Sunday, June 24, 2007

imho Ocean Semantic………..


Now, it’s clear from my research that the Semantic Web community cannot be neatly split into two camps. If you look at the work ongoing at those “pure plays” in my previous post, much of it spans both the “SOA Semantic Web” and “Social Semantic Web.”

In other words, today’s Semantic Web vendor-community ferment combines bits of the former approach (explicit modeling, controlled vocabularies, deterministic mediation) with elements of the latter (implicit modeling, uncontrolled vocabularies, probabilistic mediation). Or, if you will, the leading edge blends the onto-taxo school of top-down meaning modeling (i.e., taxonomies, RDF, OWL, etc.) with the linguo-extracto strain of bottom-up meaning mining (i.e., NLP, text analytics, etc.).

At a coarse level, my semantics maturity model is mapping well to the varied architectures/approaches/tooling of these dozens of providers, but I’m not trying to force-fit anything to that framework. I'm still trying to work through the practical distinctions between "semantic integration" and "semantic quality" components (where do "inference engines " fall?). Rather, I’m trying to understand everything on its own terms, and carefully, painstakingly work my way toward a grand re-synthesis.

Sorting through the field of Semantic Web “pure plays” from my previous list, I realize now that it was a bit too inclusive. In that quick/handy list, I lumped semantics academic research programs (e.g., Advanced Knowledge Technologies, Digital Enterprise Research Institute), semantics open source communities (e.g., Liminal Systems, SemWebCentral), semantics consulting shops (e.g., Articulate Software, Business Semantics, Mindful Data, Pragati Synergetic Research, Semantic Arts, Semantic Light, Taxonomy Strategies, Zepheira), and a semantics broker (e.g., Taxonomy Warehouse). Some of the names on that list left me scratching my head wondering whether they actually exist or what the heck they actually do (e.g., MetaWeb, Ontologent, Ontomantics, Semaview, VivoMind Intelligence). Many vendors are not semantics specialists, but, rather incorporate semantics features into AI tools, content/document management, identity/security management solutions, graphics, desktop productivity applications, or other products (e.g., Crystal Semantics, ExpertMaker, Franz, Garlik, LinkSpace, Semtation, WordMap). And, of course, there are the many semantic search vendors (e.g., Aduna, AskMeNow, Cha-Cha, Cognition Technologies, Conversa, Copernic, Endeca, FAST Search and Transfer, Google, Groxis, Hakia, Intelliseek, ISYS Search Software, Metacarta, Ontosearch, Powerset, Readware, Textdigger, Vivisimo, ZoomInfo).

I’m not doubting that they all have unique and innovative approaches and so forth, but I’m looking for pure-play solution vendors that provide semantics tools/platforms to support a broad range of applications. With that as criteria, I’ve boiled my short list down to a still-unwieldy twenty-three. They are Axontologic, Cycorp, Fourthcodex, Gnowsis, Metatomix, Modus Operandi, Mondeca, Ontology Works, Ontopia, Ontoprise, Ontos AG, Revelytix, Sandpiper Software, Semagix, Semandex Networks, Semansys, Semantic Insights, Semantic Research, Semantra, Siderean, Thetus, TopQuadrant, and XSB.

One sweet little payoff for me so far in my research is seeing the early footprint of Semantic Web technology into the enterprise information integration (EII)—aka data federation—space. If you go back to the second post in this ongoing thread (i.e,. the one in which there are a mere two dots after “imho Ocean Semantic”), you’ll see that this meandering inquiry began with a few burning (rhetorical and non-rhetorical) questions:

  • How is [SOA-enabled EII solutions’ semantic-abstraction layers from such vendors as IBM, BEA, Business Objects, Informatica, Sybase, Actuate, Composite Software, Ipedo, Inetsoft, and MetaMatrix] not the Semantic Web?
  • Do any of these commercial solutions depend on any of the core specs (i.e., RDF, OWL) usually associated with the W3C's flavor of Semantic Web?
  • Does Red Hat's decision to acquire MetaMatrix, open-source its EII technology, and bundle it with the JBoss Enterprise Middleware Suite represent a critical step toward making SOA-enabled EII (i.e, semantic Web) ubiquitous?

Funny you should ask, Jim. As it turns out, check out Revelytix, which has provided a Semantic Web layer for Red Hat/MetaMatrix’s EII environment, to wit:

  • “[Revelytix] MatchIT, a component of the MetaMatrix Semantic Data Services product, provides automated semantic mapping technology to aid domain experts in more quickly reconciling the semantics across a dispersed information environment. MatchIT, an extensible ontology-driven tool using RDF and OWL, implements a variety of sophisticated algorithms for determining semantic equivalence. It leverages the Semantic Data Services defined within the MetaMatrix designer to aid in more rapid deployment of a mediation solution by automatically exposing potential semantic matches.”

Also, check out Modus Operandi, whose solution does something similar for BEA’s EII solution (AquaLogic Data Services Platform)—viz:

  • “[Modus Operandi] Wave Semantic Data Services Layer gives discoverable meaning to data by linking data services to an ontology. Wave enhances the BEA AquaLogic Data Services Platform with the tools to semantically integrate information across the enterprise. A Wave data services layer in a SOA supports flexible, user-driven ad hoc queries and semantic search….Wave makes use of an ontology (or conceptual model) to unify and resolve semantic conflicts among data sources. At runtime, the Wave web service provides the data service layer’s API (Application Programming Interface) for discovering, querying, and searching the integrated information via the ontology. Wave also includes runtime services to crawl and index data services, to visualize the integrated data, and to monitor data services status….Launched from a BEA WebLogic Workshop menu, the Wave Importer transforms an OWL file to data service templates that map directly to classes and properties found in the ontology. You can use any ontology development environment that produces a standard OWL output. Wave semantic data services are activated by deploying to the WebLogic Server.”

Interestingly, none of the EII vendor provides this Semantic Web capability themselves yet. All rely on third-parties to provide it through add-ons.

All of which underlines my point about the Semantic Web space being several years from maturity. And all of which indicates that a lot of major EII vendors are going to make some strategic acquisitions in the Semantic Web community before long. This technology must be integrated into enterprises’ basic data services platforms before the Semantic Web can be truly ubiquitous.

More to come.