Creating flexible service-oriented business solutions with WebSphere Business Services Fabric, Part 1: Overview

WebSphere® Business Services Fabric provides an SOA platform to enable a new class of service-oriented business solutions. Business Services Fabric provides an integrated environment to model, assemble, deploy, manage and govern composite business services. This series of articles introduces you to WebSphere Business Services Fabric and shows you how to use it to build composite business services.

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Matt Sanchez (msanchez@us.ibm.com), Senior Technical Staff Member, IBM

Matt Sanchez photoMatt Sanchez is an IBM Senior Technical Staff Member and Chief Architect for WebSphere Business Services Fabric. Matt is responsible for the architecture and technical direction of IBM’s industry SOA accelerators, including WebSphere Business Services Fabric and the Industry Content Packs. He works closely with technical leaders across IBM and with clients to help shape the future of IBM's SOA products and solutions.

You can reach Matt at msanchez@us.ibm.com.



Naveen Balani (banaveen@in.ibm.com), Software Architect, IBM

Naveen Balani photoNaveen Balani works as an Software Architect on WebSphere Business Services Fabric. He likes to research upcoming technologies and is a regular contributor to IBM developerWorks, covering such topics as Web services, ESB, JMS, SOA, architectures, open-source frameworks, semantic Web, J2ME™, persuasive computing, the Spring series, AJAX, and various IBM products. He is also a co-author of Beginning Spring Framework 2 (Wiley, 2008) and the IBM Redbook Getting Started with IBM WebSphere Business Services Fabric V6.1.

You can reach Naveen at naveenbalani@rediffmail.com.


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25 June 2008 (First published 15 August 2007)

About this series

This series of articles describes how to leverage WebSphere Business Services Fabric V 6.0.2 to build SOA applications using composite business services. The series will cover the following:

  • Part 1: Overview of Business Services Fabric: This part will provide an overview of Business Services Fabric and its key components. We'll look at the concept of business services and composite business services and how Business Services Fabric helps you manage the life cycle of business-level services and makes their development and deployment simpler, faster and more flexible.
  • Part 2: Extending the ontology models: This part will provide an overview and the requirements of the SOA application we're going to build in this series. It will describe how to use the Business Services Tool Pack to assemble Business Services and the Business Services Foundation Pack to deploy them.

    The application will simulate an auto loan processing system which will accept user details and respond with approval or rejection of the loan request. We'll look at a traditional way of realizing the auto loan processing systems that uses static, hard-coded service bindings and process flow control logic, and contrast it with the Business Services Fabric approach, in which you'll use generalized process models and policy-driven dynamic assembly of business services. You'll also look at the Business Services Fabric metamodel and learn how to extend it to provide business context to the Business Services Fabric for dynamic assembly.

  • Part 3: Designing and implementing the business service: In this part, we'll realize the auto loan processing use case by designing a BPEL process and implementing the required services using the Business Services Tool Pack. n Integration Developer. You'll also learn how to leverage the Dynamic Assembly capabilities of Business Services Fabric using the Service Component Architecture (SCA).
  • Part 4: Assembling composite business services: In this part, you'll learn how to create a composite business service project that sources the SCA artifacts created in Part 3 to create Business Service metadata. You'll learn how to create policies for dynamic assembly and test them with the Business Services Fabric Policy Simulator. You'll also learn how to catalog and manage services in Business Services Fabric and how to export service metadata for promotion to different deployment environments.
  • Part 5: Deploying and managing the composite business service with Business Services Fabric: The final part describes how to deploy and test Composite Business Services with Business Services Fabric. You will learn how to create and manage Business Services entitlements for subscribers and view performance reports associated with the Business Services. Part 5 describes how to deploy and test composite business services with Business Services Fabric. You'll learn how to create and manage Business Services entitlements for subscribers and view performance reports associated with the business services.

What are business services and composite business services?

Business services can be thought of as business-level building blocks that, when leveraged to their full potential, facilitate the alignment of business intent to IT execution. A business service represents a business-aligned function whose execution can be adapted at run-time based on business policy and user context. The key characteristics of a business service are:

  • It is aligned to the business perspective of a service, which typically represents a discrete business function (for example, check credit, open account)
  • It provides flexible, adaptable behavior based on business policy and user context
  • It is derived from existing (and often disparate) IT resources
  • It is built using technical and industry standards
  • It is provisioned through multiple communication channels
  • It can be combined to create loosely coupled SOA applications

Composite business services

Composite business services (hereafter called CBS) are a collection of related business services that are instantiated incrementally to support service-oriented business solutions.

The CBS in an SOA helps organizations incrementally automate and integrate business services from existing systems, business partners, and third party IT assets. A CBS can help reduce the complexity of business processes by externalizing complex, multi-faceted decision logic into policies. Policies are enforced at run-time to adapt the behavior of business services to match the requirements of individual service consumers. The capabilities of candidate service providers are evaluated at run-time and the best provider is selected to deliver the requested service based on business context and data semantics.A CBS leverages pre-built libraries of SOA services and assets for deployment at multiple customer engagements. The CBS approach enables an asset-based development model that is traditionally quite different from packaged application or custom-based application models, where duplicate solutions tend to evolve over a period of time. Traditional approaches lead to tedious change management processes and rigid business processes that are unresponsive to changing business requirements.

The CBS approach enables you to use dynamic business services to transform rigid business processes into more agile solutions.

Some of the key characteristics of composite business services are.

  • Describable They can have their business context, policies, and services described via metadata that can be annotated and published in a catalog for easy search, discovery, and visualization.
  • Composable They can be assembled using services exposed from ISV, legacy, third party, or custom assets to represent a business process.
  • Subscribable They can be provisioned to consumers as a personalized portfolio of services.
  • Dynamic They can be assembled and executed dynamically at run-time based on context, content and contract to deliver a personalized experience to the consumer.
  • Interoperable They can interoperate with disparate systems and technologies using a common set of industry semantics.
  • Governable They can be managed and versioned through their life cycles from creation through upgrades and end of life.
  • Visible They can provide business-level usage data to further optimize and adapt offerings to changing needs.

Figure 1 shows an overview of how a CBS can be adapted to provide the right business service functionality, delivered through the preferred communication channel based on the context, content and contract of the service request.

Figure 1. Example CBS architecture
Figure 1. Example CBS archictecture

In Figure 1, the context comprises the user, channel, and business process through which the CBS is being accessed. Content is derived from the payload of the service request (for instance, an insurance quote request). Contracts are the business policies that need to be applied based on the context and content of the service request. For instance, if the user is an agent and is using a browser to issue a home quote request, a business policy needs to be applied to ensure service is executed within 500 ms, while if the channel is changed to email; the service can be delivered in 1000 ms. The same underlying technical services can be used; however the SOA infrastructure can now more intelligently adapt its behavior to handle the request because the business context of the request is known and a policy is automatically attached that describes the requirements and constraints for handling the request.

While SOA and CBS sound simple and straightforward in concept, implementing SOA and realizing its primary business benefits is complex and difficult in practice for most businesses. Similar to any traditional application, a CBS must be managed throughout its life cycle. Without the right SOA platform to manage the CBS life cycle, organizations will continue to struggle with the governance and mangement challenges of SOA.

About Business Services Fabric

WebSphere Business Services Fabric provides is an SOA platform that supports the modeling, assembly, deployment, management and governance of composite business services. It provides the design and development tools, run-time execution environment, industry reference models, and pre-built SOA assets to enable rapid development of loosely-coupled, industry-focused composite business services. Using Websphere Business Services Fabric, business-level services can be assembled into extended, cross-enterprise business processes and solutions that are dynamically personalized and delivered based on the business context of the service request. Business Services Fabric allows you to:

  • Transform rigid business processes into more agile solutions by adapting their behavior using business-level policies and metadata.
  • Deliver the appropriate functionality to service consumers based on the context, content and contract of the service request.
  • Incrementally transform core business processes to be more efficient with reduced manual processing.
  • Develop highly personalized partner collaboration solutions that simplify business activities and reduce exceptions and delays.
  • Rapidly enable multi-channel service delivery, providing higher service levels and lower customer support costs.
  • Realize cost savings through significant IT asset reuse for new composite business services.
  • Configure and customize a pre-built library of SOA services and assets for deployment at multiple customer engagements.
  • Deploy new products quickly with automated service entitlement capabilities to increase scalability and lower support costs.
  • Use, extend, or create Industry Content Packs to jumpstart design and development of Industry SOA solutions.

Business Services Fabric components

Business Services Fabric consists of two complementary software packs: the Business Services Foundation Pack and the Business Services Tool Pack, and several industry content packs. These packs work together to simplify the business, technology, security, governance and process interoperability issues associated with business services in an SOA. To help ensure a robust and extensible SOA platform, Business Services Fabric extendes WebSphere Process Server and WebSphere Integration Developer for the composition and deployment of flexible, service-oriented business processes.

Figure 2 illustrates Business Services Fabric product and solution architecture:

Figure 2. Relationship between Business Services Fabric, Industry Content Packs, and composite business services
Relationship between WBSF, Industry Content Packs, and composite business services

Business Services Foundation Pack

The Business Services Foundation Pack provides the integrated run-time and management environment for CBS deployment.

Business Services Tool Pack

The Business Services Tool Pack provides the integrated design and assembly environment for CBS development. In this series of articles, you'll learn about these components in detail, and how they work together as an SOA platform for composite business services.

Industry Content Packs

To speed time to market for new industry SOA solutions, Business Services Fabric provides optional Industry Content Packs (ICPs). Currently available for the Healthcare, Insurance, Banking and Telecommunications industries, these packs consist of configurable industry-specific SOA assets that improve time to value for service-oriented business solutions.

ICPs provide a set of SOA-based patterns, templates and code assets that can be reused used across multiple industry processes and solutions and accelerate the deployment of service-oriented business solutions. Figure 3 illustrates the types of assets contained within an Industry Content Pack.

Figure 3. Types of assets in an Industry Content Pack
Figure 3. Types of assets in an Industry Content Pack

The reference business service templates serve as the starting point for instantiating business services in your business processes. You can extend or modify these templates to meet specific business needs, thus reducing the time and cost to implement, and enabling simpler business processes. The industry-specific service interfaces are used to facilitate interoperability with common industry applications, while the Industry business glossary (based on industry standards and models) provides a framework for defining subscribers, channels, and business policies, which can be extended based on your business processes. The industry-specific common services provide standards-based implementations of message and document processing and transformations that you can leverage in your SOA application. For example, the HL7 Validation Service provided by the Heath Care Payer Pack provides a rules-based validation service for HL7 messages. Collectively, these assets help you accelerate business services deployment and facilitate reuse across multiple industry processes and solutions.

Figure 4. Industry Content Packs provide reference business service templates to accelerate the instantiating of industry-specific business processes
Figure 4. Industry Content Packs

Subsequent articles in this series will describe how you can use ICPs to accelerate business service deployment.

In the next section, we'll look at the CBS life cycle management capabilities provided by Business Services Fabric.

Managing the CBS life cycle with Business Services Fabric

Figure 5 illustrates how Business Services Fabric is used in each phase of the SOA life cycle. In subsequent articles in this series, you'll walk through each of these phases in detail.

Figure 5. CBS life cycle management using Business Services Fabric
Figure 5. CBS life cycle management using Business Services Fabric
  • Model: The model phase includes analysis and design of business processes, services and messages. The Industry Content Packs provide common industry services, reference models, and business service templates that you can leverage during the Model phase.

    Using WebSphere Business Modeler, a business analyst can model business processes, which can later be exported in BPEL and deployed using the Business Services Tool Pack. Services (interfaces and messages) can also be modeled using Rational Software Architect and later used for assembly and deployment in the Business Services Tool Pack. As part of the Model phase, you identify any extension that needs to be made to the Business Services Fabric metamodel, such as adding industry or customer-specific policy assertions or extending the built-in role taxonomy based on business and technical requirements. In the Parts 2 and 3 of this series, we'll look into the model phase in more detail.

  • Assemble: In the assemble phase, you create or reuse CBS projects, assemble the services, create business service metadata, define business policies and subscribers, and test the policies prior to deployment.

    The Business Services Tool Pack is used to create composite and atomic services (SCA artifacts and WSDL) created in the model phase, or from other registries like WebSphere Service Registry and Repository or UDDI, and assemble them to create a CBS. In the Part 4, we'll look at the assemble phase in more detail.

  • Deploy: The deploy phase involves activities like creating environments for deployments, registering endpoints, deploying the business services, provisioning business services to organizations and subscribers, and using the Dynamic Assembler to deliver the CBS to multiple consumers dynamically using the context, content, and contract of the service request.
  • Manage: The manage phase involves managing entitlements and subscriptions of the CBS to organizations and users using the Business Services Foundation Pack. Business Service Fabric provides business context visibility for composite business services For example, you can determine how a business service is utilized on various channels for different consumers, as well as determining how different endpoints are performing for specific business contexts.
  • Governance: As you can see in Figure 5, the governance capabilities of Business Services Fabric are used to manage the changes to CBS projects, service metadata, and policies, and to enforce consistency and coherency of service metadata. You'll learn about the governance capabilities of Business Services Fabric in more detail throughout the course of this series and how it enforces governance across the SOA life cycle.

In the remaining articles in this series, you'll learn more about these phases and how to realize CBS solutions using Business Services Fabric.

Summary

In this article, you learned the concepts of business services and composite business services and how Business Services Fabric provides an SOA platform to model, assemble, deploy, manage and govern composite business services. Using WebSphere Business Services Fabric, you can assemble business services into extended, cross-enterprise business processes and solutions that are dynamically personalized and delivered based on the business context of the service request. In future articles in this series, we'll take a look at how to build composite business services using Business Services Fabric, and step through the various phases of CBS life cycle management using an auto loan process use case.

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