Client/server architecture and many distributed computing systems use multiple languages and technologies for differing parts of their system. The difference in these languages or technologies could pose a serious barrier to creating a workable system. That’s where interoperability comes in.
Interoperability in programming could be defined as the ability for two or more languages to interact or communicate for effective information in a system. This study of interoperability is advantageous because it enables languages and technological design to be improved or enhanced to perform specific tasks. It also allows languages to communicate effectively, which helps build a better system.
The degree of interoperability among interconnected systems varies. These include:
This is also sometimes referred to as "Structural interoperability." This is when two or more systems can communicate and exchange information with compatible protocols. Recognized formatting standards, such as XML and SQL, help with syntactic compatibility. The structure and design of the data to be utilized in the exchange of information are determined by the standards in this field.
This is the ability of systems to automatically share and comprehend information. Machine computable logic, inferencing, knowledge discovery, and data federation amongst information systems require semantic interoperability.
As a result, semantic interoperability concerns data packing (syntax) and the simultaneous transfer of meaning with the data (semantics). This is performed by adding metadata (information about the data) and tying each element to a standardized or shared vocabulary. Syntactic interoperability is a prerequisite for semantic interoperability.
Data is not only shared between two or more systems with semantic interoperability, but each system also understands it. Two or more systems can communicate and share data through syntactic interoperability, but the interface and programming languages must be compatible.
To be interoperable, two or more systems must be capable of exchanging, interpreting, and displaying shared data in a way that each can understand the other. This requires the establishment of 'syntactic' interoperability, which necessitates using standard data formats and data structure protocols. Then there's 'semantic' interoperability, which necessitates metadata to link each data element to a standardized, shared vocabulary.
This shared vocabulary contains associated links to an ontology – a data model representing a set of concepts within a domain – along with relationships amongst those concepts.
The benefits of interoperability are:
- All appropriate parties can have access to data.
- Reduces the time it takes to process data, enhancing organizational efficiency.
- Interoperable systems have lower costs since they demand fewer resources and more upkeep.
Interoperability isn't the same as integration.
While the words are used interchangeably, there's a difference between the two concepts. Although integration also ensures two or more applications are able to work together such that data from one can be accessed by the other, it is necessary to use a third-party—middleware in software terms—to translate the data and make it "function" for the receiving system. Interoperability on the other hand ensures a direct link between the two different systems.
They are quite similar but differ at a point.
Two or more programs in the same environment interacting while separately conducting duties without interfering with another app or system are referred to as Compatibility.
Compatibility differs from interoperability in that the two apps or systems do not have to communicate. They both reside in the same location.
The concept of interoperability is one that has revolutionized the way systems interact. And the more it is taken into consideration when building applications, the more efficient a product could be.