Cloud Based Integration Standards and B2B Messaging 

Over the years during which I've tracked electronic document interchange, the realm of B2B messaging has often seemed one or two steps behind the times.  The earliest adoption of document interchange standards for EDI like ANSI's X12 (now known as ASC X12), and the huge number of industry-specific messages, formats and transaction schemes that grew out of that adoption, has put business messaging in a position of always having to deal with legacy.  This became increasingly evident in the late 1990s, with the explosion of the internet as a conduit for B2B messaging.  The response by industry was the emergence of intermediation and conversion technologies, interchange services that provided as close to 'on-the-fly' translation and interpretation services as could be mustered.

The emergence of cloud computing is now an impetus to revisit B2B application messaging.  I encountered this interesting post by Mark Morley of GSX.

…With so much interest in everything Cloud at the moment, companies are starting to look at ways of not only deploying enterprise applications up to a cloud based environment but also looking for ways to provide integration to other cloud based services, whether they are private or public clouds.  AS4, with its web services capabilities has the potential to become the cloud based communications standard moving forwards.

AS4 is quite similar to AS2 in many ways however it operates within a web services context and unlike AS2, AS4 has enhanced interaction patterns and acknowledgement receipts. AS4 has the following characteristics:

  • Provides acknowledgement receipts thus enabling reliable message delivery and retry in the event of a lost message
  • Provides password authentication, digital signatures and encryption , confirms authenticity of the sender and ensures that the message is unaltered whilst in transit
  • Offers  large file compression and transfer support
  • Error generation, reports any errors to the message sender of the message receiver
  • Message exchange patterns, allows a rich variety of interactions between the sender and receiver

AS4 refers to Secure B2B Document Exchange Using Web Services is a standard developed by a subcommittee of the OASIS ebXML Messaging Services Technical Committee.  For a good summary of the standard and the intent of the OASIS ebXML technical committee, take a look at The Drummond Group's site here.  For those who might need a teaser:

This profile (of the ebMS 3.0 specification) provides guidance for a standardized methodology for the secure and document-agnostic exchange of B2B payloads using Web services. By constraining the ebMS v3.0 specification and the underlying WS-* specifications for messaging packaging, transport, security, and business non-repudiation, the profile focuses on providing an entry-level on-ramp for Web services B2B messaging. The end goal of this profile development is to replicate and strategically extend the existing functional requirements currently satisfied by RFC4130 (AS2) by mapping those requirements onto the Web services platform. 


So, what's this got to do with cloud? Doesn't seem to be much more than a consideration of how to use Service Oriented Architecture principles and accepted practice as the basis for machine-to-machine business messaging.   Yes, this all about web services.  But, as Lori MacVittie points out in Let's Face It: PaaS is Just SOA for Platforms Without the Baggage, clouds are service-based models.  They are Service Oriented Architecture that's "… merely moved down the stack a bit, into the underlying and foundational technologies upon which applications are built."  In short, Lori considers the emergence of cloud computing and '-as-a-Service' approaches to be a do-over … the reduction and avoidance of the complexity that the industry loaded on itself in the early days by over-architecting and over specifying.  

For the sake of the industries that depend on application-to-application business messaging, let's hope that the OASIS takes the hint. 


Open Data: How Not to Cock it Up

For those of you who do not know Tom Steinberg, now is the time to become acquainted. He has posted the text of a speech he prepared for the Open Government DataCamp held recently in London. Here's an excerpt to entice you, but please read it in its entirety.

After setting out four of the five ways in which make mistakes the result "… in the flow of data we think is so valuable either drying up, or never starting in the first place …" , he ends the list with

… cock-up avoidance technique number 5, which in my mind is the most important, but which I accept many of you might find controversial. This mistake is the mistaking of insisting that Government really should be in the business of publishing everything non-private it can.

"What heresy is this?" I hear you cry, "Aren't you in favour of as much open data as possible?" My answer is simple: No, not at the moment - I don't think any government anywhere is really up to it yet. In fact, right now, I think it is a rather dangerous idea. …

The preceding set of 'mistakes' is great, but what he goes on to say in the rest of the speech is … well, why don't you read it for yourselves.


OpenPaaS & VMforce ... some insights

After following the tweet'd conversation between James Watters (@wattersjames) of VMware and James Urquhart (@jamesurquhart) of Cisco and CNET, I tossed in the thought that polyglot persistence was implied as a major aspect of VMware's Open PaaS strategy. The strategy was discussed last spring by Steve Herrod in the context of VMware's acquisition of SpringSource and the rapid rollout of, the impressive joint effort of and VMware.

Dave McCrory has recently provided excellent insights about OpenPaas in a series of posts this month, the most relevant to the polyglot persistence notion being this one.


In this diagram (above), there are two URLs each providing access to an Application. The first application on the left has a single Application Instance and that App Instance is bound (see Binding Labels) to a MySQL Instance (Service Instance) and a RabbitMQ Instance (Service Instance). The two Service Instances are created from the Service Catalog’s MySQL and RabbitMQ entries.

The second Application has three App Instances inside of it, all of which are bound to the SAME RabbitMQ Instance that the first Application is (this means that the two Applications can share information through the RabbitMQ Instance). The MySQL Instance is a separate MySQL Instance from the first Application MySQL Instance, although both are based/invoked from the MySQL Service in the Service Catalog. The Redis, Memcache, and MongoDB instances are all bound to each of the App Instances in the second application and are used by all three instances.

[My thanks and a hat-tip to Tim Freeman (@peakscale) for pointing this point out to me.]


Moving along with Squarespace

It was with some real trepidation that I took on the job I've been putting off for so long … reinstating a website for Telematica, and then the job of setting up an associated blog from which I would not run screaming when I had the urge to write. After wrestling with Typepad for two days, only to emerge with a mediocre result on the blog and an unmanageable construction for the website, I came to the conclusion last night that I was facing the inevitable -- learning Wordpress and going off to eLance to find someone who, for a price, would pull it all together and convert the old blog.

While listening to NPR's RadioLab during a bout of insomnia last night, I noticed that one of their supporters (aka advertising sponsor) is Squarespace. Before I dozed off, I grabbed the iPhone and made a note to check it out. This morning, after 45 minutes reading their materials and watching a few of the video tutorials, it looked like it might be worth a try.

On both counts -- setting up a website and a blog -- Squarespace has made this a pleasant experience. I've been able to easily import a couple dozen blog posts from the past year into the new blog. (I really have NOT been writing. ) I like the way this is starting to look, and with any luck I'll have the website and new blog ready to turn up tomorrow evening. So far, so good.