GAIN Introduction | Global Architecture & Information Network Initiative | www.GAINInitiative.net

 

The Global Architecture[i] & Information Network (GAIN for short) is an initiative to enable more effective government, business opportunities, transparent government and job creation by building on and extending the U.S. leadership success in the internet combined with open source software and industry standards.

The core of the opportunity is to create a "network of information" that will allow for federation of government and commercial organizations processes, services, data and plans.  The imperatives for integration and collaboration are well established: greater collaboration and integration means more effective government, more profitable business, visibility and leadership.  Collaboration, integration and information visibility are the cornerstones of a wide range of initiatives from economic recovery to fighting terrorism.

To realize President Obama's Initiatives of transparent, participatory and collaborative government we need pervasive access to information.  That information will be on the internet and must be able to be understood, accessed, linked analyzed and repurposed.  The network of information and architectures GAIN can provide could be the backbone of the information resource to support these bold initiatives in the form of a Data Cloud for government information.

The key enabler of the Global Architecture Integration Network is a "backbone" of open source software and government architectures that can lay the foundation for GAIN and spur commercial tools, infrastructure, services and architectures that will build on the foundation provided by the backbone.  This backbone can be provided by a joint effort of government, industry, standards organizations, and universities.

More information on GAIN can be found on: http://www.GAINInitiative.net

Enabling transformation of government and industry

Transforming government to be more open and efficient, our military to adapt to a changing world and our industrial capacity to be more competitive are enormously difficult tasks.  The habits, cultures and processes that were successful 50 years ago are holding us back in the 21st century.  The world is different, the economy is different, and technology is different.  However, change is hard, very hard - particularly in large institutions.  It can be disruptive, expensive and frightening.  Changes can not be made in a vacuum, if not planned properly such change can cause more harm than good.  GAIN is an enabler to architecting change intelligently, with visibility and by federating architected plans to be mutually supportive.  GAIN is an approach to making information pervasive, visible and usable.  This federated approach to solutions is a fundamental shift from the ad-hoc, closed and stove-piped data, architectures and plans we have today.

What the Global Architecture Integration Network Can Enable

Success in the 21st century is defined by an organization's, communities or individual's ability to collaborate, to integrate, and to leverage the information, skills and resources of others.  However, success in collaboration is mitigated by a key factor - you can't leverage what you don't understand.

GAIN is, essentially an enabling software technology infrastructure that will allow us to better understand what each other knows, has, can provide or can do.  This crucial information is currently "locked up" in proprietary and difficult to access artifacts - each of these artifacts is part of an organization's or community's information assets.  GAIN will help turn this crucial information into internet resources - connected, linked, visible, secure and accessible.  In "Web 2.0" terminology, GAIN is essentially a "Social Cloud" for business and systems information and architectures.

Consider the following examples of where integration of information and architectures enables crucial initiatives:

Example Applications of GAIN

  • Financial Recovery - Where is the money going? How is it being spent? What effects should we expect and are we getting them? Providing this kind of visibility requires integrating information from disparate sources with different objectives and different ways to understand and account for funds.  What the recovery program needs is architecture - one that embraces the architecture for how we are going to stimulate the economy and how we are going to measure the results.  This simply can't be done in a monolithic way; it has to be a federation of architectures across government and financial institutions, of information and of metrics.  GAIN can provide the backbone for financial recovery information and for making the national investment visible.
  • Healthcare - improving healthcare in the United States and making it pervasively available to everyone is now recognized as a national imperative.  The architecture of the healthcare system involves everything from medical records to privacy policy and will require an unprecedented level of collaboration and integration between healthcare providers, consumers, product vendors, insurance companies and government.  Making this transformation without a coherent architecture of healthcare and healthcare information would not be possible, but a monolithic government solution is impractical - the ability to federate these diverse resources, needs and viewpoints, making them work together without being overly prescriptive is a crucial enabler.  GAIN can help healthcare transform into a more effective community.
  • Joint forces - joint forces, networked and integrated, provide for more effective projection of power and political stability as we work with our partners to fight terrorism and aggressive rogue nations.  But, joining forces is hard - it is hard because we have different goals, cultures, command languages, strategies and technologies.  The architecture of the force provides the basic information needed to collaborate - to integrate key systems and coordinate complex campaigns.  Effective defense depends on information - information is a strategic advantage of our armed forces.  By making that information more connected and available our forces will be even more effective.  The mechanisms for joining forces are currently ad-hoc and unreliable.  Understanding the forces and their capabilities is key to joining those forces in battle.
  • Terrorist information integration - information to protect America comes from a wide variety of sources and is vital to a wide variety of information consumers.   Developing and sharing this information requires collaboration across agencies within and outside of our boarders.  The shared and federated architecture of terrorist information and supporting collaborative processes is vital to getting the right information to the right people so that action can be taken quickly and decisively.  Understanding these federated information resources and processes can be enabled through GAIN.

Kinds of Networked Architectures

While the above are examples of what GAIN can be used for the following are examples of the kind of information that could be shared and federated across the architecture network.

  • Data integration - it is now well understood how integration and sharing of data is crucial for national defense, profitable businesses and effective government.  Before you can share data you have to understand what data is available, what terminology is used, the authority required to access it and its structure.  Data architectures are pervasive but disconnected; enabling a network of data architectures enables better data integration. Within the government the "Data Reference Model" initiative of the OMB has started to provide a foundation for federated data architectures, GAIN would take that work further to a deployed, open and federated infrastructure, integrated with industry standards and tools.
  • Consolidation of services - Government and commercial organizations alike depend on the services of others.  The ability to use the services that result from the core competencies and investments of other organizations allows each organization to be more focused and more effective.  The government wastes billions of dollars redundantly reproducing services that would be best provided by someone else.  Since these redundant capabilities are often not part of the organizations focus they are ineffectively managed and delivered - often inferior to alternatives that cost less.  The "line of business" (LOB) consolidation currently recommended by the OMB is an example of service consolidation.  However, understanding the services available and what would be required to integrate those services into the enterprise can be a difficult and error prone task.  Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) has become recognized as a key enabler of joining both businesses and systems using services.  By understanding the architecture of the services offered by others and how they relate to the needs of the organization we can more effectively use services and consolidate capabilities.  By understanding the information of service interchange we can communicate effectively.
  • Process integration - Business, government, technical and military processes are, by their nature, interdependent.  As organizations collaborate they frequently need to better understand and integrate with each others processes.  Advances in "business process management" (BPM) over the last decade have provided benefits within organizations as they improve their processes but have done little to leverage cross-functional process for the same reasons as our other examples; we don't have the mechanisms to find, use and leverage each others processes.  Process architectures that are open and accessible allow our providers, consumers and collaborators to better understand how we work so they can more effectively work with us.  Processes are just another kind of information that needs to be integrated.
  • Integration of architecture standards and tools - there are currently a variety of architecture and modeling standards and tools from both government and industry.    These are known by a sea of acronyms including the FEA, DoDAF, UML, MDA, BPM, HLA and the semantic web.  What has happened is that each of these has become insular and stove piped such that information is not effectively shared within or between organizations or industries.  Information becomes "trapped" in tools or is presented in forms that are hard to manage or integrate - such as large text documents.  GAIN can provide a foundation for the integration of the information trapped in these stovepipes, making it universally available and connected on the internet. 
  • Cyber Security - Security in I.T. systems must bring together policy, systems management, trust management, threat analysis and technology to thwart an increasingly sophisticated threat.  GAIN can help integrate this diverse information to better design, implement and manage a secure infrastructure.
  • Metrics - metrics provides us with the way to measure the effectiveness of our plans.  Without metrics our plans are wishful thinking about what may happen or unsupported conjecture about what has happened.  We have to architect how to measure results and how to connect those results to our goals.  Considering that this information comes from a variety of sources and is consumed for a variety of purposes, metrics needs to be federated and integrated.
  • Enterprise, segment and technology architectures - Every agency, department and organization wants to consider itself "the enterprise" - independent of the rest of the world.  But every enterprise is part of the greater enterprise and every enterprise has parts - each wanting some independence.  So understanding an enterprise is by its nature a federation - a federation that includes the enterprise "above" the enterprise segments "below" and the supply chains it works with.  The national Architecture Network is this federation - a federation at the national level but one than can reach down to each agency, department and project in the government sector or each company, organization, department and system in the private sector. 

 

Of course the GAIN backbone can not instantly transform all existing information and achieve all of the above benefits over night, what it can do is provide the backbone enabling technologies, core information vocabularies, architectures and initiatives that, like the internet backbone, can organically grow in scope and power as more and more information & architectures sources are "plugged together" across the network.  It is a tool for transformation and enabling change.  What we can do now, right now, is put this backbone in place - not with new wires and network switches, we have those, but with open software, open standards and a national community focused on collaboration and integration at all levels of industry and government.  The net effect will be jobs in the short term, more effective government, visibility, more efficient businesses, an ecosystem of products and services and continued leadership in internet technologies.

Technology

Understanding the need for something like GAIN needs to be put in context of how information & architectures are integrated today.  Today "files" that may be spreadsheets, documents, models, diagrams or XML are sent in emails or sometimes posted on the web.  Each of these files is a little "stovepipe" of information that is not connected or easily integrated.  In many cases the information has to be manually transcribed into a consumer's favorite tool or format.  This is expensive, error prone and discourages sharing the information.  GAIN, by contrast, would allow for information to be immediately accessible and easily integrated into the consumer's web pages, applications, modeling tools, plans or analysis by linking the data across the internet.  One exciting possibility is that GAIN could leverage "crowd sourcing" by having some information updated in a wiki-like community.

The GAIN initiative is not intended as a research project or replacement for current technologies, but to extend and integrate technologies, standards and information - building on existing infrastructure, projects and software.  The internet is the critical connectivity platform for GAIN and can be used as-is.  GAIN will also leverage existing and emerging standards, particularly those from the OMG[1] and W3C[2].  In addition, open source technologies available from reliable sources such as Apache[3], Eclipse[4] and CodePlex[5] can be used to build the technology support for GAIN.  To make it open and pervasive all software developed under GAIN will be open source and freely available for both government and industry to use and build on.

GAIN will enable a Data Cloud for users and publishers of information, globally, to publish, analyze, reference and participate in the evolution of raw data, architectures and vocabularies.  A core concept is Shared Concept Hubs.  A shared concept hub allows information to be grounded in one or more hubs without requiring a "one size fits all" global vocabulary.  These hubs are the cornerstone for information sharing.

It is not the intent of this document to detail the technical approach but some of the technologies and standard that are expected to be considered for integration into the GAIN backbone are:, Model Driven Architecture® (MDA[ii], Semantic Web / Open Linked Data, Unified Modeling Language TM , Service Oriented Architecture, DoDAF, Federal Enterprise Architecture, Data Reference Model, ISO 11179, BPM, SQL, RDF, OWL, Meta Object Facility, Linked Data, XML, Web Services, XBRL, OpenSocial, RSS, ATOM, etc.

Of particular interest is the use of Open Linked Data and the Semantic Web as the data model for the GAIN Data Cloud.  This is a standard web-based data format that allows data of various kinds, vocabularies, sources, semantics and authors to be federated, queried and analyzed. It is based on the "Resource Description Framework" (RDF) - a very open and general way to publish data. There are existing standards as well as open source and commercial implementations of these technologies.

While the GAIN backbone is intended to be open source, it is fully expected that commercial products as well as open source technologies will build on, extend and integrate with the backbone - helping to create industrial opportunities worldwide


 

[1] Object Management Group - http://www.omg.org

[2] W3C - http:www.w3c.org

[3] Apache Software Foundation - http://www.apache.org

[4] Eclipse Foundation - http://www.eclipse.org

[5] Codeplex - http://www.codeplex.com

 


 

[i] Architectures in this context are the plans and designs for how a "system" works.  That system may be the government as a whole, an agency, department, I.T. system or business.  Architectures, in one form or another, are how we get our goals and ideas realized by effectively applying our resources.  The architectures we are focusing on include business, enterprise and technology architectures - all of which must work together.

[ii] Model Driven Architecture and Unified Modeling Language are trademarks of the Object management Group