The Web has almost limitless potential to serve a business as a source of revenue through e-business and by saving a company time and money through efficient business-to-business interactions. As this potential grows, however, the architectural design of the hardware and software necessary to accomplish these tasks becomes more complex.
The Patterns for e-business project is one of the most promising answers to the architectural issues faced by customers taking advantage of the Web to sell their products and to streamline business processes. IBM developers have consulted with over 30,000 customers in designing and deploying e-business applications. Their experiences were analyzed for recurring solution designs or patterns. The Patterns for e-business series of IBM Redbooks, the Patterns for e-business Web site, and the Patterns Development Kit (PDK) are the results of that analysis. They represent the combined experience of IBM Web application developers in the form of reusable design implementations and code assets.
This article excerpt explores the goals and structure of the IBM Patterns for e-business. The full Expert Series column evaluates the five current Patterns for e-business and their usefulness to Web application developers. The full column also explores emerging Patterns for e-business and how these will reshape the functionality and profitability of performing business on the Web.
The IBM Patterns for e-business are themselves a part of the IBM Framework for e-business. The Framework for e-business establishes standards and proven practices for developing, deploying, and managing e-business applications. It also provides a portfolio of products to help implement these proven designs on multiple platforms and through multiple vendors.
The main objective of the Patterns for e-business is reuse of development solutions on multiple levels. Development of Web-based applications can be accomplished with significantly less effort, time, and risk of failure when the successes of previous similar implementations are modeled for reuse. Patterns for e-business include multitier architectures, designs, product mappings, and even code itself. Figure 1 demonstrates this concept of reuse by illustrating how a Web application developer would use the Patterns for e-business.
Figure 1. Structure of the IBM Patterns for e-business
The developer first analyzes the business problem that needs to be solved, noting any relevant business processes and rules the company may enforce and any considerations involving the existing IT environment to which the solution must adapt. The developer then steps through three sets of layered assets detailed within the Patterns for e-business, comparing each to the business problem being solved.
The first asset level compares the defined problem to the five current patterns of business interaction outlined in the Patterns for e-business. These include:
- User to Business (U2B)
- User to Online Buying (U2OB)
- Business-to-Business Integration (B2Bi)
- Business-to-Business e-Marketplace (eMP)
- User to Data (U2D)
Future planned expansion of the Patterns for e-business includes the development of the following patterns as well:
- User to User (U2U)
- Application Integration
Each pattern identifies the parties involved in the business interaction and the structure the interaction assumes. Industry examples are provided for each of the patterns so that developers can easily match their own business needs with the solutions each pattern offers. Consultations with IBM customers who have used the Patterns for e-business in developing Web applications show that it is easy to break down their business problems into the business interactions that the patterns address. Each of these seven e-business patterns is analyzed in more detail in the full Expert Series column.
Once developers determine a match between their own business problem and a business pattern that can provide a solution for it, the next asset level, the logical pattern, is analyzed. The Patterns for e-business provide application topologies and runtime topologies for each of the five currently supported patterns. The application topologies illustrate the interaction between users, applications, and data by using logical tiers. An application topology shows the principal layout of the application, focusing on the shape of the application, the application logic, and the associated data. Each of the patterns includes several application topologies to accommodate differing solution needs and implementation designs.
The selected application topology is then associated with a runtime topology by mapping the logical tiers to runtime nodes. The runtime nodes group functional requirements and are interconnected to solve the predetermined business problem. This provides a logical picture of the middleware used to support the higher-level application topology. At this stage, the pattern design begins to take shape more fully as details of the layering, such as presentation, application, and data are added.
The Patterns for e-business documents a basic runtime implementation for each of a pattern's application topologies. Often, additional runtime variations, which extend the basic implementation with new, emerging technologies or solution designs, are shown as well. Each runtime design is built of three separate solution tiers: the Outside world, the Demilitarized Zone, and the Internal network. The associated application topology diagram overlays the bottom portion of the runtime design, showing where each of the application topology components resides on the runtime design.
Once a developer has determined the appropriate application topology and runtime implementation, the physical patterns are then analyzed. At this point, the runtime topology is populated with actual products that implement the runtime design. These product mappings list hardware, operating systems, and software components and are available for multiple platforms and multiple vendors, including AIX, Windows NT, OS/390, and OS/400X.
After moving through these steps, from business pattern to logical patterns to physical patterns, the developer has established a full and populated design. The Patterns for e-business Web site is structured with this sequential progression in mind and provides easy navigation to facilitate this movement. The site also provides links to additional implementation guidelines and references that address best practices such as performance, technology options, application design, application development, and system management. Many of these are references to the Patterns for e-business IBM Redbooks themselves, which detail the process of building Web-based applications according to each individual pattern's solution design. Figure 1 also shows that the Patterns for e-business do not preclude additional customization of solutions. Rather, the patterns provide reusable architectural designs that can be applied to almost any Web-based application solution. This lets developers focus more intently on issues of customization and optimization instead of having to reinvent a solution infrastructure from scratch.
Creating pervasive Web applications with Patterns for e-business article
IBM Framework for e-business
Patterns for e-business
- Categories: Redbooks, Roadmaps
- IBM Framework for e-business
- IBM Patterns for e-business Series Redbooks
Anthony Petersen works as a software engineer in the IBM e-business operating systems solutions division in Austin, Texas. He currently is working on the Patterns for e-business Web site. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.