ISO/ IEC SGFS - methodology

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The methodology of defining profiles

Willem Wakker
Chairman of the SGFS

This article was first published in the ISO Bulletin, Volume 26, No 11 of November 1995 (ISSN 0303-805X)

It is well known that when a larger system is to be built from individual components, it is not enough simply to require that all components conform to their individual standards. Often there is a choice to be made between various standards, all specifying roughly the same functionality but for different environments. Furthermore, the different candidates among the standards may provide options or subsets from which a careful selection has to be made to ensure that the various components can inter-operate within the target system.

The process of functional standardization in ISO/IEC/JTC 1 is concerned with the methodology of defining profiles and their publication in a special standards document called International Standardized Profiles (ISPs). A profile is defined as a set of one or more standards and/or ISPs, and where applicable, the identification of chosen classes, conforming subsets, options and parameters of those standards or ISPs necessary to carry out a particular function.

JTC 1 has established the Special Group on Functional Standardization (SGFS) to

Within JTC 1, SGFS has the status of a normal subcommittee. A group of organizations enjoying a special kind of liaison with SGFS - the so-called S-Liaison - are allowed to submit draft ISPs to SGFS for processing and ratification. The most prominent S-Liaison organizations of SGFS are the Regional Workshops: the Asia-Oceania OSE Workshop (AOW), the European Workshop for Open Systems (EWOS) and the OSE Implementors Workshop (OIW). These workshops define, based on the requirements of their members, the necessary profiles, and submit these as harmonized documents to SGFS. Other organizations that can submit ISPs are ISO/IEC/JTC 1 national member bodies, ISO/IEC/JTC 1/SCs, and A-Liaison organizations.

The content of an ISP is defined in TR 10000-1. It specifies (among other things) how an ISP should describe the scenario of the profile (how the various parts on which the profile is based should work together), and gives requirements as to registration, conformance and documentation. Further parts of TR 10000 specify the taxonomy and special requirements for certain classes of profiles: part 2 defines the concepts of communication profiles (currently limited to OSI based profiles), and part 3 defines the more general Open System Environment (OSE) profiles. This latter part defines a classification scheme for OSE profiles based on the four types of interfaces (API, HCI, CSI and ISI) as defined in the Guide to the POSIX OSE (DTR 14252) and the corresponding viewpoints as defined in the Open Distributed Processing Reference Model (ODP-RM, ISO/DIS 10746).

It is possible to create ISPs that are mainly based on specifications which are the responsibility of a TC other than ISO/IEC/JTC 1. In such a case, it is proposed to come to a Cooperative Agreement between JTC 1 and the other TC on the review and approval of these ISPs. There is currently an agreement between JTC 1 and ISO/TC 46, Information and documentation, on the production of ISPs or Library applications, and a cooperative agreement between JTC 1 and TC 184, Industrial automation systems and integration, is under ballot.

JTC 1 is currently defining its procedures to handle Publicly Available Specifications (PAS). Once these procedures are in place, the ISP process will be adapted to allow normative references from ISPs to such other specifications.

The SGFS procedure to review and adopt ISPs was set up to be efficient, and, since the first ISP was ready for ballot in 1991, the process has proved efficient indeed: as of June 1995, 77 ISPs have been published, 43 ISPs are awaiting publication, and 83 ISPs are under development.

For further information, please contact the SGFS secretariat at NNI, the ISO member body for the Netherlands, or the chair of the SGFS (Mr. Willem Wakker, E- mail: