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Interoperability is the capability for different IT systems and devices to exchange data and process or use the exchanged data, regardless of its source. Interoperability usually refers to the basic ability of computerized systems to connect and communicate with one another without restrictions, even if they were developed by different manufacturers in different industries. The ability to exchange information between applications, databases and other computer systems is crucial for digital transformation.

In healthcare, interoperability makes it easier for different medical service providers to share patient information. It can also make healthcare more efficient by avoiding redundant patient tests and helping specialists communicate with referring doctors, thus improving medical outcomes. In computer software, syntactic interoperability refers to two or more IT systems communicating with each other using specified data formats and communication protocols such as XML or SQL. Semantic interoperability refers to the automatic interpretation of the exchanged information in order to produce useful results, as defined by the end users of both systems.

Interoperability may also describe the capability of different programs to exchange data via a common set of exchange formats, to read and write the same file formats, and to use the same protocols. A high degree of interoperability is required in mixed IT environments. The ability for programs, databases and applications to work with Windows, Linux and other operating platforms is key to an efficient data center. Interoperability is also required for directory and identity federation in mixed Linux and Windows environments. Microsoft recommends SUSE Linux Enterprise Server to customers who run Windows and Linux together.

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