|By Hal Hilderbrad, Nickolaos Kavantzas, Ashwini Surpur, Mohamad Afshar, Dave Shaffer||
|November 5, 2004 12:00 AM EST||
Agile and adaptive business processes and supporting IT infrastructure are the holy grail of enterprise applications. The industry is heading in the right direction to start delivering on this promise. SOAs (service-oriented architectures) promise to enable businesses to align their business processes to customer needs, and optimize them to improve customer responsiveness and drive efficiency. A process-oriented realization of SOAs is necessary to deliver on this promise.
The process-oriented model is based on an SOA component model augmented with an underlying formal model in which business processes are expressed through orchestration and choreography. This model blends the bottom-up framework of SOA with a top-down, process-centric view. By simplifying the set of activities that are part of the life cycle of business processes, we'll outline how this approach is an effective and efficient way to develop, maintain, and improve best-in-class inter- and intra-enterprise business processes. We'll also emphasize that enterprises looking to automate their business processes around an agile platform can start building, service-enabling, deploying, securing, and managing services - both internal and external - with Business Process Execution Language for Web Services (BPEL4WS or BPEL) business flows today.
The SOA Promise
Traditionally, business information systems have been developed with a functional orientation, often resulting in silos of services and information. However, end-to-end business processes that must span silos can't adapt to change as business needs evolve - they're fragmented and embedded deep within systems. SOA is a software architecture that facilitates the development of enterprise applications as modular and loosely coupled business services.
SOA's intent is to integrate software components, or services, in new runtime contexts and business processes. It creates a unification layer on which business processes and enterprise dashboards can be built. SOA promises to deliver greater responsiveness to business change and provide real-time visibility into business processes. When effectively implemented, it improves business agility by letting you modularize legacy, packaged, and custom applications, and orchestrate them in easily changeable business flows.
The Web services platform, including SOAP and other protocols accessed through Web services binding frameworks, acts as the component model and ubiquitous network fabric through which newly built and existing applications cooperate. Information can be exchanged much more seamlessly, unconstrained by the hardware, operating systems platforms, and programming languages used to implement services.
Whereas a Web services model and SOA often take an essentially bottom-up view, business processes are inherently top-down activities. Bridging the capabilities envisioned by SOA with the requirements of supporting distributed business processes - including trading partner collaborations - is the focus of the process-oriented realization of SOA discussed here.
The process-centric realization of SOA can provide the glue between modular business services for the end-to-end business processes that companies rely on, such as order-to-cash, procure-to-pay, store order-to-sales compensation, and supplier-invoice to settlement. To complete this picture you must define all forms of business processes, including those of a collaborative nature, and deliver these processes reliably so that they, in turn, can be leveraged by other business processes and services (see Figure 1)
Today, mature standards such as BPEL and Web services effectively enable businesses to implement private processes and collaborative processes based on ad hoc collaboration definitions. The process-centric model of SOA considers processes and collaborations as first-class citizens, much as an object-oriented language would consider objects as first-class citizens, and encourages the same maturity of global standards for the definition of B2B processes. With this vision, business processes, collaborations, information exchanges, and work activities are expressed through service aggregation - a combination of BPEL orchestration and WS-CDL choreography, with operational semantics based on the pi-calculus:
In order to deliver quality of service to enterprise-class business processes a number of supporting services are required. With quality of service, a number of supporting services are required. These include security, reliable messaging, transactions, context and coordination, message translation and transformation services, message validation, and content-based routing. Although these services are vital for the vision of networked-enabled business processes, we'll focus on the service aggregation/business process aspects.
BPEL: Automating Business Processes
In the SOA architecture, and within the Web services platform in particular, services must be combined into business processes/business flows. BPEL provides a standard, portable language for coordinating the flow of business process services and builds upon a decade of progress in the areas of business process management, workflow, and integration technologies. Traditionally, such technologies have suffered from proprietary business processes definitions; the resulting applications are seldom portable across implementations, and skills are not transferable. Since BPEL is a standard, it creates a common language for developers. It's built from the ground up around XML and Web services and is supported on both the .NET and Java platforms.
Asynchrony, parallelism, sophisticated exception handling, long-running processes, and a need for compensating transactions change the fundamental nature of what we think of as an application. In order to support the required executable behavior, BPEL provides constructs for control-flow (conditionals, sequencing, parallelism, loops), variables, and constructs for manipulating them; event handlers, timeouts, exceptions, and forward recovery; and nested scoping units of work.
The process-oriented realization of BPEL also adds the following capabilities on top of standard BPEL:
- Advanced data handling and transformation activities that are used to manipulate variables using XQuery
- Advanced process life-cycle management capabilities such as versioning, Suspend Process instance, and Resume Process instance
- Activities that use a business rules framework, which lets you model business rules in a purely declarative way
- Advanced human workflow activities such as assigning tasks to specific users, sending notifications, and approving requests through mechanisms such as task lists
WS-CDL: Collaborations Between Peer-to-Peer Business Processes
In complex integration scenarios, capturing the collaborations between two or more business processes engaging in peer-to-peer business transactions, potentially across trust boundaries, requires a higher-level model. This is the fundamental thrust of WS-CDL, which is based on a variant of pi-calculus. It enables the formal modeling of the common observable behavior of all collaborating participants from a global viewpoint.
WS-CDL describes the global message exchange of participants during their joint interaction, global reactive rules for declaratively prescribing normal/abnormal progress, common agreement of the outcomes, and a recursive composition model that lets you build choreographies incrementally by combining existing choreographies. In this way, complex inter-organization business processes can be implemented as a collection of services, which, in turn, implement complex business processes themselves.
Choreography perfectly complements the effort of orchestration and BPEL, offering a global viewpoint into the peer-to-peer interacting business processes that are defined and implemented in BPEL.
To understand how orchestration and choreography come together, let's consider an example.
Case Study: Order Management Business Process
For any business interaction to work, the rules of collaboration must first be agreed upon. These rules can be represented in English. However, since English is unstructured and frequently vague, the rules may not be represented precisely. Choreography, and WS-CDL in particular, lets us write the above rules in a precise and unambiguous manner. So how do orchestration and choreography fit into the larger picture? The case study below demonstrates their complementary role by presenting the example of a localized business process that's concerned with handling purchase orders in a really big corporation (RBC).
This business process leverages several trading partners and links to a range of back-end services and legacy applications into an end-to-end business process. As Figure 2 shows, the RBC process interacts with different applications such as J2EE, .NET, portals, human workflow, ERP financials, trading partners such as subcontractors, and rules engine interfaces.
What makes this process interesting is that it requires both the integration of existing applications and new functionality. In our example, a clerk takes an action that causes a PO to be sent out. This is logged against a custom application (which could be J2EE or .NET) that registers the PO and ensures that the total amount does not violate the employee's sign-off authority level. If management approval is required, a workflow is initiated.
Upon confirmation, the PO needs to kick off a number of business processes, including one that updates the total POs that have been approved by the employee and manager, and one that checks the availability of goods from an existing warehouse or nearby distribution center and requisitions them if they're not available. If the goods aren't available at any location, then the system updates the financials application.
Notice that in this case, the overall business process is implemented in BPEL. Each of the services can publish a Web service interface that is then orchestrated in BPEL. Using SOAP, WSDL, XML Schema, and BPEL, the business process can be built in a vendor-independent fashion. RBC's business process is shown in Figure 2.
Using BPEL and other open standards, the task of integrating these systems into an end-to-end business process is straightforward. At any stage, the business process may be changed; for example, by adding extra approval steps, or by updating the BPEL definition of the business process.
Now consider what's needed when the RBC order process interacts with an outside supplier, STC, which manufactures and distributes t-shirts. RBC and STC are engaged in a collaborative fashion to achieve their common business goal: order fulfillment. For the collaboration to work successfully, RBC must provide the terms under which it's willing to do electronic business with suppliers such as STC.
RBC has the following simple business rules for collaborating with STC:
- RBC places an order for STC t-shirts.
- STC acknowledges the purchase order. This initiates a business process in STC that handles the PO. For all RBC knows, STC has an employee at a computer handle the PO, or a sophisticated BPEL process that's linked with back-end manufacturing, logistics, and procurement systems.
- After the internal processes within STC regarding the PO are completed - which may take days or even months - STC sends a Purchase Order Completed message back to RBC.
- RBC can send a Cancel Order message any time before it receives the Purchase Order Completed message.
- If the Cancel Order message arrives at STC before the Purchase Order Completed message is sent, STC aborts its business process and acknowledges this to RBC with the Purchase Order CancelAck message.
- If STC has already sent the Purchase Order Completed message, it ignores the Cancel Order message because RBC has agreed that it will honor POs when cancellations are not sent out within an agreed-upon timeframe.
- When a PurchaseOrder message is sent from the buyer to the seller and the acknowledgement is received by the buyer, the OrderStatus at both parties is set to New.
- When the OrderStatus at both the buyer and seller is New, either a Cancel Purchase Order Message can be sent by the buyer to the seller or a Complete Purchase Order Message can be sent by the seller to the buyer.
- When the buyer sends a Cancel Purchase OrderCancel message, the buyer sets itself to CancelPending; when a CancelAck message is sent from the seller to the buyer, this sets both parties to OrderCancelled.
- When the seller sends an OrderCompleted message, the OrderStatus at both parties is set to OrderCompleted.
Today, these rules are frequently described in English, and each trading partner's business processes that interact collaboratively can be defined in BPEL or in any other language. What WS-CDL offers is a standardized way to define these interactions, leaving unambiguous documentation of the roles and responsibilities of each. Also, in the future, products that support business process implementation languages such as BPEL could provide tools that would generate, for example, an implementation skeleton for a particular role or validate behavior. Developers looking to define collaborations in B2B situations should keep an eye on WS-CDL. Today, however, BPEL provides the basis for automating business processes on both sides of the firewall.
The maximum value of SOA architecture is realized by blending SOA with a process-centric view that explicitly defines trading partner collaborations. The basic building blocks to do this are already in place and standards like WS-CDL are emerging to support the full life cycle of collaborative business processes.
Enterprises looking to automate their business processes around an agile platform can build, service-enable, deploy, secure, and manage services (both internal and external) with BPEL business flows today. Looking further down the road, we expect the ways that business-to-business collaborations can be defined will be greatly enhanced through standards such as Web services choreography and we're actively working in these areas. What's clear today is that there is much value to be gained by streamlining your business around SOA with a process-centric view. Go build!
Most companies hope for rapid growth so it's important to invest in scalable core technologies that won't demand a complete overhaul when a business goes through a growth spurt. Cloud technology enables previously difficult-to-scale solutions like phone, network infrastructure or billing systems to automatically scale based on demand. For example, with a virtual PBX service, a single-user cloud phone service can easily transition into an advanced VoIP system that supports hundreds of phones and ...
May. 22, 2015 07:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,584
“Oh, dev is dev and ops is ops, and never the twain shall meet.” With apoloies to Rudyard Kipling and all of his fans, this describes the early state of the two sides of DevOps. Yet the DevOps approach is demanded by cloud computing, as the speed, flexibility, and scalability in today's so-called “Third Platform” must not be hindered by the traditional limitations of software development and deployment. A recent report by Gartner, for example, says that 25% of Global 2000 companies will b...
May. 22, 2015 05:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,667
17th Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterprises a...
May. 22, 2015 05:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,309
The Workspace-as-a-Service (WaaS) market will grow to $6.4B by 2018. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Seth Bostock, CEO of IndependenceIT, will begin by walking the audience through the evolution of Workspace as-a-Service, where it is now vs. where it going. To look beyond the desktop we must understand exactly what WaaS is, who the users are, and where it is going in the future. IT departments, ISVs and service providers must look to workflow and automation capabilities to adapt to growing ...
May. 22, 2015 04:30 AM EDT Reads: 3,029
The truth is, today’s databases are anything but agile – they are effectively static repositories that are cumbersome to work with, difficult to change, and cannot keep pace with application demands. Performance suffers as a result, and it takes far longer than it should to deliver new features and capabilities needed to make your organization competitive. As your application and business needs change, data repositories and structures get outmoded rapidly, resulting in increased work for applica...
May. 22, 2015 04:30 AM EDT Reads: 2,631
The speed of product development has increased massively in the past 10 years. At the same time our formal secure development and SDL methodologies have fallen behind. This forces product developers to choose between rapid release times and security. In his session at DevOps Summit, Michael Murray, Director of Cyber Security Consulting and Assessment at GE Healthcare, examined the problems and presented some solutions for moving security into the DevOps lifecycle to ensure that we get fast AND ...
May. 22, 2015 04:15 AM EDT Reads: 4,871
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to evolve the way the world does business; however, understanding how to apply it to your company can be a mystery. Most people struggle with understanding the potential business uses or tend to get caught up in the technology, resulting in solutions that fail to meet even minimum business goals. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO / President / Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., showed what is needed to leverage the IoT to transform your business. ...
May. 22, 2015 04:00 AM EDT Reads: 6,617
Thanks to Docker, it becomes very easy to leverage containers to build, ship, and run any Linux application on any kind of infrastructure. Docker is particularly helpful for microservice architectures because their successful implementation relies on a fast, efficient deployment mechanism – which is precisely one of the features of Docker. Microservice architectures are therefore becoming more popular, and are increasingly seen as an interesting option even for smaller projects, instead of bein...
May. 22, 2015 03:15 AM EDT Reads: 4,247
Grow your business with enterprise wearable apps using SAP Platforms and Google Glass. SAP and Google just launched the SAP and Google Glass Challenge, an opportunity for you to innovate and develop the best Enterprise Wearable App using SAP Platforms and Google Glass and gain valuable market exposure. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Brian McPhail, Senior Director of Business Development, ISVs & Digital Commerce at SAP, outlined the timeline of the SAP Google Glass Challenge and the opportunity...
May. 22, 2015 03:00 AM EDT Reads: 4,885
In his session at DevOps Summit, Tapabrata Pal, Director of Enterprise Architecture at Capital One, will tell a story about how Capital One has embraced Agile and DevOps Security practices across the Enterprise – driven by Enterprise Architecture; bringing in Development, Operations and Information Security organizations together. Capital Ones DevOpsSec practice is based upon three "pillars" – Shift-Left, Automate Everything, Dashboard Everything. Within about three years, from 100% waterfall, C...
May. 22, 2015 02:15 AM EDT Reads: 4,226
of cloud, colocation, managed services and disaster recovery solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. TierPoint, LLC, is a leading national provider of information technology and data center services, including cloud, colocation, disaster recovery and managed IT services, with corporate headquarters in St. Louis, MO. TierPoint was formed through the strategic combination of some of t...
May. 22, 2015 01:00 AM EDT Reads: 3,040
What are the benefits of using an enterprise-grade orchestration platform? In their session at 15th Cloud Expo, Nate Gordon, Director of Technology at Appcore, and Kedar Poduri, Senior Director of Product Management at Citrix Systems, took a closer look at the architectural design factors needed to support diverse workloads and how to run these workloads efficiently as a service provider. They also discussed how to deploy private cloud environments in 15 minutes or less.
May. 22, 2015 01:00 AM EDT Reads: 3,458
SYS-CON Events announced today Sematext Group, Inc., a Brooklyn-based Performance Monitoring and Log Management solution provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's DevOps Summit 2015 New York, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Sematext is a globally distributed organization that builds innovative Cloud and On Premises solutions for performance monitoring, alerting and anomaly detection (SPM), log management and analytics (Logsene), search analytics (S...
May. 22, 2015 12:45 AM EDT Reads: 5,121
SYS-CON Media announced today that Blue Box as launched a popular blog feed on Cloud Computing Journal. Cloud Computing Journal aims to help open the eyes of Enterprise IT professionals to the economics and strategies that utility/cloud computing provides. Blue Box Cloud gives you unequaled agility, without the burden of designing, deploying and managing your own infrastructure. It’s the right choice when public cloud just won’t do. Blue Box Cloud is a managed Private Cloud as a Service (...
May. 22, 2015 12:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,771
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading in...
May. 21, 2015 11:30 PM EDT Reads: 2,476
SYS-CON Media named Andi Mann editor of DevOps Journal. DevOps Journal is focused on this critical enterprise IT topic in the world of cloud computing. DevOps Journal brings valuable information to DevOps professionals who are transforming the way enterprise IT is done. Andi Mann, Vice President, Strategic Solutions, at CA Technologies, is an accomplished digital business executive with extensive global expertise as a strategist, technologist, innovator, marketer, communicator, and thought lea...
May. 21, 2015 10:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,427
When OpenStack aficionados gather in Vancouver in a couple of weeks, one of the hot topics will be containers, a “new” alternative to virtualization. Actually, container technology has been around for a couple of decades, but it is trending among the IT community at a fever pitch these days and stands to have a huge impact on the future of cloud computing.The appeal of container technology is easy to appreciate. In a nutshell, containers can enable you to run many more applications on the same h...
May. 21, 2015 10:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,828
Docker is an open platform for developers and sysadmins of distributed applications that enables them to build, ship, and run any app anywhere. Docker allows applications to run on any platform irrespective of what tools were used to build it making it easy to distribute, test, and run software. I found this 5 Minute Docker video, which is very helpful when you want to get a quick and digestible overview. If you want to learn more, you can go to Docker’s web page and start with this Docker intro...
May. 21, 2015 09:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,717
"ClusterUP is the most exciting company in the DevOps space," said Chhavi Upadhyay, CEO of ClusterUP. "We are solving the toughest challenges for DevOps, around creating a solution from using a container for app deployment, to facilitating creation of software stacks using drag and drop workflows for complex applications. At ClusterUP we believe that containers are here to stay and most applications can benefit from microservices architecture."
May. 21, 2015 06:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,641
The 5th International DevOps Summit, co-located with 17th International Cloud Expo – being held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the...
May. 21, 2015 05:30 PM EDT Reads: 3,897