jCPEX!: Dynamic Linking of Process Services Increases Agility

  • Metasonic has developed a platform for flexible and loosely coupled, inter-organizational business process workflows.

  • The competitiveness of SMEs is increased by the publication of their process interfaces in the service marketplace.
  • The project is being promoted by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Technologie - BMWi) as part of the research program  “THESEUS – New Technologies for the Internet of Services“.
Pfaffenhofen
February 28, 2011
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As far as the software manufacturer Metasonic is concerned, this years CeBIT is all about process optimization. For this reason, the company initiated the project jCPEX!, which is being supported by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) and is one of the 12 winning projects participating in the technology competition “THESEUS -- Small and Mid-Sized Companies 2009“.


jCPEX! makes it possible to link loosely coupled, inter-organizational business processes flexibly and dynamically. The ultimate goal: to increase the agility of organizations by shifting the linking processes from the time of modeling to runtime. This means that the links are not established until the message is actually sent. To communicate with each other, the participating companies need only agree on a common interface for their processes (the “observed behavior“). This process interface is published in the service marketplace. Thus the “Internet of Services“ concept of the TEXO project has now grown to encompass a business process component.

The Process in Detail
The metadata for the process service interface and its implementation are described in Unified Service Description Language (USDL). Here is defined how potential partners can connect. Included are the legal aspects (general business terms and conditions), the functionality offered by the service, the cost of the service, and which organizations are involved in providing the service. Similar to the Amazon Marketplace, where supply and demand are handled in a uniform manner, services can be handled with IT support in the mentioned service marketplace through their common description in standardized USDL. The use of jCPEX! makes it possible not only to consume web services there but also to realize business processes continuously from beginning to end.

The prototype, which was developed by Metasonic as part of the research project THESEUS TEXO, describes a continuous process scenario. This ranges from the modeling of the process interface to its publication and implementation in the service marketplace, the search and modeling performed by the service consumer himself as well as the rule-based linking of the processes up to the execution of the workflow.

Assume, for example, that, to expand his purely internal business process workflow beyond the boundary of his company, a customer is using a semantic search in the service marketplace to find a process interface described in USDL for an office supplies ordering process. The search results in three suppliers meeting the search criteria. Each offers implementations of the same abstract process interface in the form of concrete internal processes, which can be launched at runtime.

The customer now loads the process interfaces of the three suppliers from the service marketplace into his modeling tool and ties them into his own internal processes. He then uses his jCPEX! platform to define rules which determine which of the offered services is to be used in what specific cases. The customer’s business processes thus become loosely linked with those of the service provider.

As the workflow is being executed, the rules are evaluated, and the resulting messages are sent to the supplier’s process via the jCPEX! platform. In this way, different process linkages can be created flexibly at runtime depending on the content of the message (quantities, site-dependent criteria, etc.).

Background
A company does not normally operate autonomously. Instead, it depends equally on customers and suppliers. So that the coordination between these parties can be organized more easily and more effectively, the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) initiated the research program THESEUS with the goals of simplifying access to information, of networking data to create new knowledge, and of creating the basis for the development of new Internet services. One of the 6 application scenarios in the program is the TEXO platform, to which the jCPEX! project also belongs. It is intended to help all market participants acquire more agility in today’s economic environment and participate more easily in the network-based global market. Small and mid-sized companies in particular will have the chance to offer their services globally , to expand their product lines systematically, and thus to present themselves and their business know-how to a larger community of potential customers.

Summary
jCPEX! profits from TEXO in the following ways:

  • through the semantic description of process interfaces and the concrete implementations of these interfaces by the use of the USDL Editor in USDL
  • through publication of the process interfaces and concrete implementations via the USDL Repository
  • through the ability to search for process interfaces and concrete implementations by means of the semantic TEXO search technologies


jCPEX! makes an important contribution to TEXO by providing:

  • practical testing and feedback to the TEXO components USDL, USDL Repository, and Service Discovery
  • domain-specific expansion of USDL
  • expansion of the “Internet of Services“ concept by addition of the business process component