IBM and EU ally on solving e-services jigsaw

A European consortium led by IBM will develop a business process model to simplify the management of e-services from different sources, with the promise of saving time and money
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

IBM is joining forces with the EU and academic institutions to come up with a streamlined and co-ordinated way for businesses to work with internet-based services.

The Artifact-Centric Service Interoperation (ASCI) project aims to provide a business process model that will allow companies to manage a range of individual e-service in a single environment, IBM said in its announcement on Wednesday. It will do this by providing an interoperability framework that means businesses can shift from having to ensure the compatibility of their e-services.

"If a group of companies is going to collaborate to provide services, there needs to be an efficient, easily understood way to perform hand-offs of data and processing between them. The research project will use a conceptual approach to modeling business processes and operations called 'Business Entities with Lifecycles' (also known as 'dynamic artifacts'); these combine data and process in a way that dramatically simplifies the management of those hand-offs," Richard Hull, the IBM researcher leading the work on ASCI, told ZDNet UK.

The ASCI system is built upon the notion of an 'interoperation hub', introduced last year by IBM Research. This hub in turn is based on the dynamic artifacts, which combine data and information on how that data changes as it goes through its lifecycle. The hubs will be cloud-hosted and provided as software-as-a-service (SaaS) to customers, allowing them to implement services such as data storage on a pay-per-use basis, IBM said.

Most of the core software components in the technology will be developed as open source, according to Hull.

The consortium expects that this framework will eventually allow businesses that offer e-services to collaborate more easily and efficiently, and for a company to 'blend' e-services into a coordinated whole.

"For example, a regional European bank might want to work with credit evaluation agencies, real estate assessment companies, legal services companies and translation companies to provide rapid home equity loans for customers across Europe. With today's technology it would be very expensive and time-consuming to create and manage the software that would enable the combining of the e-services of these five kinds of companies to provide this collaborative service," Hull said.

Businesses can expect to see a 40-percent reduction in money and time spent on managing multiple e-services, as well as savings from being able to replace manual data transfer with automation, IBM said.

The researchers involved with the ASCI project include experts from universities in Italy, the Netherlands, Estonia, Spain, Belgium and Imperial College in London.

Also on Wednesday, IBM announced a second research collaboration with the EU, to create technology to better weed out potential bugs in upgrades to the systems used to manage critical infrastructure such as electrical grids and transportation operations.

The project, called Pincette ('tweezers' in French), hopes to help utilities and others diagnose and rectify flaws before upgrades are launched.

"The goal behind Pincette is to greatly simplify the task of ensuring these complex systems run flawlessly through new automated capabilities that remove costly faults or errors with minimal human intervention," said Daniel Kroenig of Oxford University in an IBM statement. Oxford University's role in the project is to build static analysers that check the safety of a software upgrade or bug fix.

Pincette will also automatically provide developers with error-trace feedback detailing the changes that led to the component's problems or failure in the first place.

The consortium hopes that through its new Pincette system, functional system errors will be reduced by at least 70 percent and that upgrading and compatibility checking times will be drastically reduced.

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