Software architects are supposed to see patterns. Patterns help us generalize phenomena based on common characteristics. By recognizing patterns we can create abstractions (i.e. models), which allow us to work across what would typically be concrete (i.e. tightly coupled, statically specified) elements and siloed domains.
Generalization is an alternative to over-specialization (i.e. hard-coding a narrow domain and freezing it in time). ‘Raising abstractions’ over lower-level concrete domains supports management and automation from a ‘higher-level’ domain. The benefit is a unified approach, integrative solutions and re-use of generalized objects in different contexts.
In the context of the current digital transformation of industries worldwide, the common pattern in an internet of people, information, systems and things is “interoperability”. Regardless of domain, everyone wants to be connected to everything on the premise that sharing data and capability improves decisions, experiences and productivity.
The problem is, that the business demand for interoperability is still largely being addressed by manual integration, which creates a hairball of tightly-coupled endpoints and brittle solutions. While the current situation is an integrator’s dream come true, manual integration simply won’t scale (you can read about that here, here and here). We need to recognize these new interaction patterns and raise abstractions so interoperability itself can be automated.
This challenge is what motivated the founding of EnterpriseWeb back in 2009. From the outset, we’ve participated actively in standards bodies to help advance industry transformation. EnterpriseWeb was an early participant in the carrier virtualization space leading ETSI NFV PoC #1, “CloudNFV” and attending the first formal TM Forum meetings for Zero-touch Operations, Orchestration and Management (“ZOOM”). In a series of award-winning Catalysts, we’ve collaborated with service providers and other vendors to demonstrate interoperability in complex, open, multi-vendor ecosystems via TM Forum Open APIs.
Last year, we contributed a metamodel for a virtual (or real) function package, which represents a universal multi-SDO template for onboarding heterogeneous vendor functions and other solution elements. Rather than provide yet another static domain model, the metamodel is a flexible, extensible and adaptable structure for capturing VNF (virtual network function) properties and behaviors, as well as non-functional metadata and metrics for configuring and controlling VNFs. It represents a common machine-readable, implementation-independent pattern for handling diversity.
This year we wanted to leverage the TM Forum Live! stage to take these ideas further. We specifically took on three very different Catalysts, each with discrete scenarios (i.e. NFV – network functions virtualization, IoT – internet of things, and EAI – enterprise application integration), to prove a bigger point – to reveal the common patterns between them and demonstrate the power of higher-level abstractions.
Enabling Digital Marketplaces (NFV)
- Champions: Verizon, Orange, AT&T, Telstra, Vodafone, China-Mobile
- Participants: EXFO, Huawei, IBM, Oracle, Metaswitch, EnterpriseWeb (with support from Symantec)
Catalyst members have contributed to specifications of non-functional metadata and metrics, which are used to configure and control network services for lifecycle management. EnterpriseWeb’s application fabric enables the digital marketplace demo providing the vendor portal for onboarding, a unified catalog, and the network service design and execution environments for the Catalyst, including Security-as-a-Service.
Logical Factory (Industrial IoT)
- Champions: TWI, BT, Telecom Italia
- Participants: InfoSim, InfoSys, EnterpriseWeb
This Catalyst takes virtualization to the factory floor, to improve capital utilization of industrial robots and automate factory processes. EnterpriseWeb provides an application fabric, which coordinates factory floor machines using cloud-based systems and people in dynamically connected solutions. It processes online orders for robot-based services, along with remote activation and configuration of robot cells, automated end to end manufacturing and maintenance process with real time data from all participant eco systems using TMF Open APIs.
Offer Canvas (EAI)
- Champions: Telstra, AT&T, Orange, British Telecom
- Participants: Ericsson, Infosys, Oracle, Sigma Systems, EnterpriseWeb
This Catalyst seeks to leverage connectivity, automation and analytics so service providers can provide responsive and personalized offers to market segments in an agile manner that allows them to effectively compete. In this project, EnterpriseWeb’s application fabric mediates and coordinates relationships between all the partners, interoperating via TM Forum Open APIs to provide a highly-interactive user-experiences that support rapid configuration of offers. The application fabric provides a domain model, or metadata backplane, which enables the de-coupling of sources and targets. The approach is flexible (re-configure offers), extensible (add new product offers) and adaptable (change with evolving industry standards).
While the scenarios, domains and solution elements varied greatly, the projects all had somethings in common. In addition to all having strong teams, at their core, these were all interoperability use-cases. The storylines are different, but if you scratch the surface, the business requirement was the same – how do I flexibly compose partner capabilities in a distributed environment across diverse technologies, using standards-based interfaces to achieve a goal.
Applying abstraction and generalization principles espoused above, which are reflected in the Metamodel contribution, EnterpriseWeb is enabling all three Catalysts from a single logically multi-tenant environment, that has a 10mb footprint and is horizontally scalable.
The future is here, you just need to see the patterns.