The move towards decentralised information processing has highlighted the need for interworking distributed applications platforms across heterogeneous hardware and software systems. A common platform would achieve this by providing an interface between specific distributed applications and the underlying software and hardware. Such an interface would allow applications to run in a multivendor environment on different machines across different interconnected systems.
Amongst the most notable initiatives aiming at the availability of such a platform are the ECMA SE-ODP standardisation and work undertaken under the aegis of the CEC. The sheer size of the effort required to define and implement such a distributed application platform means that multiple steps are required: the HARNESS project is the next step.
HARNESS aimed to integrate the results of various ESPRIT and other projects into a Common Distributed Application Platform supporting the execution of distributed applications on various heterogeneous hardware products, so enabling interworking to be achieved. It used standard components. To ensure that the platform is competitive and meet market expectations, existing and emergent standards will form its basis wherever possible.
The move towards decentralized information processing has highlighted the need for interworking across heterogenous environments. Several basic distributed platforms have been implemented, both in ESPRIT and elsewhere. European distributed system integrated project (HARNESS) is capitalizing on these developments by integrating 2 of these approaches (ISA and COMANDOS) into a single integrated distributed application platform capable of spanning multiple underlying hardware and software systems.
The HARNESS applications platform is applicable by users of multiple computer systems, supporting different operating systems. They are typically the environments in which users need to access services throughout the computer network, without worrying about physical location of such services. Typical examples are the cooperative development of software systems, and the linking of multiple departments to optimize the flow of information (such as in a typical production chain: sales, production planning, production scheduling, purchase of raw materials, expedition, administration).
HARNESS has delivered specifications for the distributed application platform. Based on these specifications, the implementation of the distributed applications platform is in an advanced stage. The development of the various tools and application to be adapted to HARNESS is well under way.
HARNESS first defined the platform specification, taking into account both user requirements and the availability of components: it is based on the consortium's experience and an in-depth survey of both the needs and positions of the various actors (users, hardware manufacturers and software houses) and the current state of the art.
The platform is defined by a set of interfaces to application programs and implemented as one or more layers on top of the different systems and networks. It is based on the integration of the best available technology using different European hardware platforms. To allow reuse of results from other platform projects, its implementation is based on Unix systems. The platform is intended to be readily adaptable for use on other operating systems. HARNESS placed strong emphasis on capabilities for allowing new components to be integrated later while keeping the same interface, thus allowing the platform to evolve.
To ensure usability, different sets of tools has been integrated in the platform software package for management and the development of applications. The platform was demonstrated and used to support applications which both lend themselves to distributed implementation and have complex requirements. It was thus possible to assess the effort needed to migrate from existing industrial practice onto HARNESS as well as the costs and benefits of the platform itself.
The HARNESS project aimed to establish a strong relationship between users, providers of the platform and of services mounted on it, other European projects, and standardisation organisations. This relationship is used in the further definition and dissemination of the platform as it evolves.
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