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On this page, we provide our view on some of the key notions of open distributed processing.

[community] [distribution] [enterprise] [federation] [open distributed processing (ODP)] [openness]


A set of stakeholders with overlapping values or intentions. Or a set of agents with similar behaviour or structure.

(This is a general notion, intended to encompass such notions as coalition, market, organization, culture, group and cluster.)


There are three notions of distribution that come together in the ODP vision.
Management distribution Power, authority and responsibility is not located in a single person or company, but is spread across a network of many managers in many organizations. 

This is sometimes called Federation.

Information distribution Information is communicated between points in space-time. Delays in transmission and availability are caused by various obstructions, including: people, procedures, technology and security controls.
System distribution Technical systems are composed of devices spread across multiple locations.
Veryard Project Papers Distribution of Cost, Benefit and Risk


An enterprise is a way of being enterprising. The term is commonly used for a fixed body of enterprise, with definite legal status, several bank accounts and a stock exchange listing. However, a transient collaboration without any of these attributes can also be regarded as an enterprise.

The term enterprise model sometimes refers to a model of the entire enterprise. However, we prefer to use the term to refer
to a model of a system that focuses on particular aspects relevant to the enterprise, including contractual relationships, roles and
responsibilities, and resources. (In RM-ODP and related work, this is called the enterprise viewpoint or the enterprise projection.)

Veryard Project Papers Enterprise Modelling


Federation is a method of scaling up organizations (organizational solutions) and distributed systems (technical solutions).

It can be used for interconnecting previously disjoint organizations and systems (reducing interaction distance) and for partitioning previously fully connected organizations and systems (increasing interaction distance).

The distinguishing feature is the use of negotiation to bring potentially competing and noncooperating parties together. Firms that adopt or evolve into this model [i.e. federalism] typically have strong central leadership and a culture that encourages cooperation and learning. Accomplishing it, of course, requires negotiating skills, and the willingness of managers to take the time to negotiate.

Source: T.H. Davenport, R.G. Eccles & L. Prusak, 'Information Politics' Sloan Management Review 34/1, Fall 1992, 53-65

Open Distributed Processing (ODP)

Open distributed processing (ODP) is an umbrella term for a number of concepts and architectures for distributed computer systems. Architectures include the ODP Reference Model, CORBA, DCE and ANSA, as well as more recent platform architectures for web services.

The key features of ODP are as follows::
Federation The lack of central authority over software design or configuration.
Interoperability The ability to link and reconfigure systems and services.
Heterogeneity The ability to link across different platforms and protocols.
Transparency The ability to hide complications from users.
Trading / Broking The presence of intermediary agents, to promote and distribute software artefacts and services.

Veryard Project Papers Open Distributed Processing


Notions of openness can be divided into those that focus on technological openness, those that focus on organizational/management openness, and those that focus on market openness.
Technological openness Allowing the use of components from various suppliers in the design and development of computer systems, using common standards to help achieve significant economic benefits. Includes portability, interconnection, interoperability and distributability.
Organizational or 
management openness
Open-ended and incremental systems. Continual evolution and adaptation. Absence of barriers. Possibility of surprise.
Market openness Level playing field. Low entry barriers. Low exit barriers.

Technological openness

The idea of technologically open systems is to allow the use of components from various suppliers in the design and development of computer systems, using common standards to help achieve significant economic benefits.

Technological openness can be characterized in the following ways:


The capability of implementing programs without change on different computer systems.


The ability to move information between computing systems using communications.


The ability of joint working between interconnected computing systems.


Extends the interoperability idea to allow processes and information to be provided and migrated automatically to the most convenient point of an interconnected set of computing systems.

Organizational / management openness

Organizational/management openness can be characterized in the following ways:


The ability of an information system to be maintained to respond to changing requirements. 

Software engineers such as Manny Lehman have encouraged us to consider the information system, across its operational life-cycle, as an evolving object.


The absence of barriers to the provision of information and services for the end-user. 

The ability of unexpected information, from unexpected sources, perhaps even in unexpected formats, to somehow enter the system.

This relates to the notion of the open-ended incremental and continually evolving system discussed by Hewitt and de Jong.

Business information systems have always been open, to some extent. Thus instead of a simplistic binary alternative - fully closed / fully open - it is more useful to consider a spectrum of degrees of openness, with full conformance to open system standards being positioned at (or at least towards) the fully open end of the spectrum.

Market openness

Market openness is often referred to as the 'level playing field'. It can be characterized in the following ways:
Low entry barriers

The ability of new competitors to 'freely' enter a market.

Low exit barriers

The ability of competitors to 'freely' leave a market.

Barriers to entry and exit are partly technological and partly socio-political. Of course, there are few if any markets where it would be appropriate or possible to altogether eliminate barriers to entry or exit. This is partly to do with the fact that operating in a market involves the acquisition of obligations.

Veryard Project Papers Market Barriers to Entry & Exit


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