The process of design depends on the availability of both a variety of data and many different types of knowledge drawn from specialists. Most of the data is naturally stored in various databases while the knowledge can often be organised in Knowledge-based Systems (KBSs). A design support system is thus required to comprise a number of elements such as databases and knowledge-based systems, as well as conventional analytical modelling systems. In common with many software environments that have been developed over several years these elements tend to form autonomous islands based on perhaps different computers or data servers between which exchange of data is difficult. Even in the more recent expert system field, communication is limited between different advisory programs, or between such programs and the databases which they use for inference. One central issue in designing such a support system is to identify means by which multiple systems can co-operate in an inter-connected environment and share data which is distributed over heterogeneous databases. This paper describes an Interprocess Communication (IPC) based integration framework which is designed to facilitate dynamic and smooth data communication between the cooperating KBSs and databases within a design support system.

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