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Open-Xchange Readies Open Data Cloud

By Sean Michael Kerner (Send Email)
Posted Mar 20, 2009


Data and personal content exists in many different silos across the Internet, and getting them all into a single interface and sharing them is no easy task. One potential solution to the problem is set to be demonstrated next week by open source software vendor Open-Xchange with an approach that uses semantic microformats as a mechanism for sharing and publishing data in a collaborative manner.

A new open source effort starts with an eye on semantic metadata by using microformats to tag the data.

The new approach from Open-Xchange comes at a critical time in the evolution of social networking, with issues around data ownership at Facebook and competing groups like Google's OpenSocial all trying to create open access to data.

"I think the IT industry is a little bit behind in terms of standardization, in term of integrating things," Juergen Geck, Chief Technology Officer, Open-Xchange told InternetNews.com. " I'm a mechanical engineer by profession and in the automotive industry things just click into each other and that's not the case in IT clearly and it's a pain."

Open-Xchange is an open source e-mail and collaboration system. Geck explained that he started off working on the data sharing issue as a way to make Open-Xchange more open.

"We've put together a prototype that is capable of publishing HTML with microformats carrying all the necessary semantics, so you can have a simple Web site that a user can look at it to share information," Geck explained.

Microformats are defined small bits of HTML that help to categorize and tag information providing a semantic context. The Open-Xchange open data prototype will be able to publish data, be it calendar, address or other content in a microformat so that it can be subscribed to by another user.

Going a step further, what Geck is doing with his prototype is also scraping other content, from Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and elsewhere, so that users can also tag, and consume all their data. The data can be consumed inside of Open-Xchange or published to a private URL where it can be accessed.

Geck argued that the microformat approach that he's using is a very open approach that doesn't lock in users. He adds that in his view, the data belongs to the users and not to the social media sites themselves. Facebook has argued in its terms of service that it owns user data.

"Once you start taking about APIs, you get very proprietary," Geck argued. "I like to think of our approach as semantic publish/subscribe. It's all about making data easily accessible and tearing down the barriers. "

Geck will be demonstrating his open data approach next week, but isn't certain yet when it will be fully productized into an Open-Xchange release.

While the service isn't what many would today consider to be a cloud server, Geck argued the problem is its just a matter of definition.

"I think that cloud should be about the data layer and not infrastructure," Geck said.

This article was originally published on InternetNews.com.

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