The SIF Specification is not a product, but a technical blueprint for enabling diverse applications to interact and share data related to educational entities in instructional and administrative environment. The Specification is designed to:
- Facilitate data sharing and reporting between applications without incurring expensive customer development costs;
- Enhance product functionality efficiently; and
- Provide best-of-breed solutions to customers easily and seamlessly.
The SIF Implementation Specification defines architecture requirements and communication protocols for software components and the interfaces between them; it makes no assumption of specific hardware or software products needed to develop SIF-enabled applications and middleware implementations, other than their ability to support technologies leveraged as the foundation for SIF, most prominently XML and HTTP(S).
Every SIF Specification release consists of two major components:
- The Data Model which includes the set of XML schemas that define the payload formats of educational “objects” as they are exchanged between SIF-compliant applications.
- The Infrastructure which defines the transport and messaging functionality of the secure and robust “wire” over which those payloads are securely exchanged.
All SIF Implementation Specifications are based on the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) endorsed Extensible Markup Language (XML) which is not linked to a specific operating system. XML is both 'platform independent and vendor neutral' and defines common data formats and rules of interaction and architecture.
Each SIF Specification release comes with a recommendation from the locale Management Board as to which infrastructure version should be used with the corresponding data model. To find out more about either the SIF (global) Infrastructure or any of the locale-specific SIF Data Models, please select from the following:
In August 2013, significant changes were made to the infrastructure component. These major advances are highlighted as follows:
- Data Independence: The SIF 3 Infrastructure is now completely independent of the Data Model defining the payloads it carries. As a result, SIF 3.x infrastructure products can be deployed in SIF solutions of all three locales (US, AU and UK) without change.
- Fully incorporates REST technology: The earlier SIF-specific transport has been replaced by one which is fully-compliant with the standard REST design patterns. As a result, SIF 3 solutions will “look like everything else in the educational organization’s data center” and recruiting programming and support personnel for SIF 3 projects will be far easier.
- Middleware is Optional: SIF 3 offers a new architectural alternative designed specifically with mobile devices and the cloud in mind, which supports the direct connection of clients to services without requiring an intervening message broker.
- Increased Scalability: SIF 3 solutions are far more scalable than earlier releases in both performance and organizational coverage. Performance enhancements include the critical ability to carry multiple objects per message, while organization expansion now provides every client access to multiple providers of the same object type (for example, SIS or MIS) separated by site (for example, a specific school), subtype (for example, Special Education) and / or context (this year's students or next year's).
All SIF Infrastructure Specifications version 3.x and above reflect these new changes. The infrastructure and data model components have been completely separated (and are now available on different pages as well as documents).
However, the new infrastructure still provides the following SIF 2.x functionality:
- Automated Service Discovery
- Guaranteed Message Delivery
- Content Based Routing
- Service Registry and Service Governance Administrative hooks
- Publish / Subscribe
- Baked-in security enforcement (Authentication, Authorization and Encryption) even for minimal implementations.