Mobile IoT Authors: Pat Romanski, LeanTaaS Blog, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Shelly Palmer

Related Topics: Microservices Expo

Microservices Expo: Article

Web Services' Impact on Business Process Management

Web Services' Impact on Business Process Management

Web services have been advertised as the one-size-fits-all solution for all sorts of integration problems. But like any other innovation in the software industry, Web services require a new generation of tools and infrastructure to help companies overcome the adoption hurdle and take full advantage of the business benefits this technology promises.

In this article I take a closer look at Web services' impact on business process management (BPM) and identify the requirements for a new generation of BPM products that fully leverage Web services and address the resulting architectural changes.

BPM: Approaches and Trends Over the past 10 years, different generations of business process management systems have emerged in the marketplace to solve different problems. These systems include:

  • Workflows within packaged applications
  • Document management work flows
  • EAI-based BPM
  • B2B-based BPM

There are a number of trends in the marketplace today that alter the landscape for application integration and business process management including:

  • Convergence of application development and application integration
  • Convergence of B2B and back-end integration
  • Emergence of standards-based back - end integration
  • Maturity of J2EE application servers
  • Web services innovation

The worlds of application integration and application development were separated because traditionally, different vendors provided these two solutions. The pure integration vendors, in either the EAI or B2B markets, focused their efforts on integrating existing systems and applications, investing little effort in supporting new application development. They relied on application platform vendors such as BEA, Microsoft, and IBM to address application development. According to Gartner (December, 2001):

"Through 2006, at least 75 percent of Web services deployed by Global 2000 enterprises will have been implemented through integration of new developments and pre-existing applications (0.7 probability)."

Developers will be looking for a single platform to develop new applications and integrate existing ones. Web services adoption will help accelerate the convergence of these two worlds by providing a standards-based method to wrap existing applications and business objects for maximum reusability and integration. As a result, several new requirements for BPM products have emerged:

  • Ability to call back-end and external Web Services
  • Ability to expose a business process as a Web service
  • Seamless integration and reusability of existing business objects (e.g., EJBs)
  • Support for the development and execution of in-line application code.

Organizations that invested in the J2EE platform will seek a smooth ramp between the underlying J2EE APIs, the application logic stack, and the business process layer. Companies will also look at the deployment aspects of the platform and evaluate the BPM/ integration solution in terms of scalability, reliability, recoverability, and manageability. In the context of an integrated platform, the challenge will be to provide the proper level of abstraction and the tools to the right users (see Figure 1).

The enterprise developer who implements business objects and system-level code will be working at the J2EE API layer. The developer will need mechanisms to expose these objects to the layer above, potentially as Web services. At the business application layer, the application developer will need an easy way to assemble these Web services - typically accomplished by writing some procedural application logic or by using a BPM state machine. That developer will have to be sheltered from the complexity of the underlying J2EE layer and from the technical details of assembling Web services. At the integration level, the business analyst defines coarse-grained business processes that use the services provided by the underlying layers as well as back-end resources within the enterprise, and services provided by partners over the Web.

Convergence of Back-End Integration and B2B
The problem of integrating internal applications on the one hand, and business partners on the other hand, has grown out of two different environments. The first is characterized by a controlled environment with full access to back-end resources, based on messaging systems, short-running transactions, fine-grained access to data, and binary-level transformations. The second environment is characterized by support for XML standards, Internet protocols such as the communication channel, long-running processes and transactions, public processes exposed to partners, and trading partner management. A number of lessons can be learned from the implementation of the first generation of B2B integration solutions.

First, systems and applications developed by different groups on different platforms cannot be tightly coupled; otherwise, changes in the implementation of any of the systems involved will propagate throughout the architecture, making it unmanageable. This breakdown is one of the reasons why the EAI paradigm is insufficient for integration across partners. With Web services, you can integrate applications based on a public contract that describes the XML messages for applications to exchange, while leaving the underlying implementation details to each application. As long as applications honor their contract they can change at will without breaking the integration.

Second, the communication paradigm must be coarse-grained because of the high cost of communicating among loosely coupled systems using WAN or the Internet. Applications ought to maximize return on the cost of opening and using the communication channel by passing around larger pieces of information in the form of an XML business document. By integrating at a business level, Web services will allow greater flexibility when the underlying implementation changes.

Third, the communication ought to be asynchronous because you can't rely on other systems, especially legacy applications, to be 100% reliable. Moreover, the application shouldn't be dependent on the response time of another system whose response time may be inconsistent. These architectural changes are profound and will require a new generation of BPM to be designed around them - rather than simply being evolved from previous models.

Emergence of Standards-Based Integration
Integration is one of the most expensive entries by far in any CIO's ledger, often due to the proprietary nature of back-end systems and applications. XML was the first step toward standardizing this space as it unleashed data from proprietary binary formats into a standards-based data representation. Unfortunately, XML as a data representation alone is not enough. Access to application functionality requires a way to describe the methods available, a mechanism to discover these methods, and a mechanism to access the resulting data. Web services holds this promise.

When XML emerged and started to gain credibility in the marketplace, BPM and integration companies rushed to add XML support to their products. Most BPM solutions provided a way to consume and produce XML. Many of these products were architected long before XML was introduced; therefore, the architecture wasn't designed to handle its extensible nature. This approach falls short as the number of different XML standards increases. Moreover, the scope of XML standards is quickly moving beyond the mere description and exchange of data.

XML is now pervasive in the architecture and is used to describe services (WSDL), Web service registry (UDDI), business processes (BPML, Xlang), and sequences of public business events and processes (ebXML). For these reasons, BPM engines must provide mechanisms to cope with XML extensibility at their core, so it's possible to support multiple XML standards without requiring changes in the product. At the periphery, BPMs must support XML transformations, definition of public business processes, and interaction with multiple Web services in both synchronous and asynchronous fashions. The new generation BPM requires mechanisms to integrate with enterprise-class Web services, such as the transformation of XML messages, introspection of WSDL definitions, processing and dispatching of SOAP calls, management of correlation IDs, and the state associated with multiple conversations with multiple Web services. The combination of Web services and BPM provides developers with the business-level programming paradigm that allows organizations to build what analysts describe as "composite business applications."

To better understand the architectural and technical implications of the execution of Web services within a business process engine, let's consider an example in which an insurance company aims to expose an underwriting business process to its subsidiaries using Web services. We'll use a fictitious, simplified version of the actual business process (see Figure 2).

1. The quote request comes in through a Web service interface.

2. The request is queued; when ready, BPM starts the proper business process.

3. BPM starts two parallel tasks: it sends an asynchronous request to a back-end application to check if the customer has any history of interaction with the insurance company and it sends a request to a Web service offered by the Department of Motor Vehicles to check the history of the vehicle to be insured (see Figure 3).

4. When the responses come back asynchronously BPM decides if the request can be accepted by executing in-line Java logic.

5. If the request for quote is accepted, BPM invokes an EJB that computes the policy price based on the input parameters.

6. BPM sends the quote back to the requesting client.

There are two main requirements for the BPM design environment in this example. The first is to provide the user with a business-level abstraction of the services offered by the Web services involved while hiding the low-level implementation details. The second requirement is to keep the business process definition independent from the actual Web services with which it interacts. Over time, the same business process will have to interface with alternative Web services implementations (e.g., the credit check could be performed via a cheaper or more efficient Web service offered by a different credit agency), making it possible to swap Web services without changing the business process definition, as long as the semantic of the services methods and schemas are equivalent. At design time, the BPM tool must be able to load the WSDL definition of a Web service and allow the user to select which Web service methods to call. The tool must be able to generate the WSDL definition for those services that are exposed to external entities. It should also allow the user to introspect the schema of the document payload and provide a mechanism to transform it into the schemas that other Web services require.

There will be many cases when Web services won't be transactional, which requires the BPM to provide the user with mechanisms to model compensating transactions when something goes wrong in between multiple invocations of non-transactional Web services. In this example, an adapter is used to get at the data and functions of the back-end application. The adapter interfaces are wrapped with a Web service so that the BPM has a consistent metaphor and interfaces to access the various entities involved in the business process (see Figure 4).

Beyond the design time, there are several high-level implications for the BPM at run time. The BPM must provide a mechanism to accept SOAP calls, marshal the SOAP headers and content into the internal data representation, potentially apply a data transformation, and start the proper business process(es). In this example, the interactions with the various Web services are asynchronous. Therefore, each conversation started by BPM must generate a correlation ID and use it to send the proper response to the proper requester later. If an external Web service initiates the request, then BPM needs to store the external correlation ID to correlate the response properly later.

For most business scenarios, the conversations between BPM and other entities via Web services will probably involve multiple exchanges of messages that have state associated with them. For each conversation instance, the BPM run-time will have to transparently and recoverably manage the associated state. For each invocation of a Web service within the boundaries of a defined long-running transaction, the BPM engine has to store the information it needs to compensate for the effect of the Web service invocation. When a message has to be transformed from one format to another as it's passed across different Web services, the BPM engine needs to provide a highly efficient transformation engine.

Web services offer the promise of a single solution for integration across multiple enterprises. However, there are still many areas where there is opportunity for growth and enhancement. This article has identified and discussed the requirements that would ensure a fully successful new generation of BPM systems using Web services.

More Stories By Vittorio Viarengo

Vittorio Viarengo is senior director of product management with BEA Systems, a leading application infrastructure company, with more than 13,000
customers around the world. Viarengo is responsible for the direction of BEA WebLogic Integration, business process management, and Web Services development framework. [email protected]

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@ThingsExpo Stories
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo have announced the conference tracks for Cloud Expo 2018. Cloud Expo will be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, and November 6-8, 2018, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DX Expo within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive ov...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
With tough new regulations coming to Europe on data privacy in May 2018, Calligo will explain why in reality the effect is global and transforms how you consider critical data. EU GDPR fundamentally rewrites the rules for cloud, Big Data and IoT. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Adam Ryan, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Calligo, examined the regulations and provided insight on how it affects technology, challenges the established rules and will usher in new levels of diligence arou...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
"Digital transformation - what we knew about it in the past has been redefined. Automation is going to play such a huge role in that because the culture, the technology, and the business operations are being shifted now," stated Brian Boeggeman, VP of Alliances & Partnerships at Ayehu, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Synametrics Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Synametrics Technologies is a privately held company based in Plainsboro, New Jersey that has been providing solutions for the developer community since 1997. Based on the success of its initial product offerings such as WinSQL, Xeams, SynaMan and Syncrify, Synametrics continues to create and hone inn...
"Evatronix provides design services to companies that need to integrate the IoT technology in their products but they don't necessarily have the expertise, knowledge and design team to do so," explained Adam Morawiec, VP of Business Development at Evatronix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The 22nd International Cloud Expo | 1st DXWorld Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, to be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY, brings together Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding busin...
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, led attendees through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He looked at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering m...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
No hype cycles or predictions of a gazillion things here. IoT is here. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, an Associate Partner of Analytics, IoT & Cybersecurity at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He also discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data...
Recently, REAN Cloud built a digital concierge for a North Carolina hospital that had observed that most patient call button questions were repetitive. In addition, the paper-based process used to measure patient health metrics was laborious, not in real-time and sometimes error-prone. In their session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sean Finnerty, Executive Director, Practice Lead, Health Care & Life Science at REAN Cloud, and Dr. S.P.T. Krishnan, Principal Architect at REAN Cloud, discussed how they built...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo 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 ...
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo 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 ...
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY – 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 world's largest enterprises – and delivering real results. Among the proven benefits,...
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, is co-located with 22nd Cloud Expo | 1st DXWorld Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait...
SYS-CON Events announced today that T-Mobile exhibited at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. As America's Un-carrier, T-Mobile US, Inc., is redefining the way consumers and businesses buy wireless services through leading product and service innovation. The Company's advanced nationwide 4G LTE network delivers outstanding wireless experiences to 67.4 million customers who are unwilling to compromise on qua...