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Created: September 26, 2005.
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Massachusetts Supports OASIS OpenDocument in Final Reference Model V3.5.


Update 2007-07-03: In June 2007 the Massachusetts ITD issued a new major release of the Enterprise Technical Reference Model. ETRM Version 4.0 identifies four specification changes in the "Summary of Technology Specifications" table. Newly added specifications include "WS-I Basic Security Profile v1.0" and "Ecma 376: Office Open XML Formats (Open XML)". Specification updates are listed for OpenDocument v1.1 and XPath v2.0. A new Management Domain document covers Web Services and Systems. See the news story "Major Revision of Massachusetts Enterprise Technical Reference Model (ETRM)."

Update 2005-10-04: On September 30, 2005 Sun Microsystems published a declaration of patent non-enforcement with respect to implementation of OASIS "Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) v1.0". The declaration clarifies that the OpenDocument specification is under no restrictions from Sun. This irrevocable, blanket non-assertion covenant is being praised as a creative mechanism for patent management. It offers protection to Sun and the OpenDocument developer community, using a model that has no required patent disclosures and carries zero bureaucratic overhead. See Sun Patent Non-Assertion Covenant for OpenDocument Offers Model for Open Standards."

[September 26, 2005] The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has announced publication of its final version of the Enterprise Technical Reference Model Version 3.5, which became effective on September 21, 2005.

Most of the Reference Model remains unchanged from the draft Enterprise Technical Reference Model Version 3.0 released in March 2005. ETRM Final Version 3.5 incorporates a new Discipline for Data Formats within the Information Domain, including Open Formats. The decision of the Commonwealth's Information Technology Division (ITD) has been watched closely in recent weeks, given the expectation that other jurisdictions may follow the lead of Massachusetts in its definition of Open Format and in requiring the use of non-proprietary, open data formats for official documents and archives.

The ETRM Open Formats Technology Area "addresses open standards and specifications for the presentation of data as office documents, text, numbers, maps, graphics, video and audio. The selection of format must consider the access channel being used (Web, PDA, cell phone), the nature of the data and structure (legal requirements that address preservation of document structure), and ease of accessibility for users. The open formats identified below do not yet address all data types. Future versions of the ETRM will address open formats for map, graphics, video and audio data."

As presented in the ETRM Version 3.5 Introduction and Information Domain final documents of September 21, 2005, the Commonwealth defines open formats as "specifications for data file formats that are based on an underlying open standard, developed by an open community, affirmed and maintained by a standards body and are fully documented and publicly available. It is the policy of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that all official records of the Commonwealth be created and saved in an acceptable format."

Three Open Format Technology Specifications are identified in ETRM Version 3.5: [1] OASIS Open Document Format For Office Applications (OpenDocument) v. 1.0; [2] Plain Text Format; [3] Hypertext Document Format v. 4.01.

The Data Interoperability Roadmap, together with the Roadmap for Data Formats as amended in ETRM version 3.5 declares that the "target state is the ubiquitous use of open formats to capture and store data within applications and in individual data files." In the earlier version of the ETRM Introduction, the Commonwealth clarified its intent to move from merely acceptable formats to " formats that are based on an underlying open standard, developed by an open community, and affirmed by a standards body as soon as they are ratified." Compare the 2005-01 statement of Eric Kriss: "We will increasingly rely on the promulgation of Open Standards for file formats by national and international standards bodies. The OASIS OpenOffice XML [OpenDocument] format technical community would be one example of that. As we look to the future, we will require full support of Open Formats, as well as already released Open Standards..."

According to the published Guidelines and Description, the XML-based OpenDocument format "must be used for office documents such as text documents (.odt), spreadsheets (.ods), and presentations (.odp). The OpenDocument format is currently supported by a variety of office applications including, StarOffice, KOffice, and IBM Workplace. The OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) is a standardized XML-based file format specification suitable for office applications. It covers the features required by text, spreadsheets, charts, and graphical documents. The specification was recently approved by OASIS as an open standard. OASIS has also submitted the standard to ISO for consideration as an international standard for office document formats."

The Commonwealth's ETRM v3.5 identifies a migration plan for agencies that currently use office applications such as MS Office, Lotus Notes, and WordPerfect to "produce documents in proprietary formats," noting that the magnitude of the migration effort to this new open standard is considerable. Agencies will need to develop phased migration plans allowing them to configure existing applications to save office documents by default in the OpenDocument format with an implementation date of January 1, 2007. Any acquisition of new office applications must support the OpenDocument format natively."

Agencies should therefore "begin to evaluate office applications that support the OpenDocument specification to migrate from applications that use proprietary document formats. As of January 1, 2007 all agencies within the Executive Department will be required to: (1) Use office applications that provide conformance with the OpenDocument format, and (2) Configure the applications to save office documents in OpenDocument format by default."

Plain Text and HTML are identified as Open Formats in addition to OpenDocument format. Plain text "is the most portable format because it is supported by nearly every application on every machine; it should not be used for documents where formatting is important or is part of the official record. The use of Plain Text for formatting email messages reduces the likelihood of email client interoperability issues, and reduces download time for clients with dial-up connections." HTML hypertext document format "is the preferred format for documents that will be accessed through the Internet/Intranet or using a web browser." The Reference Model document notes that many documents created in proprietary formats can be saved as .html files, and specifies that "hypertext authoring or conversion software must support HTML version 4.01." Adobe's PDF is named as an "acceptable" format (though not an "open format technology specification") due to its complete lack of legal encumbrance and restricted field of use as a final/fixed display format.

Within the Data Interoperability Discipline, XML specifications have been identified as the key enabler: "One of the most critical SOA decisions for the Commonwealth is the adoption of XML as the primary standard for Data Interoperability. XML has become the lingua franca of application integration, facilitating application interoperability, regardless of platform or programming language. The adoption of XML is the cornerstone of the Commonwealth's Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) vision of a unified enterprise information environment. Agencies should consider the use of XML for all projects, and should implement XML, unless there are compelling business reasons not to do so. XML should always be considered when undertaking new work or when beginning a major overhaul of an existing system. Agencies should always consider the fact that an XML solution will result in greater long-term benefits for the agency and the enterprise as a whole."

The ETRM framework "borrows from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) Enterprise Architecture Tool Kit as well as the work done by the federal government's Federal Enterprise Architecture Program. The Reference Model addresses standardization in five different domains: Access and Delivery; Information, Application, Integration, and Security. It uses the concepts of Domains, Disciplines, Technology Areas and Technology Specifications to define the enterprise architecture."

Development of the Enterprise Technical Reference Model is part of the Commonwealth's plan to transition from "siloed, application centric, and agency centric information technology investments to an enterprise approach where applications are designed to be flexible, to take advantage of shared and reusable components, to facilitate the sharing and reuse of data where appropriate and to make the best use of the technology infrastructure that is available. The technology specifications and standards detailed in this document are required to achieve the desired target state of a Service Oriented Architecture. Agencies are expected to migrate towards compliance with the ETRM as they consider new information technology investments or make major enhancements/replacement to existing systems."

Bibliographic Information

  • ETRM Version 3.5 Introduction "The Enterprise Technical Reference Model (ETRM) provides an architectural framework used to identify the standards, specifications and technologies that support the Commonwealth's computing environment. Version 3.5 of the Enterprise Technical Reference Model incorporates a new Discipline for Data Formats within the Information Domain. This Discipline addresses the acceptable formats in which data can be represented and captured. Implementation of the ETRM will result in a Service Oriented Architecture for the Commonwealth that uses open standards solutions where appropriate to construct and deliver online government services. Agencies are expected to migrate towards compliance with the ETRM as they consider new information technology investments or make major enhancements/replacement to existing systems..."

  • ETRM Version 3.5 Information Domain. Effective Date: September 21, 2005. Also in PDF and OpenDocument formats. [cache PDF]

    "The ETRM Information Domain addresses standards and guidelines for: (1) Data Interoperability, (2) Data Management, (3) Data Formats, and Records Management. A process-independent, enterprise view of government information enables data sharing where appropriate within the bounds of security and privacy considerations. Service oriented architectures promote information and service reuse through open standards. To help the Commonwealth achieve the enormous benefits of information and service reuse, the Information Domain emphasizes standards for data interoperability among diverse internal and external platforms and applications. By promoting the ubiquitous use of XML standards, the ETRM specifications insure that all new development initiatives result in interoperable services that can be reused across the enterprise, as well as with external business partners and governments where appropriate..."

  • Final ETRM Version 3.5 Open Document Format Standard: Frequently Asked Questions. Also in PDF and OpenDocument formats. [cache PDF]

    Note the answer to a question about MA agencies being asked (?) to deploy a single office product: The Final ETRM Version 3.5 does not require that agencies use only one office product. To the contrary, it offers agencies many choices. Agencies may choose to retain their existing MS Office licenses, as long as they use a method to save documents in Open Document Format. They may also use one of the many office tools that support OpenDocument Format in native format — OpenOffice, StarOffice, KOffice, Abiword, eZ publish, IBM Workplace, Knomos case management, Scribus DTP, TextMaker and Visioo Writer. Because the Open Document Format is an open standard, it increases the vendor pool available to state agencies by encouraging and permitting vendors not already in this field to develop products that support the standard. Adoption of the Final ETRM Version 3.5 will greatly increase competition among vendors for the sale of office applications to agencies.

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