Business information systems: grid-based integration and orchestration

Abb 1.: Grad der Auslagerung /Grid-Nutzung

Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the German Grid (D-Grid) Initiative, the BIS-Grid project ( focuses on the use of grid technologies for integrating information systems. The goal is to enable small and medium sized enterprises to use heterogeneous information systems and external resources without requiring excessive effort or expenditure. The use of ‘Integration as a service’ as a distribution model and also the industrial security requirements for grid utilisation will be looked at in particular detail.

Among other benefits, business information systems (BIS) facilitate the administration of company resources (ERP systems) and the efficient management of customer relationships (CRM systems) as well as supporting actual production and service provision (PDM systems). It is often the case that existing and new subsystems have to be adjusted and integrated to create business information systems such as these. Workflow systems are used to carry this out in order to support the effective and efficient integration of business processes by orchestrating the services of the subsystems. This has led to Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) attaining major significance in terms of the implementation of business processes which normally affect multiple information systems within an individual company or across a number of companies.

This integration of information systems is made possible by orchestration in service-oriented architectures (SOA). The principle aim of SOA is to effectively connect experts with technology. It has also been possible to use grid technologies to develop SOA since the introduction of grid services using standards based on web service technologies. There are many similarities between grid technologies and EAI, as both technologies focus on integration issues in heterogeneous environments (at resource level in the case of grid technologies and application level in the case of EAI).

At a conceptual level, the project will look at developing new forms of cooperation and new business models.  At a technical level, the WS-BPEL-based orchestration will be enhanced in order to facilitate the orchestration of stateful grid services on the basis of the Web Services Resource Framework.
Grid middleware that is capable of orchestrating such grid services will be developed in order to achieve this goal. This BIS-Grid engine is based on service enhancements for the UNICORE 6 ( grid middleware and uses any WS-BPEL execution environment. In order to guarantee the interchangeability of the WS-BPEL execution environment and compatibility with the commercial WS-BPEL execution environment, neither WS-BPEL (the de facto industrial standard for service orchestration) nor the WS-BPEL execution environment will be modified in the process.

In the context of industrial utilisation, the BIS-Grid engine makes it possible to switch dynamically between purely company-specific EAI and the use of grid services. While the resources and applications are located within an individual company in the first instance (in-house provision), additional possibilities for grid utilisation are also conceivable. As such, either the applications and/or resources can be outsourced to external service providers such as D-Grid, or the integration itself can be outsourced within the framework of ‘Integration as a service.’ Thus, the integration of external grid services into company-specific workflows and the demand-driven creation of ‘virtual organisations’ that can transcend company boundaries to a defined extent are also conceivable.

In addition to technical and organisational security aspects, the guarantee of advanced service quality also plays a significant role here. In a nutshell, the creation of mutual trust is of key importance in order to eliminate subjective reservations in terms of guaranteeing service quality and to actually make it possible to benefit from the advantages of external provision scenarios (such as the guarantee of high system stability). The figure 1 illustrates the dynamic utilisation of grid resources with the BIS-Grid engine.

The extent to which these goals are achieved will be evaluated using two application scenarios. Here, an example integration of ERP, PDM and CRM systems will be used to assess the generic services developed. This will cover the core area of business information processing.

The project’s industrial partners provide the motivation for the evaluation scenarios in question: CeWe Color, the leading services partner for trade brands in the European photographic market, and the KIESELSTEIN Group, the market leading manufacturer of wire drawing equipment, industrial screens and wire belt conveyors. Both organisations have a considerable requirement for EAI, which they are testing with grid technologies as part of BIS-Grid. CeWe Color’s goal in this respect is to enable uniform access to company data from various sources in the call centre field. At KIESELSTEIN, the objective is to create uniform access, retrieval and maintenance for project and product data throughout the company’s individual divisions.

Thus, the results of this project will constitute a significant contribution to the practical use of grid technologies in the sphere of business information systems integration. Furthermore, appropriate utilisation and marketing plans oriented towards SMEs will also be drafted in order to make full use of the results.

Grid provision and consulting services for the utilisation of grid technologies allow SMEs in the IT services sector to offer additional services, thereby enabling them to improve their market position. This opens up a major new field of application for grid technologies.
In summary, the intention of BIS-Grid is to enhance the application potential of grid technologies, particularly in terms of supporting SMEs within the realm of business information processing.