TECH TALK: Rethinking Enterprise Software: Software Components (Part 2)

The central thinking behind the enterprise software objects is that of events and (near) real-time computing. This is the philosophy outlined by Vivek Ranadive of Tibco in his book The Power of Now. The concepts are many years old, but they haven’t been applied to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Software for SMEs is typically tightly-coupled and biased towards batch-processing. Real-time computing is what needs to be delivered to SMEs.

We need to think of (near) real-time instead of real-time because, for SMEs, the cost of setting up a real-time, fully connected network across multiple locations can be extremely high. However, if we are willing to tolerate a slight latency, then the costs can be brought down dramatically through the use of the Internet and the intermittent connectivity that is available in most emerging markets.

Says Kenamea CEO John Blair (as quoted in Release 1.0, December 2001): If the browser enabled the first-generation Internet, and the application server enabled the second, then Internet-scale real-time communications will enable the third true network applications that are dynamic and fully interactive.

This is the leap that SMEs need to make: most are stuck in the first-generation of the Internet. They need to leapfrog, and this is where software components and standards will help them.

What are the key components of the new enterprise IT architecture? The software part consists of the Enterprise Core (the Enterprise Processing Unit), the Enterprise OS, the Information Bus, the adaptors to connect to existing legacy applications and the Corporate Portal.

Enterprise Core: This consists of the system Operating System (Linux) and related components (file server, print server, web server, print server, etc.) This also has the notion of users and groups. It includes other building blocks like the Mail Server and the Instant Messaging Server. It also supports real-time alerts via SMS to cellphones thus ensuring a real-time messaging and notification capability.

Enterprise OS: The Enterprise OS consists of the basic enterprise building blocks the set of generic applications and objects which are common across enterprises. For example, it is likely that 60-70% of accounting fundaments are exactly the same across organisations and even countries. These get embedded into the Enterprise OS. The same applies to the other verticals also. So, take the common concepts across verticals and integrate them together into the Enterprise OS. The Application Server is the container for these objects. Examples of Application Servers are Jboss (open source) and BEA Weblogic and IBM Websphere.

Information Bus: The building block for the real-time enterprise is the Information Bus. What this means is that as events are generated, they get published on the information bus, and subscribers take the events and process them appropriately (based on the rules). Concomitant with the information bus, events and publish-subscribe are two additional concepts: subject-based addressing and IP multicast. Subject-based addressing ensures that events are not addressed to specific recipients, rather the filtering happens by receivers based on the subject field and what they have subscribed to.

An alternative to publish-subscribe is request-reply, which is what we are more familiar with. When we go to a website and request info for our bank account balance, that is in request-reply mode. Publish-Subscribe would mean setting up rules to be alerted in the case of certain events happening (for example, the bank balance falls below a certain limit). Publish-subscribe enables management by exception — where rules can be encoded in business processes to only alert if certain events happen.

Thus, the Information Bus is the backbone on which the events, messages and data flows. It inter-connects all the modules. It supports the Web Services API, allowing the modules to have their functionalities accessible by other modules. Commercial implementations of information buses include Tibco and IBMs MQ Series. Newer Internet-based alternatives to real-time messaging buses come from companies like KnowNow.

Databases: This is the storage system like a computers Main Memory. What is needed is for the database to provide an integrated view of the data.

Adaptors: Adaptors provide linkages to existing applications. They bridge the apps to the Bus. For example, adaptors can provide linkages to data in existing applications like Tally (accounting) or even MS-Excel or databases.

Digital Dashboard: This is the unified view of the enterprise. It becomes the new desktop. We will be discussing this in more detail later.

Tomorrow: Software Components (continued)

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.