What is OSLC (Open Services Lifecycle Collaboration standard)?

By SodiusWillert | 2/02/2020 | Reading time: 5 min

The digital world continues to grow around us and keeps throwing new challenges at its engineers, users, and managers. This presents challenges in terms of integration - both vertical and horizontal.

Today, every engineering enterprise needs to connect its tools. As engineering organizations all have unique assets with relationships between them, these must be maintained. We can document these relationships, replicate information, or more valuable, link these assets using the Open Services Lifecycle Collaboration standard.

What does OSLC Offer?

The Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration (OLSC standard) has a set of specifications designed to simplify integration across multiple tools used throughout the software development lifecycle.

It is the unifying solution for tool vendors and users that addresses the need to link artifacts and repositories in the engineering organization.

At its core function, is the mandate to relate elements without the replication of data. It was a lesson learned on the web that a link is much more potent than a copy. Fortunately, this objective of eliminating replication also is pragmatic for IT enterprises to address the scale, permissions, and usability of tools. Much like we don’t copy websites, we don’t copy artifacts when leveraging OSLC.

As one explores OSLC, it is valuable to know that it is built on existing technologies. Web protocols, RESTful APIs, and usage of XML and RDF provide a known foundation to build a Linked Data Platform.

For tool vendors, existing libraries and experience can be leveraged to create these OSLC solutions. The details of OSLC may be complex, but the ideas and experiences are not.

How does OSLC work?

OSLC technology creates connections between the servers in the enterprise. It provides the foundation to achieve interoperability by using the concept of Friending to create a trusted relationship, leveraging Oauth, between any repositories that need connections.

To enable the plug-n-play of repositories, OSLC provides discovery services for tool interaction. These discovered service providers express the end-points tools can leverage to identify, query, and create artifacts in that repository.

In this way, OSLC provides both structure and flexibility on how an enterprise can be leveraged.

OSLC solution

OSLC Secures Relationships Across Repositories

At a more precise level, OSLC provides project relationships that define how a specific project in a repository is related to projects in another repository. With this project structure, engineering teams can assemble relationships across the repositories dedicated to their particular needs.

The value is a secured relationship between several repositories that teams can leverage to enable engineers to collaborate across the enterprise with their tools of choice.

Both the IT teams and the Engineering teams win with this pattern.

OSLC leaves data in its native repository

Much of the benefit of OSLC for engineering enterprises is the ability to leave data in its native repository.

OSLC enables the enterprise to access any artifact, but permission and access control for the user remains in the end repository.

The removal of replication and synchronization of data by OSLC simplifies security concerns and reduces poor access controls. In the OSLC enterprise, permissions are managed where the data is created and maintained.

Connecting application artifacts with OSLC

While it is valuable to have relationships between projects, it is most helpful to understand the role in which these relationships play.

OSLC acknowledges this need for roles with the definition of Domains. These Domains define a collection of vocabularies which are artifact types, relationship types, and attribute types.

For example, the Requirements Management domain defines what a requirement is, how to group requirements together into collections, and how to relate/link requirements to themselves and other Domains.

These common artifact shapes make it easier to define common standard relationships between tools for users.

The pattern of simple interfaces and unique implementations continues in the user interface.

OSLC demands tools to provide from each application rich previews, creation dialogs, and a selector to find (and link) existing artifacts. Each of these widgets enables the embedded access of one tool within another and realizing the seamless experience of OSLC while navigating the enterprise.

OSLC: the links beneath the surface

The purpose of OSLC is to collaborate between tools. Collaboration mandates that an application can consistently locate an artifact, the same artifact, using a standard address.

Building on its web foundation, OSLC commonizes on URLs that enable the direct location of these resources. Consistent with the web heritage, applications use these locators to access, update, and delete artifacts using standard web protocols.

The linking, the artifact collaboration, can now be expressed simply as a relationship descriptor, and a target URI to create a link (and potentially a mirrored backlink using the source URI) between artifacts.

With this framework, OSLC enables the development of richly linked enterprises enabling the digital thread.

Realize the digital thread with OSLC

The building blocks of OSLC are the constructs of the web. Above is the starting point of OSLC. Growth into domains with configuration management as well as capabilities such as reporting (built on indexers) is what leverages this investment.

At SodiusWillert, we use skill, and creativity to build applications within this standard to deliver powerful integrations to users. The way they are leveraged can create a rich linked data platform realizing the digital thread through data and across applications.

You can learn more about the core OSLC standard at open-services.net.

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