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A4L Community releases the global SIF Infrastructure Specification supporting Lightweight Providers of Data

Washington, DC, 21 September 2022—The Access 4 Learning (A4L) Community is proud to announce the release of the collaboratively developed global SIF Infrastructure Specification 3.5 which is unique in the technical standards world in that it supports data movement via greater interoperability by standardizing ‘data and privacy on the wire’. 

The SIF Infrastructure Specification is an open standard, which is used globally to enable data exchange, and has been rigorously tested to ensure performance and scalability.  This latest release builds on the previous version, introducing technical advances ranging from detailed API documentation, OpenAPI files, as well as inclusion of additional data controls for messaging and privacy. 

This version provides the marketplace with several benefits:

•  Transition from synchronous ecosystems to asynchronous or hybrid integrations without interruption.  Regardless of the asynchronous benefit you seek, upgrading one system at a time while never losing compatibility is priceless in today’s always-on world.

•  Scalable for both instant and long-running processes to work in harmony.  With this release, the SIF Infrastructure architecture allows for both lightweight and larger applications to work well together.  SIF Enabled cloud powered apps no longer need to be bogged down by other systems that are synchronizing data.

•  Lightweight. Providers of Data no longer need to deliver a server component to any SIF ecosystems which are powered by a SIF Infrastructure Specification 3.5 capable Broker.

•  Meaningful feedback.  With the latest functionality, end-to-end transport status and error codes provide important feedback for users.

•  Conformity to more educational institutions firewall policies.  If you strive for data interoperability, but struggle with allowing access through your firewall, then this release provides a solution.

“This latest version is the most important release of the SIF infrastructure since the initial publication of 3.0. The marquee feature is a newly introduced messaging pattern called Asynchronous Provider. Asynchronous Provider sounds like an “in the weeds” technical detail…it’s not. It allows implementers much more control over how and when to process incoming requests to prevent volume spikes.  Perhaps more importantly, service providers no longer have the added security burden of bolting down exposed endpoints” states Mike Reynolds, Co-Lead of the International Technical Board (ITB).

“This new release of the SIF Infrastructure Specification 3.5 is a great step forward for the marketplace” states John Lovell, Technology Director, A4L Community.  “With the introduction of these new features, the marketplace is empowered to modernize their current ecosystems without breaking existing linkages, allowing them to make incremental changes to best suit their needs, as and when they are able.  The global Community has worked incredibly hard to guarantee that this latest release provides privacy and security to the marketplace ensuring that it is meeting the demands of the workplace and our international Community.”

The SIF Infrastructure Specification has been extensively load tested in the real world to ensure high performance for the marketplace.  Using the SIF Infrastructure Specification 3.x created a 20,000 times increase in throughput performance when compared to previous SIF 2.x Infrastructure Specification releases. The “hybrid” approach model, using existing SIF Infrastructure 2.x plus SIF Infrastructure 3.4 versions for those ecosystems who want to scale-up technologies, also showed improvements. By upgrading the receiving system, the result was a 286 times increase in throughput performance than the traditional SIF integration. These results quantify “on the ground” implementation stories where states have updated their systems and discovered the increase in performance. These performance improvements enable greater data efficiency and opens the door to new use cases that require timely access to even more data.  To find out more, please review the ’Real World Education Data Management Performance Testing‘ white paper: https://bit.ly/A4LEdDataTesting

Designed to be decoupled from any specific data model, it has proven to seamlessly move comma separated value files (CSVs), pictures, and end-to-end encrypted payloads in order to meet the needs of demanding integrations. It has created a rich ecosystem for anyone to leverage, and people are starting to apply that to other standards.  The state of Iowa is actively working to move PESC High School transcripts electronically to the state colleges to reduce the human workload and inconsistencies on both sides of this transaction, and the Jobs and Employment Data Exchange (JEDx) is planning to build upon the SIF Infrastructure. 

To find out more about the SIF Infrastructure Specification 3.5, please visit: https://data.a4l.org/sif-infrastructure-specification-3-5/

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