Cross-platform integration

Corba is implemented in hundreds of operating systems and networking products, writes Nick Langley

Corba is implemented in hundreds of operating systems and networking products, writes Nick Langley

What is it?

Common Object Request Broker Architecture (Corba) is a cross-platform standard for distributed application integration. Fundamental principles include reusability of components, portability and interoperability. Corba has its own component model and scripting language.

Many industry sectors have developed their own Corba-based component frameworks. Corba, and the Internet Inter-Orb Protocol IIOP is implemented in operating systems (though not Microsoft's) and networking products from Netscape, Oracle, Sun, IBM and hundreds of others. Suppliers such as Iona and Inprise supply Corba-based development products. Customers have a free choice of supplier - products will be fully compliant.

Where did it originate?

Corba comes from the Object Management Group (OMG), founded in 1989 by 11 companies, including 3Com, American Airlines, Canon, Data General, HP, Philips Telecoms, Sun and Unisys. It now includes about 800 members from the supplier, user, analyst and service communities. It is currently working on a standard that will integrate Corba with Microsoft's Simple Object Access Protocol (Soap).

What's it for?

Corba incorporates a distributed architecture, a neutral interface definition language (IDL), a compiler, and mappings to standard programming languages. Any object in any language can be wrapped in IDL, enabling it to find and talk to any other IDL-wrapped object.

What makes it special?

OMG's standards were based on the Internet protocol TCP/IP from the outset, and OMG has worked closely with the World-Wide Web consortium (W3C). W3C used OMG's IDL when developing XML and OMG has developed a standard to unify XML dialects called XML Metadata Interchange (XMI). OMG is now integrating XML into IDL, making XML available to any application that uses Corba.

How difficult is it?

You will need an understanding of object-based programming and distributed component-based computing. C++ is a good foundation.

Where is it used?

Corba is widely used in telecoms, healthcare, finance, manufacturing and the public sector.

Don't confuse...

Zorba the Greek with Corba the Geek.

What does it run on?

All contemporary operating systems. Microsoft, having its own Com and Dcom component technologies, doesn't support it directly. But the OMG has been happy to fill the gap, and to provide Com-Corba bridging.

Few people know that

As a not-for-profit organisation, the OMG has adopted the motto "money no object". But this will not stand up as a business case.

What's coming up?

The W3C's HTTP and OMG's IIOP are to converge.


Training companies offering Corba courses include Valtek, QA Training, Semaphore and Parallax. For a comprehensive list of Corba training worldwide, go to

The Enterprise Repository conference in London (15-16 November) includes presentations on Corba, the OMG's work on XML/XMI and the Common Warehouse Metamodel for data warehousing, now under the OMG's control. To find out more go to

Parallax: 01203-514400

QA Training: 01285-655888

Semaphore: 020-7779 8794

Valtek: 020-7307 2300.

Rates of pay

Most agencies now carry Corba jobs, but you could try www. - The Orb Agency is an OMG member which also provides occasional free seminars for developers.

Programmer £22,667
Senior analyst programmer £45,500
Systems analyst £30,313
Systems developer £35,536

Source: CW/SSP Survey July 2000

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