GSA Modernizes With Open-Source Stack

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2005-11-21

The federal government is in the process of building out an open-source stack of software to be used across agencies to develop, deploy and maintain applications across the life cycle.

At a meeting of the Object Management Groups U.S. Government Working Group here last week, George Thomas, a chief architect at the General Services Administration, said the GSA is leading the effort to deliver an OSERA (Open Source eGov Reference Architecture) that will feature foundational technologies such as MDA (Model Driven Architecture), an ESB (enterprise service bus), an SOA (service-oriented architecture) and the Semantic Web, among other things.

Specific open-source components will include the JBoss application server and the Eclipse application development environment, Thomas said.

Overall, the OSERA stack is aimed at helping to save the government time and money in developing applications. MDA is used to create and maintain systems based on models.

Thomas said part of the interest in open-source computing is that the reference technology at GSA "is not something the government needs to own but that the public needs to own. ... We want to make this available to the world."

Indeed, the OSERA effort is part of an overall business and IT modernization plan the government is putting into effect, Thomas said.

"Were working with Eclipse and JBoss and trying to find the metadata magic in the middle," he said. "Were looking at the Semantic Web as the persistence layer."

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Corey Casanave, president of Data Access Technologies Inc., in Vienna, Va., whose company is expert in MDA and is helping the GSA to develop OSERA, said the ESB solution they are considering uses BPEL (Business Process Execution Language), the JBoss application server, Web services and policy engines. "And the newcomer on the block is the Semantic Web ... for how we can publish things as reusable artifacts on the Web," Casanave said.

Casanave said one of the "dirty little secrets" about MDA is that there are too many ways to talk about the same thing, "with redundant and conflicting semantics."

However, "the Semantic Web provides a great way to publish models as Web services," he said.

According to Casanave, OSERA is a work in progress. "The idea here is this is an initiative, and were looking for participants to make this a happening," he said, noting that he is a child of the 1960s, when "happening" was a cool term.

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