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Converter options
Two major approaches exist for electronic data exchange between the native data formats of different software tools: (1) direct tool-to-tool converters, and (2) converters to and from an open, neutral standard format. Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages.  
As shown in the diagram above, the direct tool-to-tool approach leads to many more interfaces that need to be developed and maintained. The pros and cons of the two approaches are listed in more detail in the table below.

Direct tool-to-tool data exchange - Advantages

  • Can be implemented quickly. Developer does not need to wait for open standard and supporting software to become available.
  • Little loss of information when the capabilities of the sending and receiving tools match well
Data exchange via an open standard - Advantages
  • Developers need to know their own tool's format and the neutral format only. They control one side of the interface and have open access to the standard side.
  • Requires 2N interfaces for a full exchange capability.
  • Suitable for long term data archiving.
  • Possibility of independent quality assurance and certification of interfaces.
  • Possibility of independent testsuites (in the open standard format).
Direct tool-to-tool data exchange - Disadvantages
  • Developers need to know their own tool's format and the formats of all other tools involved. They only control one side of the interface. This necessitates frequent updates of converters, many different versions, and therefore complex configuration control, high maintenance cost and potential user confusion.
  • Requires N x (N-1) interfaces for a full exchange capability.
  • In general not suitable for long term data archiving.
  • Independent verification of converters is difficult or impossible.
Data exchange via an open standard - Disadvantages
  • Higher initial development cost.
  • Substantial development effort and elapsed time needed for standard.
  • A neutral standard needs to capture a "least common denominator" within a domain of application, and consequently risks lagging behind on capabilities present in native data formats.

Last update: 1 March 2007

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