October 2006

A development approach toward an application prototype implementation

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In e-Governance solutions, information technology is used for both back-end office automation and automating the communications with the stakeholders (citizens and business). The implementations are mostly in islands, which creates a great deal of problems reminiscent of integrability, scalability, and interoperability. These problems pose a challenge to the designer to conceive the complete framework during planning stage itself such that the complete framework operates in a collaborative environment. The recent research areas approach a more standard based, open, integrable and interoperable framework for e-Governance.  The framework caters for department specific workflow and common functions of the government.  The domain service oriented framework and smart integrated services are some of the outcome of the practitioners.

The existing application frameworks focus on only the basic function of the department workflow having many versions, using many technological frameworks and do not support the basic issues of integrated services systems. The existing frameworks are very cumbersome and the limitations of various existing frameworks are again in terms of integration, scalability, and interoperability.

State governments are adopting e-Governance in a very big way. However, there are problems abound because of investment on proprietary solutions that do not support interoperable, integration with legacy systems and scalable architecture. There is a need for a technological framework that seamlessly integrates the legacy systems

Current emphasis is to design, develop, and deploy a lightweight, open, interoperable, reusable and scalable framework that provides the basic building blocks needed to build applications using SOA (Service – Oriented Architecture) with adapters for integrating the existing Legacy applications thereby to facilitate effective e-Governance by integrated governance between G2G, G2B, G2C, C2C.


Legacy application integration using the SOAP server

Need for Open Source eGov Framework

Attempts by various government departments in the Centre and States at computerisation and exploiting the advantages of technology have led to a set of solutions resulting in redundancy in information collection and storage, varying standards in data formatting and solution implementation, lack of interoperability in the data flows, and various departments having developed same software applications to meet particular needs with varying standards.

The solution for the above is an Open Source eGov Framework that will provide the basic building blocks needed to build applications using SOA with adapters for integrating the existing Legacy applications. The XML Open Database Connect is the intermediary connector for connecting with various types of database. The Framework will capitalise the benefits of existing legacy applications, which are in use in various Government departments and assist in agile development of newer applications.

eGov framework

The eGov Framework is an Open Source SOA based interoperable framework.  The various layers in the eGov Framework include the Access layer which provides the interface for the end user to access the various applications using the various access methods such as the web portal, WAP, IVRS etc. Below this is the Management layer consisting of the Agent Service Router, Multilingual manager and the Access management, then the integration layer provides the necessary assistance for Choreography and Orchestration of the web services of various applications. The Quality of Service layer consists of the Transaction management, Security management, Policy management and Coordination management. Discovery services are provided by the UDDI registry and all the Business services are done using web services, the Database Transaction Management layer acts as a open database connect to connect to various databases.

Agent service router: The agent service router defines the way in which the various services are invoked based on the requirement. The agent service router performs the necessary search for a particular service and invokes the same. The client sends the request for the service to the agent service router, and then the agent service router invokes the service for the client. Benefits of using agent service router are as follows – It acts as an entry point to access the various services; It can be configured to access services in alternate server in case of shutdown of the main server hosting the service; and, Access permissions can be set at the Agent Service Router to access the services to enhance security.

Multilingual manager: The role of the multilingual manager is to localise the applications in the local languages to have a wide impact on implementation. The tasks performed by the multilingual manager include providing dynamic language display change in user labels based on language selection; supporting data input in any language based on language selection; assisting in data translation for retrieval in other languages; and, providing the data search in any language.

Access management: This provides the various adapters used to integrate the legacy applications, which in this case include even the various client server applications.  The adapter is an API that can help in communicating by understanding the way in which messages are sent by legacy application and then converting them to SOAP based messages so that the new applications can understand them and the two incompatible applications could communicate.

The SOAP servers serve the purpose of an adapter. The SOAP server translates the host messages into SOAP messages and communicates with other applications in the framework using the standard SOAP protocol over HTTP. Legacy application integration using the SOAP server shows the communication between a soap based web service application and legacy application. Also, two different legacy applications can communicate and can call each other remotely. The adapter resides on the calling application server and takes care of all remote communication with the legacy application. Here the business services communicate with multiple legacy adapters. The Wrapper services are used to expose specific parts of legacy applications through a service interface.

Policy management: The WS-Policy Attachments specification offers a flexible way to associate policy expressions with Web services. The WS-Policy specification defines a common framework for services to annotate their interface definitions to describe their service assurance qualities and requirements in the form of a machine-readable expression containing combinations of individual assertions. The WS-Policy framework also allows the use of algorithms to determine which concrete policies to apply when the requester, provider, and container support multiple options. WS-Policy is critical to achieving interoperability at the higher-level functional operation of the service. Security, transactions, reliable messaging, and other specifications require concrete WS-Policy schema. This allows services to describe the functional assurance that they expect from and provide to callers.

jUDDI registry: The Universal Description, Discovery & Integration (UDDI) specification provides a platform-independent way of describing and discovering Web services and Web service providers. The focus of UDDI is the definition of a set of services supporting the   description and discovery of businesses, organisations, and other Web services providers; the Web services they make available; and, the technical interfaces, which may be used to accessthose services. Based on a common set of industry standards, including HTTP, XML, XML Schema, and SOAP, UDDI provides an interoperable, foundational infrastructure for a Web services-based software environment for both publicly available services and services only exposed internally within an organisation. The various departments in the government are a separate entity by themselves, therefore instead of relying on some huge public UDDI repository to expose the Web services having the department specific functionalities each Government at the state level would maintain a separate UDDI registry using jUDDI for Publishing/Inquiring the web services adhering the OASIS standards and interconnected with other state UDDI registries.

Business services: BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) is used to achieve universal interoperability between applications. BPEL enables easy and flexible composition of services into business processes. Web services use loosely coupled integration model to allow flexible integration of heterogeneous system in a variety of domains including business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C) and enterprise application integration. System integration requires more than the ability to conduct simple interactions by using standards protocols, the full potential of web services as an achieved only when applications and business processes are able to integrate their complex interactions by using standard process integration model.

BPEL defines such process integration model; it is an XML-based language standardised by the OASIS consortium for formally describing business processes. A BPEL process specifies how to orchestrate existing web services by defining interactions among them to reach a given business goal, which creates a platform for creating new services by composing and integrating existing services. This is used to develop processes quickly by defining the order in  which services will be invoked. This way, applications (and information systems) become more flexible and can better adapt to the changes in business processes. Here the ActiveBPEL  engine, which is an open source BPEL server is used.

Messaging services: The messaging services component of the framework contains the most fundamental Web services specifications and technologies including eXtensible Markup Language (XML), SOAP and WS-Addressing. Collectively, these specifications form the basis ofinteroperable messaging between Web services. XML provides the interoperable format to describe message content between Web services and is the basic language in which the Web services specifications are defined.

Open database connect: Database Transaction Management Layer provides the necessary assistance for connecting to various database of various applications, the Open database connect uses XML database as intermediary connector for connecting with various types of database. Once the database is available as XML data, any application will be able to access and use the data. The use of XML as intermediary serves two purposes, first it assists in interoperability for various applications and secondly the rich features of various databases such the security, transaction management etc. are not lost.

Prototype application: The prototype application is developed to demonstrate the inter   service communication between two different services of two different departments (the property registration service and the water supply connection service), here the dependency is that for allotment of water supply connection, the service should check for the existence of the property (PID property ID) and any change in communication address in either the property register or the water supply connection register should be reflected in both the registers. The Water Connection Registration Screen is used to register for a water connection on a particular property, the user enters the connection id and property id, this service calls the property registration service to see for the existence of the property and if available the corresponding details such as owner name, owner address, communication address are retrieved from the property register. In case of change in communica-tion address of the owner the change once made in any of the register is reflected instantly in the other register also.

Conclusion

The above framework uses open source technologies including the JBoss application server, the AXIS soap server, XML, to configure the business process he ActiveBPEL engine is used.  The key benefit of the eGov framework is the conglomeration of complex interagency processes to the user as a single integrated service. This will deliver huge benefits, which, includes the enabling of co-operation between independent Govt. agencies, and transform the way citizens’  access and interact with the Government.

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