Web-services, SOA, BPM & Cloud Computing – XI

Business Process Reengineering Cycle

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The term Business Process Management (BPM) has been buzzing around for quite a while.

What exactly is BPM?

Is it solely about technology?

Or is it more than that?

Yes, BPM is in vogue because the technology to model processes, simulate them, improve them, and maybe even improvise is available in a huge way.

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Governance – Corporate,IT & SOA

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Corporate governance

Corporate, or enterprise governance, establishes the rules and the manner in
which an enterprise conducts business, based upon its strategy, marketplace,
and principles of doing business. It defines for employees and for business
associates the processes that are used to conduct operations and the manner in
which people interact.
Beginning with the board of directors and extending throughout the organization,
there are many aspects and levels of corporate governance. All aspects of the
business are touched in some manner. Governance is applied to major
functional areas of an organization. Organizations govern their financial assets,
human resources, customer relations, intellectual property portfolio, and their
Information Technology.

Quote of the day:
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. – Aristotle

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Availability

To explain the background of MTBF calculation

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Availability

 

Availability is a measure of the accessibility of a system or application, not including scheduled down-time. It can be measured as a ratio of expected system up-time relative to the total system time, which includes uptime
and recovery time when the system is down.

Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.

Will Rogers

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Web-services, SOA, BPM & Cloud Computing – X

Chromium

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Web-services, SOA, BPM & Cloud Computing – X

No series on cloud computing would be complete without alluding to Google’s audacious attempt at building an OS around the cloud computing paradigm.

Yes, I’m referring to the Google Chrome OS, a spin-off to the Google Chrome browser. The open source versions for the Chrome OS are the Chromium OS and the Chromium Browser respectively.

The Google Chrome OS

The Google Chrome OS is targeted specifically to netbooks, not the primary device of use, but a secondary, portable, lightweight device. The OS is small enough to be loaded on a USB drive and booted from the very same device. Applications on local storage are few and far between and most useful, user applications are based in the cloud. The user interface is minimalist much like the Chrome Browser. Boot time is very quick with Google software engineer Martin Bligh demonstrating a bootup time of four seconds.

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Web Services, SOA, BPM, and Cloud Computing – IX

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A discussion on web services, SOA, BPM and Cloud Computing would be incomplete without a post on grid computing.

Wikipedia starts their article on grid computing by saying that “Grid computing is the combination of computer resources from multiple administrative domains for a common goal.

So what does this mean?

In the first place, computing is about achieving a piece of work, what the work consists of is irrelevant for the definition.

Grid computing is about achieving or completing a humongous piece of work which if given to a single computer would take an inordinately large amount of time and would also in all probability lock up the CPU cycles of the machine, leading to that notorious reaction ‘My computer froze”.

For people who are maybe not technically minded but are aware of SETI@home (The Search For Extra Terrestrial Intelligence – this is a volunteer computing project that utilizes the unused CPU cycles of volunteer home and work PCs to analyze radio signals emanating from space for signs of some sort of intelligent life out there. This seeks to answer that philosophical question “Are we the only ones out here on Planet Earth? It cannot be – there must be someone out there in the vast reaches of the universe”.

What this implies that each volunteer machine downloads a set of radio signal data, analyses it and sends the results back to the SETI project server. The SETI@home application is a screen-saver to be loaded onto the client machine.

This is what in technical terms is known as CPU scavenging and volunteer computing.

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ITIL – Service Strategy

An ITIL Foundation Certificate pin on a shirt.

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The ITIL Service Lifecycle consists of 5 phases:

The first of which is Service Strategy i.e. the process of designing, developing and implementing service management as a strategic resource.

The Service Strategy is at the core of the Service Lifecycle ; the phases Service Design, Service Transition and Service Operation implement this strategy.

What is service strategy?

Strategy can have many definitions but its main goal is to identify the competition and to compete against it by differentiating oneself from the rest and delivering superior performance.

ITIL looks at the 4 Ps of strategy:

Perspective – clear vision & focus

Position – a stance that differentiates us from the competition

Plan – a notion or idea of how the organization should develop its competencies

Pattern – maintaining consistency in decisions and actions

A strategic perspective provides direction. A directionless strategy leads to a rudderless organization. Strategy needs to set a direction, a horizon to cross.

Positioning defines the organization; it is the defining characteristic; you cannot be all things to all people. Positioning narrows focus; it zones in on the factors that set the organization apart.

Positioning is the result of 3 broad inputs: market analysis, internal corporate analysis and competitor analysis.

Positioning is not static and evolves and changes over time.

Strategy as plan focuses on the steps to be taken to implement strategy.

Strategy is the procedures followed that lead to recurring successes.

Service Strategy is about answering hard questions as to what do we specialize in, what are our strategic assets, what are our competencies, what kind of services can we offer, how are we different?

Development and application of service strategy requires constant finessing; service strategy has to be forward looking.

Strategy is the cornerstone of  organizational success.

Have a great day!

Source: A Management Guide Service Strategy Based on ITIL V3

____________________________

Quote of the day:
The most dangerous strategy is to jump a chasm in two leaps. – Benjamin Disraeli

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Web Services, SOA, BPM, and Cloud Computing – VIII

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A series on cloud computing would not be complete without a post on virtualization.

Now, what is virtualization?

A definition of the term virtualization would go as follows:

Virtualization is technology that
allows application workloads to be
managed independent of host hardware.
Multiple applications can
share a single, physical server.
Workloads can be moved from one
host to another without downtime.
IT infrastructure can be managed
as a pool of resources, rather than
a collection of physical devices.

The ability of a single hardware system to support multiple virtual machines thus optimizing the use of the hardware and thus providing more bang for the buck is the cornerstone of virtualization technology.

Virtualization is about multi-tenancy i.e. the ability to have multiple applications residing on the same infrastructure.

Virtualization is most often implemented on x86 servers as either operating system
(OS) virtualization or hypervisor-based virtual machines. OS virtualization uses
a single instance of an operating system (such as Microsoft® Windows® or
Linux®) with the help of virtualization software, to host a large number of individual
workloads.
The hypervisor approach is completely different. A hypervisor is code shared
among the guest operating systems and the hardware. The guest operating systems
can be various versions of Windows and Linux, and can be mixed and
matched on the same system. (For example, Windows 2000, Windows Vista,
SLES 9 with Xen, and RHEL 5 without Xen can all operate simultaneously,
including standard and enterprise varieties of each, as well as both 32-bit and
64-bit implementations.)
The hypervisor ensures that each operating system instance gets its proper share
of hardware resources and also that activity in one virtual machine (VM), or partition,
does not impact any other partition or the overall system.

Virtualization is about intelligent sharing of computing, resources and storage. Virtualization is about being dynamic with your allocation of resources, computing and storage. It is juggling multiple balls or applications transparently without the complexities becoming evident to the user of the applications.

Virtualization allows you to be flexible with your allocation of resources.It allows for failover, load-balancing, disaster recovery and real-time server maintenance.

The complexity of virtualization needs a single interface from where this infrastructure can be managed.

Virtualization lends itself to reduction in cost i.e. in the spending on hardware and at the same time an increase in productivity of the hardware installed. However, it is not a silver bullet and brings with it complexities that would have been avoided in a non-virtual infrastructure. The need to balance performance needs with maximizing workload is what virtualizing organizations  grapple with.

Virtualization can help you maximize the value of your IT dollars:
● Business agility in changing markets
● Computing resources to meet both current and future needs within the existing
power envelope
● An IT infrastructure that is flexible and can scale with business growth
● Performance that can handle the most demanding applications
● An industry-standard platform architecture
● Intelligent management tools
● Servers with enterprise attributes—regardless of their size or form factor

 

Virtualization can help you improve IT services:
● Rapidly provision new application workloads—cut setup time from days or
weeks to minutes
● Improve IT responsiveness to business needs
● Eliminate planned downtime by moving workloads before hardware
is serviced
● Greatly reduce—even eliminate—unplanned downtime

Virtualization strategy is the backbone of cloud computing solutions. Without virtualization, cloud computing would have a mountain to climb, with virtualization, its the case of going up a hill but appearing to come down a mountain!

Have a great day!

Source: IBM White Paper

Virtualization strategy for mid-sized businesses
April 2009
IBM and VMware virtualization benefits for mid-sized businesses

Quote of the day:
In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. – George Orwell

 

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T-Commerce – Teeing Off

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Written in 2007, the introduction to a biz plan for a T-commerce solutions provider.

1 Introduction

Buy Interactive has a vision of bringing online retailing into the drawing room of millions of television viewers via its innovative use of technology. The goal is to integrate the converging technologies of media, the internet, the wireless and retailing to facilitate the extension of e-commerce to t-commerce & m-commerce.

1.1 Objective

The objective of this business plan is to outline a strategy for an interactive solutions software company to target the emerging market for interactive television with a specific focus on interactive shopping as the application of technology with the existing Internet infrastructure as the communication backbone. The convergence of media, the Internet and online retailing is the hub of this identified niche in the content management software industry. Further aspects to be explored are an extension of online advertising and promotions to this targeted market segment.

.2 The Organization

The company, Buy Interactive, is a software products company with a focus on developing solutions for interactive/IP television. The crux of the software solutions are the set-top box, the software stack on the box and a broadband internet connection. Current applications of interactive/IP television are mostly sports-casting, picture-in-picture, video -on-demand, email, interactive games, & information portals; these have limited interactivity. Buy Interactive intends to focus on leveraging existing online retailers and their offerings to bring them to your fingertips.

1.3 The Service

The service offered by Buy Interactive is a unique shopping experience for the couch potato; the not-so-internet-savvy user, the one who is more comfortable with traditional media such as the television & video. No more time-wasting spent on the internet searching for deals; the best deals are brought to you to your finger-tips for use via the ‘power-pad’.

The business model also provides for advertising revenue to be collected by the cable & telephone networks based on the pay-per-click, pay-per-lead and pay-per-sale.

1.4 The Market

1.4.1 Geographic Market

The scope of this project proposal is to be limited to the geographic area of Cyprus with potential users CYTA and PrimeTel. The software will be provided as private label allowing the licensors to customize the look and feel of the software and use a consistent interface. Branding can be a combination of the online retailer and/or the operator.

1.4.2 Current Usage

CYTA MiVision market share among residential broadband users was about 10% when it was first introduced in July 2004. PrimeTel and its competing TriplePlay [includes ADSL 2+] service is currently aiming for a market share of 10-15% of IPTV subscribers. CYTA MiVision currently has 23,000 subscribers to IPTV with growth in subscriptions ranging from 500 to 1000 subscribers per month. PrimeTel, on the other hand, have new customers at the rate of 2000 per month. CYTA MiVision plan to introduce 2 new services soon, namely nPVR and Time-Shift TV. CYTA MiVision’s contract with Amino for STB’s specifies that orders (unit contract price) are placed for STBs based on demand, as the need arises. The price for each STB to the customer is 50 CYP , a one-off price. PrimeTel’s suppliers are Kreatel Communications, a recent acquisition by Motorola. STBs are currently being offered free by Prime Tel to new customers, mirroring a trend in most IPTV providers, to subsidize the STB in anticipation of selling value-added services and recovering the initial cost from the service revenues. Both Amino and Kreatel Communications STB devices both run on the LINUX operating system.

1.4.3 Growth Potential

Broadband usage in Cyprus at the end of the first quarter of year 2006 was 12.1% from 4.1% in 2005. 46% of households have internet access from home. Internet, mail order & telephone sales for the first half of 2007 show a jump in spending from £8.83 million for the whole of 2006 to £25.4 million.

This subscriber base has experienced increasing growth over the past 3 years, from 2004 to 2006, and the potential to convert these to IPTV customers increases as the broadband subscriber base increases. The other way to drive growth is to use the IPTV offerings to get television viewers (99% of the Cypriot population own a television) to switch over with a less intimidating offering, especially for non-computer owners (almost 50% of the population). Once a tipping point for this service is reached, growth will be exponential. Signs of this happening in the broadband market are evident. Extrapolating to IPTV and from there to Buy Interactive’s products is how we predict growth for our products.

IPTV in India
IPTV, in India, is currently offered by MTNL in Mumbai and BSNL in Pune, Kolkata and Bangalore.Other companies with plans to rollout IPTV Triple Play offerings in the near future include Reliance InfoComm and Bharti Airtel.
The PSUs

MTNL were the first to launch IPTV in India, namely in Mumbai and New Delhi in October 2006.

Subscribers now number less than 1,000 for MTNL, but the company is hoping for a high conversion rate as broadband connections grow to a target of 500,000 each in Mumbai and Delhi.Currently, MTNL has 225,000 broadband lines out of a total of 4.5 million fixed line subscribers in the two cities. To enable transport of high-density video content, MTNL is using compression technologies that can zip as much as 3 megabits per second.

Currently, a subscriber has to pay a lifetime payment of Rs 3,500 (approximately 87 USD) [Prices have dropped to Rs. 1000 approx. 25 USD for current new subscribers] for a set-top box, and a monthly rental of 120 rupees for 52 channels in Delhi. As volumes grow, it is expected that STBs will be made available free of cost. The service of course is dependent on the customer already being a broadband internet subscriber with MTNL. Bundling of services such as Internet connection and IPTV are not offered as yet.

MTNL has increased the accessibility of IPTV in a 3 km radius from each telephone exchange, from the initial 800 metres each, and plans to start rolling out fibre optic cables that will reach 20 km from the nearest exchange. MTNL has invested $120 per subscriber to enable the IPTV service, and is betting on instant interactivity to view desired programmes and convenience of viewing to be the distinguishing features.

BSNL, the other large public communications company with most of its subscribers in the Tier II cities & towns, envisaged a “quantum jump” in broadband penetration by issuing around five million new connections over the next few months. These would include an estimated three million broadband connections across 1,000 cities and another two million connections in the rural segments. Currently, 1.15 million subscribers used BSNL’s DataOne, a 40 per cent share of the broadband segment of 2.5 million subscribers.[As of April 2007 India had 2.43 million broadband subscribers, by April 2008 it is expected to rise to 4.21 million. India has around 65 million cable and satellite homes. If even 10 per cent take IPTV then 6.5 million IPTV subscriber base is not a small one].This is projected to grow to 20 million by 2010 according to TRAI.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, on the other hand, says that while the number of TV households in India is expected to grow to 130 million by 2012, DTH will account for less than a tenth of this number and IPTV less than a hundredth.

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) is conducting a feasibility study to launch broadband multiplay service, including voice, video and Internet protocol television (IPTV). The service, to be offered in 789 cities across the country, would be available at an eight megabites per second (MBPS) speed connectivity, instead of 2MBPS.

Cable operators such as Hathway are expected to enter this market as well. Current efforts to digitize their network and then move into the IPTV space with Triple Play offerings.

Further competition to Telco IPTV providers are expected from Tata Sky and Dish TV, two DTH players currently consolidating market share.

Reliance Communications & Microsoft have signed a 8 year contract to supply IPTV services. The world’s biggest software maker is expected to earn $500 million, or Rs1,965 crore, based on a revenue-sharing formula in the contract as part of license fees for its software. Reliance Communications will use Microsoft’s MediaRoom IPTV platform, a deployment that Microsoft has valued at about $500 million. The carrier appears poised to invest as much as $1 billion on its IPTV project.

The Indian Context

Over 50% of India’s telephony infrastructure can support IPTV ,which for a developing country is very impressive.

Global IPTV revenue is expected to touch $17 billion by 2010. Smooth billing of services is crucial to ensure consumer satisfaction. The bundling of telephony, internet access and television channels makes it necessary to provide a single billing facility to the users. Software that provides this as well as integration of discount schemes is key to making sure that transition is smooth and hassle-free.

At IBE 2007, held in Mumbai between 25 and 27 October, it was predicted that there will be one million IPTV subscribers in India by 2011.

Mobile Telephony & IPTV

Besides the use of telephone and cable networks, Reliance Communications Ltd. , Bharti Airtel and BSNL are experimenting with WiMax wireless technologies to deliver IPTV services to consumers via their existing wireless networks. Government regulations have been eased to facilitate increased bandwidth; this coupled with better compression techniques, that already deliver content to mobile phones, should enable IPTV services via wireless networks for the Indian consumer. The consumer is thus faced with a multitude of choices from which a bouquet of services may be chosen. Thus, a congruence of choices implies convergent services for the end-user.

The regulatory body TRAI is struggling to come to terms with the different vying technologies that can provide these bouquet of services; a rapid overhaul of the existing laws & regulations is called for.

Revenue Sharing Concerns

The biggest fear of content firms when it comes to archiving of their programmes, is piracy and proper revenue-sharing. It is essential that the operator, whether it is the cable-industry or the telecom operator, shares the correct figures about the number of people who watch it and gives the right share of revenue to them. Else the question remains as to why should the content firm should provide its programming to be played as re-runs.

1.5 The Strategy

Competitive positioning strategy is to position Buy Interactive as being a total customer solutions (TCS) provider to IPTV providers; the initial focus is to be the best available product and move towards offering customized solutions, consultancy, training and maintenance services to our customers. The strategy model is based on the Delta framework with specific reference to using technology to provide a competitive advantage. System Lock In(SLI) would be an ideal situation; however, we envisage regulatory and customer resistance/customer sophistication as hurdles to any move in that direction. Key to capturing value via our revenue model is the achievement of critical mass in our complementors markets; we hope to ride the network effects of high market share achieved by our partners/customers. Our aim is customer’s mind-share.

1.6 The Business

The business is to provide a complete suite of software services packaged to allow the cable & DSL providers, primarily to enable t-commerce and secondarily the ability to create advertising content tailored by demographics, location & program content. The interactive/IPTV providers are the customers for the packaged products with Buy Interactive providing installation, consultation, customization and maintenance services, thus providing a Total Customer Solution.

1.7 The Mission

Our mission is to provide state-of-the-art interactive software solutions for the IPTV platform, to provide our customers a competitive edge by the right use of technology to meet their business needs and serve their customers better.

Interactive solutions at your finger-tips”

1.8 Key Success Factors

  • Total Customer Solution Provider

  • Customer Satisfaction & Long-Term Relationships

  • Strong Management Team with Key Technical Personnel

1.9 Customers/Complementors/Alliances

Our core targeted customers are to be the IPTV providers, who would use our products to track & report advertising views, lead statistics, and conversion to sales of advertised products. We also envisage a market for content creation software that would be used by content programming companies, that can synchronize advertised products with the programming content. Direct selling channels/home shopping networks such as QVC, HSN (QVC & HSN already have interactive TV shopping applications) and Shop@Home TV is another customer avenue to be explored. The business model rests on the ability to form strong strategic alliances with online e-tailers to enable their offerings for IPTV. The ability to get strong branded e-tailers to buy in early is critical to the success of the business. The other option is to build a strong local conglomerate of e-tailers and converge their services and products via our software service. This would however require an additional investment in time, capital and training.

1.10 Service/Product Delivery

Delivery of our products would be done by a team of software professionals, that include system administrator, an account manager and a software developer for trouble-shooting issues. Customization of requirements would have to be signed off by the customer and the account manager, after feasibility studies in consultancy with product managers and software architects is completed. Schedules & time-tables for different mile-stones of product delivery are to be agreed on with the customer. Provisions for staging the software and pilot deployments are other important aspects that will have to be considered. All these costs are to be borne by the customer with clauses inserted enabling the customer to pull out if necessary at any stage. Clauses to compensate for new requirements , either overlooked , inadvertent or caused by new regulations will be part & parcel of the contracts. These agreements would be drafted in consultation with our retained lawyers; special provisions to protect our intellectual property (IP) would also be factored in.

1.11 Product/R&D

1.11.1 Base Products & Features

The E-Tailer Enabler

The Enabler is the core product offered by Buy Interactive. The Enabler brings the online retailer to your television set leveraging the use of web-services, HTTP/HTTPS, SSL and the STB stack of software services to provide a much more user-friendly experience for the television viewer. The Enabler has 2 components, the Controller hosted at the operator’s central site and the on-the-fly Intelligent Renderer of the streamed/pulled deals available currently at the online retailer selected. The currently watched television show’s content descriptor tags are scanned for relevant key-words and matched against a local data-base of products and categories. These are then used to pull deals from the online retailer via their provided Web-service APIs and these can be rendered as the user wishes either in a full-screen window or a smaller picture-in-picture (PIP) window. The initial version would leverage the embedded browser components and create HTML pages on the fly to be viewed in the STB browser for speed-to-market. A further development would be a customized viewer with much more interactivity and better graphics; this could be a driver for customer lock-in by the use of a richer user interface.

The Analyzer/Tracker

The Analyzer/Tracker tracks the user clicks per displayed product/advertisement, the no. of views, and conversion to actual sales. This data is used by the operator to bill the e-tailer using a weighted formula based on click count, time spent on related views and translated sales. A percentage of this revenue would be royalty fees accruing to Buy Interactive.

The Distributor

The Distributor component deals with the distribution of advertising and programming related content to the STBs. Premeditated content such as graphics, video & audio can be distributed to the STBs to be scheduled to play along with scheduled programs, ads & events. The pull process is then limited to the prices and deals being offered for the products. The distributing process is transparent to the television viewer; content can be cached at servers located closer to the area to reduce network latency similar to the process used for Video-On-Demand (VOD). This meta-data is to be rendered by the Intelligent Renderer and synced along with the program & ad content.

The Service Updater

The Service Updater component updates the software stack of services on the STB. The Service Updater component seeks to ensure that the STB is autonomic, I.e. It is self-diagnosing and can fix itself except in the most rare circumstances. The STB can communicate with the Updater service and intimate it as to the current status of the STB, it’s content as well as the playout of content, if necessary. The Service Update STB component can check for updates if available and download them to be applied either immediately or at a programmed time or on shutdown or start-up. Care is taken to ensure minimal disruption of the viewer’s schedule.

The Shopping Cart

The STB services platform will include a shopping cart functionality that is owned by the service operator. This can be configured to override the e- tailer’s shopping cart or used for the operator’s promoted products such as telephone & cable equipment to be purchased.

The Billing System (BS)

The Billing System provides the television viewer statements of their online purchasing activity sent out to them either by mail or e-mail.

It also has B2B functionality to bill the e-tailer for service provided. All this is enabled via a server side billing system that is scalable to meet the growing subscriber base. This would integrate seamlessly with the Subscriber Management System to provide a complete customer management system.

The Subscriber Management System (SMS)

The Subscriber Management System would integrate with the operator’s existing customer database and would add additional tables to provide for additional customer specific data needed for the SMS & BS to function.

SME E-commerce Server

For small merchants and local retailers, the SME E-commerce server provides a service where they can hawk their goods and services. This will be provided to local businesses as a SAAS application that can be accessed via their own customer accounts, so that they can upload details of their goods and service including pricing, special discounts, promotions and sales. The E- commerce server is an Open Source based application server, that will have a stack of web-services provided on top of the existing application to enable these to be pulled to the STB to be rendered. An instance of this Application Server will also serve as a proof-of-concept to be shown to prospective clients.

Data-warehousing (DW)

The total suite of offerings would be incomplete without being able to facilitate data- warehousing to enable managerial decisions for the operator. The initial implementation would use an off-the-shelf implementation with data warehousing specialists and business analysts to work together to identify the various data-marts & dimensions to be stored in the data-warehousing system. This differs from the data-warehousing solutions currently implemented & used by both the e-tailer & the service operator.

1.11.2 Add-Ons & Extended Product Lines

The Content Creator

The Content Creator software allows the user to create tailored content using graphics, audio, video and animation to produce MPEG2 and MPEG4 content.

The Content Editor

The Content Editor allows the user to edit existing content mostly to create or edit additional tags to describe the content and add relevant key words and date information.

E-auction Server

The E-Auction server is an application server that incorporates all the features of an e-commerce server plus the ability to store various bids and dynamic pricing of goods and services. This feature will be an enhancement of the SME e-commerce server and will include features that enable tracking bids , closures. Merchants will also have the facility to upload their product offerings and latest deals.

1.11.3 Technology to be used

LINUX OS for embedded devices/Windows CE

Java2 Micro Edition(J2ME) / .NET platform

Java XLETs/Windows API

Proprietary Extension/Set-top Box APIs

SOAP web-services

RESTful web-services

HTTP/HTTPS/SSL

Embedded Browser

RFID for single-sign on

E-commerce Application Server (Open Source)

WebServices API for E-commerce Application Server

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Web Services, SOA, BPM, and Cloud Computing – IV

Before we continue with web services and go into the gory details, let’s first identify WHY would we need web services.

Without the WHY, the HOWs, WHENs, WHEREs, HOW MUCHs, WHATs, BY WHOM, WHOs is pretty much redundant as a good project manager or better still a project sponsor will tell you. The WHY gives direction.. .

The answers to the other questions, pave the way.

Let’s just consider me and a hypothetical situation. It is the 14th of February, Valentine’s day next week. And though I want to give my girlfriend and me, an extra special time, it will be difficult to make arrangements for making that day a memorable one. Travelling will be difficult ; I do not have my own transport. Making dinner reservations and buying show tickets to the latest hit film or the hit musical that’s just come into town in person is almost impossible. How wonderful would it be if I could have a concierge or better still a personal assistant who would do all that for me! And either for a minute transaction fee or for nothing!

Now, I could log on to the car-rental site like Hertz and or the taxi hire ( say Meru) web-site and arrange for transport. Or call them up! And then log on to a web-site like BookMyShow.com and book the tickets for the film I would like to see. But these would have to be done individually and co-ordinating the bookings is a hassle and its my hassle!

But what if there was web-site that would do this, an aggregator of services? A mash-up , if you like. It would offer me a bouquet of services, I enter my requirements and let the service provider do the work.

The web-site does the job of orchestrating and choreographing my requests, and comes up with my dream date! For a small fee!

Would this make for a good bizness model? If you could extend this as a service to firms, that would include booking train, bus and plane tickets, yes, the volumes add up and revenue can be significant.

Though the earlier scenario is so much more interesting and romantic!

And though the WHY is short and pithy, it is so much more potent!

Have a good day!

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Web Services, SOA, BPM, and Cloud Computing – III

Still with web services , and now let’s talk about Discovery of services.

Discovery, as in the 2nd D in UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration) and not the Discovery channel, though the latter is probably so much more entertaining.

1> UDDI is the abbreviated form of Universal Description, Discovery and Integration though a lot of people also refer to it as Universal Dynamic Discovery and Invocation , which to my mind , seems a better disambiguation of the abbreviation.

UDDI is basically a directory of services offered by various service providers or organizations. UDDI can be of 2 kinds, public and private. The public UDDI directories list services by organizations, and there are various classifications of the organizations, that could be used to identify an appropriate service based on business type.

The private UDDI registries are usually internal to a large organization, or could be B2B or industry registries. These are usually private and are not accessible to all.

The idea behind having UDDI registries is that systems that use these registries could be self-organizing i.e they discover services as they are added and can thus add to their capabilities. This is kind of a precursor to a Semantic Web, though it is not quite the same.That is, if a new business entity added a similar service to the one you were currently using , your system would discover this service and add it to its list of alternate services that it could use. It could thus create B2B partnerships on the fly. Now this could still happen based on some criteria but in actuality, when other organizations use services provided by service providers, a contract and a SLA (Service Level Agreement) is to be first agreed upon before the services are used. You would not trust your critical system with a service that could be proved unreliable.

Also, your system rather than create dynamic relationships with all services that provide the functionality needed would rather have 2 or 3 preferred providers which would be used either in a round-robin manner or in some priority order. These would be based either on metered usage or an agreement as to the no. of transactions to be used per month.

Also, there are issues of tracking usage , which needs the service user to first be authenticated and then authorised to use the service.

Though these could be automated , there are practical considerations that still require human judgment to be exercised.

One of the major criteria for choosing a service provider would be cost, but it is not the sole criteria. Quality of service (QOS) is another major criteria.

UDDI is a centralised way of accessing web services; your system accesses the registry , looks up the required organization/industry and chooses the service it requires. This is a one-time process; the WSDL document for the service is located; the service is bound to and cached by your system so that the computational and network cost of accessing the registry is not incurred again. In most cases, you might even bypass the UDDI as you might already be provided the WSDL location by the service provider.

Though UDDI is supported by IBM, IBM also supports  an alternate standard for discovering web services, which seems much simpler and is , in the bargain, a distributed system.

2> WSIL (Web Services Inspection Language)

Web Services Inspection Language (WSIL) is a service discovery mechanism that is an alternative to UDDI as well as complementary to UDDI. With WSIL, you go directly to the source of the service i.e. the service provider itself , a sort of , getting it directly from the horse’s mouth.

Let me draw an analogy here. How many of you are familiar with RSS (Really Simple Syndication)? If you are a blog writer or reader, you will be familiar with the RSS button on the index page. You just point an RSS reader to it and voila!, you are now subscribed to any new articles or posts on the blog or web-site.

WSIL operates in a similar manner. It requires that the root of the web-site have a meta-tag that has a pointer or link to a WSIL document that describes a list of services provided by the service provider , in this case, the web-site.

Why is it complementary? It is much easier to update a document provided on your web-site with the list of all the service available for consumption than to update an UDDI registry. The UDDI registry can then be populated automatically using a search and identify WSIL documents program. There would be some lag in synchronicity but life gets much simpler. Simplicity is key.

In both of the above discovery mechanisms, the WSDL documents are not stored ; just a reference to them.

References: Wikipedia, http://publib.boulder.ibm.com/infocenter/radhelp/ (search for WSIL)

J2EE™ Web Services

By Richard Monson-Haefel

Note: WSIL is a standard proposed by Microsoft and IBM.

Addendum: Microsoft also offers a proprietary discovery mechanism called DISCO that follows a very similar approach to WSIL. See http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/cc302073.aspx

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