Archive for February, 2008|Monthly archive page

Open Grid Forum Goes to Europe

The Open Grid Forum (OGF) is taking its grid computing standards work to Europe, with a little help from the European Commission.

OGF-Europe, funded by the European Commission for Mobilizing and Integrating Communities on Grid Standards and Best Practices Globally, will help “capitalize on European Commission investments in Grid technologies by driving grid adoption and innovation across Europe in research, government and industry,” OGF said in a statement.

OGF-Europe was launched in keeping with OGF’s mission of “pervasive grid adoption through interoperable software standards.”

The new group will offer outreach seminars and workshops, adoption challenges and recommendations reports, community surveys, best practice reports and tutorials. It will also coordinate an Industry Experts council to better understand how European enterprises are dealing with issues like interoperations and standardization.

“We thank the EU commission for their strong show of support for OGF’s mission of accelerating grid adoption through open standards and in recognizing the power of grid in 21st-century economies,” OGF President Craig Lee said in a statement.

Silvana Muscella, technical coordinator of OGF-Europe and director of OGF.eeig, said OGF-Europe “will be essential in bringing enterprise and e-science communities together to break down barriers and foster mainstream grid adoption.”

OGF-Europe’s first Community Outreach Seminar will be held in the UK this spring. The formation of the new group is well timed; OGF23, the Grid Forum’s quarterly international meeting, will be held in Barcelona in June.

OGF-Europe is led by the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre (BSC), technically coordinated by OGF.eeig (The European Chapter of the OGF — European Economic Interest Group) and consists of eight other partners.

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BPEL4People advances toward the mainstream

BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) is too machine-oriented, catering to applications talking to other applications, they say. Most business processes need the human touch somewhere along the line. Consider these un-automatable scenarios: A process may need an executive’s approval to proceed any further. Work may flow like a river, but it also encounters plenty of waterfalls, dams and locks on the way — points at which humans may need to jump in to keep things moving. Workflows are as unique as the companies that create them, and all have their own points where humans intercede.That’s why OASIS announced it is forming a technical committee to explore how the proposed BPEL4People standard (WS-BPEL Extension for People) could rectify this. This is a step toward becoming an OASIS standard, and work will commence on both both BPEL4People and WS-Human Task. WS-HumanTask was created by Adobe, Active Endpoints, BEA, IBM, Oracle and SAP.

As OASIS puts it, the Technical Committee “would define: (1) extensions to the OASIS WS-BPEL 2.0 Standard to enable human interactions, and (2) a model of human interactions that are service-enabled.” The case for BPEL4People vision was first laid out in a white paper jointly published by IBM and SAP in July 2005.

BPEL4People and its cousin WS-Human Task is already appearing on the market. Just this past week, Active Endpoints announced that an update to its open-source ActiveBPEL Community Edition 5.0 Server includes implementations of both standards.

For those who want more details on how BPEL4People works, Andrew Doble provides a deep dive into how BPEL4People fits into the architecture.

But, ultimately, can BPEL4People finally bring SOA closer to the business processes its supposed to support? Just as BPEL has taken its knocks over the years, there are conflicting viewpoints on whether BPEL4People can effectively do the job.

Read the complete article.

OASIS Members Form New Committee to Advance BPEL4People

OASIS, the international open standards consortium, has formed a new technical committee to extend the Web Services Business Processes Execution Language (WS-BPEL) to support human interactions. The new OASIS WS-BPEL Extension for People (BPEL4People) Technical Committee will expand the capabilities of WS-BPEL to support a broad range of human interaction patterns, allowing for additional modeling of business processes within the language.WS-BPEL 2.0, which was approved as an OASIS Standard in 2007, introduced a model to support automated business processes based on Web services. The standard is now widely used for orchestrating machine-to-machine interactions.

“WS-BPEL was not designed for human workflow,” noted Jeff Mischkinsky of Oracle, convenor of the OASIS BPEL4People Technical Committee. “Nevertheless, we realize that many business processes comprise a broad range of activities where people are directly involved. Whether performing tasks, reviewing actions, approving steps, or entering data, people are a key part of many workflow scenarios.”

BPEL4People will define a new type of basic activity that will allow human tasks, including their properties and behavior, to be defined, as well as the operations used to manipulate those tasks. A BPEL4People coordination protocol will control autonomy and life cycle of service-enabled human tasks in an interoperable manner.

more …

OASIS Launches BPEL XML.org Online Community

 The OASIS international standards consortium introduced a new XML.org online community web site dedicated to supporting the Web Services Business Process Execution Language (WS-BPEL) and related specifications. The site, (http://bpel.xml.org), serves as the official information resource for the WS-BPEL OASIS Standard, which provides a method for formally describing business processes and business interaction protocols using Web services.”BPEL has become an important standard for Service-Oriented Architectures,” said Ed Cobb, VP, Emerging Technology & Standards at BEA. “OASIS has created this site as a way to enable users, developers, and vendors from around the world to share information and learn from one another.”

All pages on BPEL XML.org are accessible by the public, and users are encouraged to contribute content. The site features a wiki knowledgebase of information on using and understanding BPEL. It also includes sections where readers can post related news, event information, listings for products and services, links to white papers, case studies, and other resources. Forums that support interactive discussions and blogs are also featured.

“Valuable information on BPEL is scattered throughout the Web on a multitude of web sites from vendors, publications, conferences, and other sources. BPEL XML.org aims to provide an easily navigable nexus point where people can go to quickly find the information they need,” said Diane Jordan, Program Director for IBM Emerging Internet Software Standards. “It’s also a ‘watering hole’ where people working with BPEL can come together to support one another.”

BPEL is the newest addition to the XML.org family of web sites devoted to supporting communities around open standards; other sites include include DITA, ebXML, IDtrust, OpenDocument, and UDDI.

OASIS solicits feedback on proposed ebXML Core charter

OASIS members are asked to review and comment on a draft charter to establish the OASIS ebXML Core (ebCore) Technical Committee. The group plans to serve as the maintenance body for ebXML specifications that are completed or transitioned to the TC. It will manage clarifications, modifications, and enhancements for the specifications. The ebCore TC may also produce new conformance profiles and adjunct documents complementing existing specifications. It will explore synergies with UN/CEFACT, WS-* specifications and SOA best practices.Proposers include representatives of OASIS Sponsor members, Axway Software, Boeing, and Fujitsu, and Contributor members, British Telecommunications and Sonnenglanz Consulting. The comment period for the charter closes 25 Feb 2008.

Read the complete announcement from OASIS.

Achieving Separation of Concerns Using BPEL

Say you buy a shrink-wrapped package with n features. If this software is integrated into a BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) framework, then it should theoretically be possible for you to swap out any of the n features and replace them with the web service (or downloaded) code of your choice. In this article, software developer Stephen Morris reviews the idea and merits of separating software features from business processes in the context of BPEL.  The vast majority of software producers focus exclusively on domain-specific solutions. In this way, software is becoming more customized and, correspondingly, less generic. While some end users (particularly large corporate customers) may be able to request features that closely fit their business processes, it’s likely that most of us end up with a poor fit between our deployed software and our business process needs. The end result is massive cross-vendor duplication of software development that tries to implement code as well as business process logic.

An interesting separation of concerns is becoming possible by the use of BPEL. BPEL allows for business process logic to be expressed in a specific language and to be tied into external software. This reduces (and potentially eliminates) the need to code business process logic in a traditional programming language (such as Java or C++/C). In turn, this provides a clear separation between software features and business processes. By taking the business process logic (e.g., workflow management) out of the application code, the latter becomes simpler and more focused.

In this article, I’ll review the idea and merits of separating software features from business processes in the context of BPEL. Along the way, we’ll see how this leads neatly to the need for highly generic software. The latter is (in my opinion) a pressing concern for all software developers.

Read the complete article by Stephen B. Morris.

Process Component Models: The Next Generation In Workflow ?

Tom Baeyens, founder of JBoss jBPM gives his view of the state of the BPM / workflow market and introduces a new type of workflow technology called process component models.

This article arguments that the gap between the analysis and the implementation of business processes is far bigger then the marketing of today’s workflow tools might suggest. Also it will propose a much more realistic way of dealing with this situation. The current standards and initiatives will be explained with enough depth so that you can see how they relate to the movements and why.

At the end, a new type of workflow technology is introduced called process component model. This type of framework can handle multiple process languages and it can support process languages that better support the transition from analysis process diagrams to executable processes.

This article is orgnised as follows:

– What is BPEL
     – Thoughts and comments on BPEL
     – BPEL extensions
– BPMN
     – What is BPMN
     – Analysis versus execution
     – Process development process
     – Modelling details
     – Mappings and mismatches
– Other BPM technologies
     – XPDL
     – BPDM
     – jPDL
– Choreography
– Process component models
– Implications of this new approach

Read full article …

2007: A Marquee Year for ebXML

The adoption and use of ebXML has finished 2007 stronger and deeper with significant new product and project wins achieved.  The plans for 2008 already hold out expansion on what 2007 has accomplished and particularly in Asia an ambitious programme with several governments contributing to projects taking advantage of what ebXML V3 offers to implement lower cost extended cross-boundary communications solutions.   Europe too is seeing expanding use through adoption in EU funded projects.  Meanwhile the US is broadening use more especially in the government healthcare sector. The adoption by HL7 of the new ebXML V3 messaging will be key in 2008 and especially when combined with SOA techniques and technology needs.

New Tools and Capabilities

Three standout milestones in new software were delivered in 2007.  First Oracle shipped ebXML messaging and CPA support in their Oracle A/S suite and used this for a key project in the agricultural chemical industry in the USA (see Helena Chemicals project report in resources below).

Next IBM provided ebXML messaging and CPA support in their Web Sphere 6.1 product release, primarily to support customers in the medical services industry interfacing with the DHS/CDC PHIN nationwide health reporting system in the USA.

Then Hong Kong University CECID (Center for E-Commerce Infrastructure Development) shipped their new H2O “Hermes V2” ebXML messaging system as an entirely new replacement for their original Hermes system.  As an open source project this not only achieved huge momentum being deployed in over 40 countries worldwide but more importantly it rapidly evolved into a very stable and capable solution with the code base working in a wide variety of environments with solid support for core ebXML functionality.

The Supporting Cast

Added to this was the release of two more very capable and stable messaging open source solutions – the NexusE2E used originally in the chemical industry and the OrionSMG (Secure Messaging Gateway) from healthcare.

Further more the ebXML Registry V3.0 was formally completed and Webswell Inc. combined this with Hermes H2O to make provide a whole B2B-enabled orchestration system for SOA deployments.

Then OASIS approved the Content Assembly Mechanism (CAM) standard and this allows development of content templates to simplify transaction exchange between ebXML systems using the jCAM open source rule engine.  The OrionSMG comes with this capability built-in.  CAM delivers on five years of work that started in ebXML and UN/CEFACT as the BRIM requirements for message exchange definitions in business processes.

Standout Projects in 2007

Of particular note in 2007 was the continued expansion of use of ebXML in the UK NHS “Connecting for Health” system.  This system is the world�s largest e-Business system and the underpinning for this is ebXML messaging.  Electronic transmission of prescriptions message exchange volume reached five hundred messages per second in 2007 and is projected to reach up to seven hundred.   That is over 2,000,000 messages an hour.

Another area in healthcare is the US IHE/XDS secure document exchange project where ebXML Registry is the foundation technology.  This project involves over twenty key providers in the healthcare services industry being able to exchange patient documents between their product offerings and is being coordinated by NIST.

In Asia Axway have implemented a large scale deployment of ebXML messaging for the exchange of customs documents between Thailand and the Philippines;  via service providers, this link connects many thousands of exporting and importing companies.

Better Standards Coordination for 2008

OASIS is launching the new OASIS CORE technical work that will provide better coordination and support for ebXML technology standards in 2008.  Also UN/CEFACT is completing initiatives defining the requirements for context driven support for core component based transaction exchanges and design.  This will make semantically more capable XML transactions possible using technologies such as OASIS CAM templates and W3C schema.

Leading Forward in 2008

Fujitsu and Axway are both leading into 2008 with new ebXML V3 service offerings.  These will be particularly important to their projects in enabling SOA integration between legacy systems, B2B systems and web service WSDL exchanges.  The ebXML V3 specifications are addressing the extended and expanded interchange requirements that today’s distributed national and international level systems require.

The available capabilities in Oracle and IBM solution suites combined with open source lightweight ebXML message solutions can now provide plug-and-play opportunities between existing ERP systems and extended networks of suppliers systems.

The opportunity for ebXML use in 2008 at all levels will continue to accelerate delivery of solutions based around the proven open standards that ebXML provides.

By David Webber