SIF Association

This blog is run by the staff of the SIF (Schools/Systems Interoperability Framework) Association for the use of it's members and the general educational community.

It is specifically designed for those who are interested in understanding what SIF is about, where the standard is going and how Schools, Districts and State Educational Authorities will benefit.

Friday, September 14, 2012

SIF v3.0 Infrastructure High Level Feature Set

The SIF v3.0 infrastructure (the “wire” part of “CEDS on the Wire”) provides some powerful and long awaited enhancements to the “SIF classic” HTTP/S infrastructure, which today provides a secure and reliable message exchange mechanism for applications interoperating in a SIF v2.x Zone.

These infrastructure enhancements all conform to the set of infrastructure release “Commandments” discussed in an earlier posting, and they are highlighted below.

1 Provide total independence from the SIF Data Model Schema

The existing SIF v2.x SOAP/WSDL transport provides the basis of the SIF v3.0 infrastructure, eliminating the data model dependencies present in the “SIF classic” infrastructure. This allows the new infrastructure to carry SIF object data from any locale without change, or for that matter, to carry data payloads defined by any standard that is independent of the infrastructure that transports it.

2 Increase Scalability

Several existing SIF v2.x performance limitations are being addressed and mitigated. This includes combining the 2-step handshake around every message received by a Pull Mode Agent into a single message exchange between Client and Service, which can double Pull Mode Agent throughput in periods of high message traffic. 

3 Support Direct REST Client / Server connections

This new functionality, which among other things extends the range of SIF conformant data exchanges to include applications running on mobile devices, was described in a previous posting.

4 Align Infrastructure Services APIs with middleware components

The service interfaces to SIF v3.0 infrastructure functionality have been re-structured to more closely match the individual services defined by middleware architecture (such as an ESB, Service Registry and Queue Manager).  As a result it will be easier for middleware architects to understand the functionality required to support a SIF Zone, and more straightforward to construct SIF infrastructure solutions based upon middleware product suites.

5 Define process “behavior” as well as data exchange formats

SIF v3.0 Functional Services generalize the older Zone Services and provide a way to define and encapsulate the behavior of educational processes so that the underlying message exchange sequences are made invisible to clients.  Some examples of currently targeted Functional Services include Enroll Student, Transfer Student and Score Test Results.

6 Support XQuery functionality

The current SIF-specific Extended Query message defined in SIF v2.x will be replaced in SIF v3.0 with the industry standard and more powerful XQuery functionality.

7 Standardize Zone Diagnostic and Preventative Maintenance “hooks”

SIF v3.0 defines additional “Zone Management” functionality designed to help central administrators dynamically monitor and proactively improve the overall health of the zones they manage.  This includes the ability to actively track Zone bottlenecks, load imbalances and application failures.

Several of these infrastructure advances will be described in more detail in the coming weeks, along with the SIF v3.0 migration strategy which outlines how existing vendors and end users can transition their SIF-compliant products and zones to the new release.

The complete 3.0 infrastructure specification itself is expected to be published in late January 2013.