Friday, 6 November 2009

Government services

Many governments invest heavily in the formulation of navigation structures for service discovery by citizens and companies. They have all types of web sites as portals to their governments, whereas each government organization has its own portal again. Quite a number of governments define so-called life events as the basis for these navigation structures.

There are several remarks that we can make in this respect. Firstly, a life event conceived by a service provider will probably always differ from events perceived by customers. Web Service Modeling Ontology therefore distinguishes a goal of a customer versus a capability of a supplier. Mediation is required for matching goals to capabilities.
A second remark is that it is virtually impossible for governments to define all possible life events, although of course one might argue that all relevant life events are laid down in laws and regulations. However, taking the perspective of 'goal' of a customer, such a goal might be perceived as simple by that customer but may be complex for a government. One goal may relate to many capabilities and the result of the goal may trigger yet another capability.

Another approach is required, which reflects the basic functions of a government. Politics defines the rules in which a community in a particular country will function. This results in laws and (local) regulations that are managed by relevant government organizations. To be efficient and effective, these government organizations will maintain data files with what one could call master data, e.g. a data file with all citizens of a municipality. These data files consider real objects like buildings, humans, etc., but also more abstract legally oriented objects like the relation between an employer and an employee during a period. All these objects will be in a state, e.g. a person is born and lives somewhere. These states may changes by transitions. Transitions need information that reflects events in the real world. The latter, events in the real world as modeled from a service providers perspective, are basically the services of that provider (i.e. its capabilities).
Thus, the approach is quite simple. Define data structures for real world and legally defined objects in terms of semantics and specify the allowed state transitions for those objects. This approach is commonly known as object-orientation.

Friday, 12 June 2009

How will we get highly innovative?

The EU has an urge to fund highly innovative projects Integrated or small Projects that have a large impact. This sounds strange. What is the difference between highly innovative and just innovative? Is it part of a competition? Furthermore, those projects must have a large impact and have to meet other conditions like the number of participants (10-20 for a large project in at least three countries) and some 7-8 million Euro funding by the EU. Now, how is innovation established? Is it by funding large project of a large number of partners or is it really based on a good, innovative idea? Look how companies like Google and Amazon started and how they foster innovation. What is the chance that such a project will get funded by an EU program? Is a startup not really trying to get its own funding, e.g. venture capital, instead of sharing the ideas with others that make money out of it? Another way is by means of for instance a price (see <object id="cnbcplayer" height="380" width="400" classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" codebase=",0,0,0" >
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Is this the way forward? Is innovation not a mind set of individuals? How can we foster those individuals and make it really happen?
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Thursday, 14 May 2009

Formal specifications for web services: back to the future

Last week, I have started to study WSMO , Web Service Modeling Ontology. It offers a quite formal specification of web services based on state machines. When I completed my study in 1984, there were two candidates under development for specification of system interactions, namely Estelle and Lotos. Whereas the one was based on the state machine approach, the other was based on process algebra's. During the 80-s and 90-s lots of effort has been invested in these two languages, including their tooling. They ceased to exist or are at the most dorment.
Another still active community is that of Petrinets. Whereas an approach like WSMO has a fairly strong focus on information and its semantics (ontology), Petrinets have a focus on processes and the flow of tokens through those processes. Both approaches have a strong foundation in theory, e.g. take the language to specify axioms in WSMO. Furthermore, both have various tools supporting the theory. However, we are back to the future: the theory is too abstract to apply by 'normal' people without knowledge of abstract specification languages, process algebra's and what have you. The main question is: are we back to complex specification methods that are formally and theoretical quite correct, but can not be applied in practice yet? What could be done?

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Is SOA past?

We have spent a lot of effort the last couple of years in introducing service oriented architecture within organization. Some will say that awareness and interest are created, desire and action are dealt with. Best practices will learn how to do a proper SOA project and we can all proceed as usual.

However, there are still a couple of challenges, both from a business and a scientific perspective. Business wise, many organizations may have already implemented SOA internally, but still have to face integration with their business partners. Service Oriented Business is not yet feasible, issues like governance and IT service design for business service support are still challenges.

The scientific challenges are twofold. The one is application wise: how can be model semantics for interoperable business services and can reasoning support mediation functionality between different semantic domains. The second is in runtime service composition and orchestration. Most often, service requirements will not be met one-to-one by service offerings. A runtime mapping needs to be composed, probably based on natural language search technology combined with social tagging mechanisms. These might differ from the ones currently offered by scientific approaches like WSMO. Runtime orchestration means that business persons need to have tooling for composing an orchestration to meet those service composed at runtime.