December 15, 2011
Direct Project Connect-A-Thon: Pushing the line forward
On December 8th, I again had the privilege to organize and
host a Direct Project virtual connect-a-thon.
This was the fifth virtual connect-a-thon held by the Direct Project reference
and the second time we’ve hosted it at Cerner. As an indication of Direct’s increasing momentum, this was the
largest connect-a-thon to date, consisting of more than 20 companies, with 13
actively participating HISPs. These connect-a-thons offer opportunities to
validate the latest enhancements and fixes to the Direct Project reference
implementation source tree, while ensuring interoperability across multiple
HISP deployment models and implementers. The outcome of this event will
lead to another production release of the .Net and Java reference
implementations by the end of the year.
Technologies tested and validated in the connect-a-thons
Types and Payloads
Transformation and Transport
Specific Edge Protocols
In addition, two brief introductory presentations were given
from DirectTrust.org and
Project Mod Spec initiative.
Throughout 2011, the connect-a-thons have played a vital
role as a proving ground for the code that now runs in several Direct Project
pilots across the United States. They have preceded each release of the
reference implementation, resulting in a high level of code quality and
interoperability. Connect-a-thons are held, at minimum, every six months and
additional events are added as requested by the Direct community. These
events are open to all organizations that wish to actively participate or just
observe, whether they are dabbling with the reference implementation for the
first time or have deployed a production level HISP. Anyone interested in
participating in future events should watch for announcements on the reference
implementation's discussion page.
Where We've Been
Here’s a brief overview of where the reference
implementation started and how the code-a-thons and connect-a-thons continue to
keep it moving forward.
The reference implementation as it exists today started with
a pseudocode proposal by Sean Nolan of
Microsoft in the spring of 2010. The proposal, called the security and
trust agent, introduced a transport independent method of exchanging messages
securely. Over a period of a few weeks, Umesh Madan of Microsoft and I
collaborated to write implementations of the proposal in both .Net and Java.
In June of 2010, "bakeoff" was
held to evaluate four implementation proposals that would become the technology
platform of the Direct Project. Interestingly enough, the security and
trust agent was integrated into three of the four proposals. Ultimately,
the SMTP implementation backed by Microsoft and Cerner was chosen as the
backbone protocol for Direct.
Through the summer of 2010,
Umesh and I, along with a few other volunteers, pushed to complete the first
functional iteration of the SMTP stack. In October of 2010, a code-a-thon
hosted by CollabNet in San Francisco was held to bring together the members of
the Direct Project reference
implementation and implementation
geographies workgroups and begin integration testing between early HISPs. At
the start of the code-a-thon, various organizations began standing up test
HISPs based on both the .Net or Java source trees. We realized very early on in
the meeting that the biggest deployment impedance was the complexity of the
setup and lack of concise documentation. Out of the chaos was born
the Bare Metal
Project: an initiative to facilitate standing up an instance of the
reference implementation from scratch.
Through the rest of 2010 and into early 2011, the coding and
testing pushed forward. As Direct began to gain traction in the health
care community, various pilots began to
spring up based on the reference implementation and the Bare Metal
Project. In addition, the first three virtual connect-a-thons were held
leading up to the 1.0 release of the reference implementation in February of 2011.
This year, pilot implementations have moved coders away from
new enhancements and innovations to focusing on standing up their HISPs. However
Microsoft, Kryptic and Cerner have continued to move the reference
implementations forward while simultaneously supporting their own HISPs. Cerner
has since hosted two more connect-a-thons, one in June and the latest earlier
this month, culminating in three releases to the Java reference implementation.
Looking forward to 2012, the workgroup will continue
focusing on code quality and interoperability as well as hosting at least one
connect-a-thon in the first half of the year.
Greg is a director and
principal architect at Cerner. He’s responsible for the services architecture of
the Cerner Direct solution and remains actively engaged in development/coding
and mentoring new software engineers and upcoming architects. Also responsible
for the Direct Project Java reference implementation architecture, Greg serves
as the primary gate keeper of code releases to the central artifact repository.
This project spans across several companies and organizations across the United
States in an open source ecosystem.