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A Service Integration Platform for Collaborative Networks

A. Luis OSORIO
Instituto Superior de Engenharia de Lisboa
Lisboa, Portugal

Hamideh AFSARMANESH
University of Amsterdam,
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Luis M. CAMARINHA-MATOS
Faculdade de Ciencias e Tecnologia, Universidade Nova de Lisboa,
Portugal

Abstract: Integrated manufacturing constitutes a complex system made of heterogeneous information and control subsystems. Those subsystems are not designed to the cooperation. Typically each subsystem automates specific processes, and establishes closed application domains, therefore it is very difficult to integrate it with other subsystems in order to respond to the needed process dynamics. Furthermore, to cope with ever growing market competition and demands, it is necessary for manufacturing/enterprise systems to increase their responsiveness based on up-to-date knowledge and in-time data gathered from the diverse information and control systems. These have created new challenges for manufacturing sector, and even bigger challenges for collaborative manufacturing. The growing complexity of the information and communication technologies when coping with innovative business services based on collaborative contributions from multiple stakeholders, requires novel and multidisciplinary approaches. Service orientation is a strategic approach to deal with such complexity, and various stakeholders’ information systems. Services or more precisely the autonomous computational agents implementing the services, provide an architectural pattern able to cope with the needs of integrated and distributed collaborative solutions. This paper proposes a service-oriented framework, aiming to support a virtual organizations breeding environment that is the basis for establishing short or long term goal-oriented virtual organizations. The notion of integrated business services, where customers receive some value developed through the contribution from a network of companies is a key element.

Keywords: Networks; Virtual Organizations; Service Oriented Computing; Service Oriented Architecture.

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CITE THIS PAPER AS:

A. Luis OSORIO, Hamideh AFSARMANESH, Luis M. CAMARINHA-MATOS A Service Integration Platform for Collaborative Networks, Studies in Informatics and Control, ISSN 1220-1766, vol. 20 (1), pp. 19-30, 2011.

1. Introduction

There is an increasing need for integrated solutions in manufacturing which in turn requires a strategy to create integrated knowledge views grounded on contributions from the underlying manufacturing and information systems. This trend is not restricted only to manufacturing or enterprise domain, rather to many sectors and environments in need of collaborative networks, and where organizations need to experience new and novel (collaborative) business models. Focusing on the business models related to integrating business services, the existing information and communication infrastructures do not sufficiently support their required level of integration [13]. In fact, the existing information systems tend to follow proprietary technology on their information modeling and processing patterns. They are primarily developed to run as standalone systems, and automate a group of processes, without concerns for potential cooperation needs with other processes. Furthermore, since processes are based on hard-coded business logic, the existing information systems are closed and cannot easily evolve to answer new changes or requirements in their environment. This drawback is particularly identified in large scale and critical systems where the system operation and security are of paramount importance. In a closed or proprietary system, even when standards are adopted, there is always the system’s original supplier, typically the vendor (developer/integrator), who keeps the responsibility to cope with adjusting to requirement changes, and providing the system’s life cycle management. Nevertheless, the emerging complexities of the manufacturing/enterprise information systems require that subsystems can be easily integrated, hence requiring novel approaches for their support. A key approach strategy is to reduce dependencies at the single system level, and to make the integrated system as a composition of open subsystems (Figure 1). The difference between a closed system and an open system shall then be notices and argued, while adopting standards and aiming to present an open system/solution.

Img-2011-1-2Figure 1. A transition from closed to open systems.

Existing closed complex systems are not able to evolve without being maintained by the original supplier of the integrated system. This creates contractual dependencies to the contracting organization(s), with a weak capacity to influence the evolution of such a system. The responsibilities which remain with the original supplier, as well as the risks involved if additional components from a different supplier are applied to the original system, are a main obstacle to reduce market dependencies. A novel framework and infrastructure needs to be introduced to support the development of open complex system, capable of integrating independently developed subsystems, supplied by different providers/vendors within competitive market place. An open research question is how to make the transition to an equivalent open complex system by maintaining an equivalent robustness and security. Existing market service oriented software suites establish technology dependencies making difficult a transition to open service-oriented enterprise architectures [8]. Trust and reputation mechanisms [20] are discussed and strategies are proposed to address open dynamic service-oriented environments where distributed computational systems (service systems) can cooperate to collaboratively develop business processes [14], also referred to as cross-organizational business process (CBP) [18]. Nevertheless, developing such complex distributed system of systems requires a novel framework, which can establish an open collaborative space.

Service oriented architecture (SOA) and service oriented computing (SOC) are concepts that have been developed both by research community and industry as innovative patterns to structure the growing complexity of computational infrastructures needed to cope with complex integrated solutions. One main motivation has been the risks of increased dependency of the complex integrated solutions on the proprietary approaches, which in turn make them too dependent on specific suppliers. From the engineering viewpoint, existing integrated solutions tend to follow a “one-of-a-kind” approach making them too expensive not only at the development phase but also along its overall life cycle. In line with service oriented architecture, an initiative such as the service component architecture (SCA) proposes a strategy to develop assemblies of distributed and heterogeneous autonomous components from the same or different providers. Another contribution comes from the open services gateway initiative (OSGi) that proposes a framework to add agility to the development of applications based on loosely coupled components. The proposed SCA framework is an interesting approach for combining distributed heterogeneous and autonomous computational entities into integrated solutions. Nevertheless the simple combination of heterogeneous and autonomous components originated from different suppliers is not enough to cope with the growing complexity and needs of collaborative networks. Especially when considering the complete life cycle – from, development, deployment, operations management and evolution.

While SOA and SOC tackle complexities in distributed systems, it is fundamental to establish a clear semantics for the concept of service [19]. The organization for the advancement of structured information standards (OASIS) suggests a holistic approach to SOA systems, as networks of a number of entities including service providers, individuals (acting at different roles), machines, suppliers, entities that directly or indirectly establish a system’s behavior [9].

More conservative approaches point to an enterprise service bus (ESB) as a structured evolution from enterprise application integration (EAI), where message oriented middleware and data/information transformations play a major role, while they do not present significant innovations. Even when a service wrapper layer is proposed to transform legacy applications/systems into more normalized components, we can question whether this is the right strategy to cope with the requirements of more complex integrated systems.

As pointed out by the IEEE Transactions on Services Computing initiative, a necessary convergence of semantics around service oriented computing is expected to bring some clarity to the currently dispersed contributions. This new body of knowledge is organized around four main areas: i) services and service systems; ii) service technologies; iii) services consulting and delivery; and vi) services applications and management [22]. This and other complementary initiatives are being pushed by a class of new business services offering people new facilities, and involving contributions from different stakeholders, while making the underlying business arrangements transparent to clients. A paradigmatic example is the utilization of a unique business card (or business nomadic card) that can be used by an individual to pay for public transports, newspapers, street parking, and shopping in stores, based on a unique contract with an integrated service provider. These new collaborative business scenarios, where critical processes rely on a number of diverse information systems, require an innovative distributed computational infrastructure closer to the notion of service ecosystem or service park.

This paper proposes a strategy for creation of a service ecosystem integrating multicultural technical systems through declarative semantics (ontology) in order to make such ecosystem sufficiently agile to cope with the emerging collaborative business scenarios offering integrated value-added services to the customers. For instance, when considering integrated solutions for many different running computational service systems at a large complex building, a large shopping centre, a hospital or a public services building, there is also a need for an integrated management and supervision solution to support interoperation among these services. The needed solution must support and shall span over the basic subsystems, e.g. programmable logic controllers (PLC), video camera infrastructures with video server recorders (VSR), heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC), and many other specialized subsystems, which are provided by different technological stakeholders. The open question is how to model and effectively support a network of stakeholders, with offering a single integrated holistic approach to the end-users, while keeping the independence among the service providers.

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https://doi.org/10.24846/v20i1y201102