, the TM Forum is well known for both data models and message specifications. These standards often overlap and interact, but they fill distinct roles, so it is interesting to trace the paths of their evolution and likely future. And integrators and enterprises reveal their integration philosophies by the way they employ them.
Data models have evolved from both "top-down" and "bottom-upv perspectives. The principal TM Forum information and data model, the Information Framework (SID), shares the top-down, domain-oriented perspectives of the other TM Forum Solution Frameworks. Like the other frameworks, it has a hierarchical structure that supports decomposition or "drill-down" into successively finer levels of detail. At the same time, it has been developed and enhanced from the bottom up by contributions from many sources at multiple levels of detail, and it embraces a "blade" concept that allows domain-specific additions to be made without disrupting the rest of a domain.
Successful message specifications have generally emphasized top-down development to ensure consistency across messages and message sets. Even large-project message specifications like the TM Forum's MTOSI and OSS/J, which rely on multiple design and implementation teams often working in parallel, use centrally managed design guidelines, message patterns, and common data models developed over time. Lessons learned from their success are reflected in the new generation of interfaces designed and implemented under the TM Forum Interface Program. This program will support a variety of interface styles, including but surpassing the scope of MTOSI and OSS/J, and all implemented on a shared framework based on a common data model.
In my next post, I'll look at the ways in which a single data model can support a variety of application and SOA integration philosophies.
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