Improving Agility at PHMSA through Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA)

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1 Leveraging People, Processes, and Technology Improving Agility at PHMSA through Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) A White Paper Author: Rajesh Ramasubramanian, Program Manager 11 Canal Center Plaza, Floor 2 Alexandria, VA

2 Introduction Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) is a collection of services that communicate with each other. The communication can involve either simple data passing or it could involve two or more services coordinating some activity. SOA is a standards-based implementation style whose goal is to achieve secure, reliable, and interoperable loose coupling among connected, interacting components capable of performing a task. SOA is made up of the combination of an organization s internal and external services; it is essentially a collection of services that communicate with each other. The communication can involve either simple data passing or it can involve two or more services coordinating some activity. For SOA there are three important architectural perspectives, as shown in Figure A. SOA is a standards-based implementation style whose goal is to achieve secure, reliable, and interoperable loose coupling among connected, interacting components capable of performing a task. Figure A - Architectural perspectives of SOA» The Application/Presentation Architecture. This is the business-facing solution which consumes services from one or more providers and integrates them into the business processes.» The Service Architecture. This provides a bridge between the implementations and the consuming applications, creating Page 2

3 a logical view of sets of services which are available for use, invoked by a common interface and management architecture.» The Component/Business Architecture. This describes the various environments supporting the implemented applications, the business objects and their implementations. As an architectural strategy, SOA aims to isolate and separate the consumption of business functionality from the provision of this functionality through a commonly defined and accepted service contract. As a design philosophy, SOA makes IT resources available on a network in a location-independent way, which enables designers to furnish a layer of abstraction, masking the technical complexities that underlie the services. What is Meant by Service? A service is a unit of work delivered over an open standards-based message-oriented medium by a provider to achieve a desired result for a consumer. Both provider and consumer are roles played by software agents on behalf of their owners. A service is a function that is well-defined, self-contained, and does not depend on the context or state of other services. The key concepts of SOA revolve around service provider, service consumer and service registry, as shown in Figure B. Figure B SOA key concepts Page 3

4 Service Definitions» Service Contract This stipulates the terms and conditions under which a service is provided.» Service Consumer Parties that consume a service or assembly of services to deliver a particular business process.» Service Provider Source of services based on a pre-defined service contract that guarantees a minimum service level. The provided publishes the service description. A service provider can also be a service consumer.» Service Registry The entity that holds the descriptions and contracts associated with the services available for consumption. Web Services Web Services refers to the technologies that allow for making connections between services. Web services are inherently platform- and language-independent. Web services are simple, loosely coupled, stateless and firewall-friendly. Finding Web Services UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration) Describing Web Services WSDL (Web Service Description Language) Calling Web Services SOAP Data Encoding XML, XML Schema Transport HTTP, SMTP Figure C - The web services stack Web Services Description Language (WSDL) The Web Services Description Language (WSDL) forms the basis for web services. WSDL provides a platform-independent definition of the Page 4

5 service contract. It describes what a service does, how it is accessed, and where the service is located. Following are the steps involved in providing and consuming a service: 1. A service provider describes its service using WSDL. This definition is published to a directory of services. The directory could use Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI) which provides easy discovery, sharing, and reuse of web services and other programmable resources. UDDI contributes to more reliable and manageable applications. The UDDI specification provides a platform-independent way of describing and discovering web services and web service providers. Other forms of directories can also be used. 2. A service consumer issues one or more queries to the directory to locate a service and determine how to communicate with that service. 3. Part of the WSDL provided by the service provider is passed to the service consumer. This tells the service consumer what the requests and responses are for the service provider. 4. The service consumer uses the WSDL to send a request to the service provider. 5. The service provider provides the expected response to the service consumer. All the messages are sent using Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP). SOAP essentially provides the envelope for sending the web services messages. It enables machine-to-machine communication in a heterogeneous environment. The SOAP envelope contains two parts: 1. An optional header providing information on authentication, encoding of data, or how a recipient of a SOAP message should process the message. 2. The body that contains the message. These messages can be defined using the WSDL specification. WSDL provides a platformindependent definition of the service contract... A service provider describes its service using WSDL. Web Services in Use at PHMSA The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is one of ten operating administrations within the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). It is responsible for the regulation of hazardous materials transportation by highway, rail, air, water and pipeline as set Page 5

6 forth in the Federal Hazardous Materials Transportation Law and the Federal Pipeline Safety Law. PHMSA s mission is to protect people and the environment from the risks inherent in transportation of hazardous materials by pipeline and other modes of transportation. The office of Hazardous Material Safety uses the Hazardous Materials Information System (HMIS) to collect and distribute information on hazardous material spills and other regulatory issues. It encompasses PHMSA s daily operations, workflow, and document management needs. Approvals System Catapult Technology developed and maintains an Approvals System for the hazardous materials approvals functions set forth in the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR), 49 CFR, Parts The Approvals Branch of the Office of Hazardous Materials Special Permits and Approvals issues registrations and approvals to different types of manufacturers, shippers, and carriers. Information relating to these registration and approval functions is contained in the Approvals System. In addition to receiving applications through postal/electronic mail, a web interface is also provided to enable customers across the globe to apply online for approvals and special permits. The Approvals System uses Global 360 empower 360, a workflow and document management system from Global 360, a provider of Process and Document Management solutions. The Global 360 empower360 product suite is a complete, powerful, integrated solution for Business Process Management (BPM). With empower360, you can streamline business processes, capture and secure critical content in its original format, automate escalation policies, and efficiently identify and proactively respond to emerging problems. PHMSA has become more efficient through the empower360 content management, imaging, workflow, and digital signature-enabled electronic forms package. Other facets of the empower 360 system include reports management, DoD certified records management, data capture components, and a robust application programming interface (API). Catapult s expertise in Global 360 product is instrumental in developing and maintaining the various workflow components involved in the Approvals System and ensuring that important policies and processes are followed. The system basically tries to conform to the standard file organization structure. That is, for all incoming applications, a folder is created and all the related documentation is associated with the created folder. Page 6

7 The system s workflow management capabilities, along with different security features, allow the application folders to pass through different levels of reviews for the business user. The empower 360 system has two distinct areas: 1. Library The location where all the processed applications resides. 2. Management The location where the application is getting processed. Furthermore, Catapult developed and maintains new plug-ins using empower 360 s API to perform specific business functions. All system rules and specifications are governed through this API. DOD-SDDC Web services Department of Defense-Surface Development & Distribution Command (DOD-SDDC) acts as a liaison between government shippers and commercial carriers. SDDC is responsible for the establishment and maintenance of contracts, solicitations, and agreements with the carrier industry to deploy and distribute Department of Defense (DOD) supplies, personal property, and personnel worldwide. Additionally, SDDC maintains contracts with information technology firms to assist in the development of software applications to manage transportation movements. DOD-SDDC has several approvals application for transportation of Hazardous Material and has to approach DOT for final approval of every application. The current DOT approvals system didn t have any Figure D - DOD-SDDC web services Page 7

8 provision for processing these requests from DOD and hence there was a need for a system that will integrate the SNS and DOT PHMSA approvals system. The Department of Defense (DOD) approached DOT- PHMSA to develop an automated process of the approvals application and send them the final Approval Letter through an electronic system. DOT PHMSA trusted Catapult to propose and implement a solution for auto processing of approvals from DOD. Based on the above requirements Catapult proposed a SOA architecture using Microsoft s secured web services. The web services were created to streamline the process for the approvals application sent by DOD-SDD to DOT-PHMSA. SDDC transmits the approvals data files via secured web services in an extensible markup language XML format. XML is a generic format intended to provide information in a wide variety of structural formats. The approvals system receives the XML data, auto process with digital signature, produce the appropriate letter, and re-transmit the resultant product in electronic form via XML data format to the SNS system. SOAP custom header authentication is used for secured access to the system. The automated process performs the following tasks:» DOD SDDC creates a request for approval internally in Simple Notification Service (SNS).» The SNS is assigned a reference to DOT-PHMSA XML web service.» The SNS transmits the request and related documentation to DOT-PHMSA using secured web service.» When the request is received, a plug-in written to handle DOD- SDDC request performs the following functions: - Create the folder in empower 360 System. - Create the document records and attach the document to the folder. - Draft the Approval Letter in Microsoft Word format. - Add the signature and converts the letter to PDF. - Move a folder into the Library Area.» The DOT-PHMSA system contains a reference to the web service that is hosted by DOD-SDDC SNS.» Once the processing is completed, the DOT-PHMSA system transmits the Approval Letter along with other attributes back to SNS. Page 8

9 Benefits of SOA SOA enables access to information technology functionality as and when needed in a flexible, dynamic, and cost-effective manner. Benefits include:» Improved business agility - Services and systems may be rapidly developed - System may be quickly and easily modified as requirements change» Reduced integration expense - Uses open standards, not expensive proprietary middleware» Increased reuse of assets - Legacy systems can be easily wrapped as services» Reduced business risk - Use of standards reduces dependence on vendors - Organizations may rapidly respond to commercial and regulatory changes Catapult Technology Applies Web Services at PHMSA Throughout the entire process, Catapult s business analysts and software engineers helped DOT-PHMSA understand the business and technology implications and assisted in evaluating the right solution for their business need. Catapult identified and defined the core business requirement and came up with appropriate solution. Catapult helped DOT-PHMSA to accelerate time-to-benefits generated by SOA, from increased operational agility and reduced IT costs through more standardized and consistent business processes. Catapult is committed to delivering standards-based, platform-independent solutions that are powerful, affordable, and easy-to-use. References He, Hao What is Service-Oriented Architecture? O Reilly, September 30, Page 9

10 11 Canal Center Plaza, Floor 2 Alexandria, VA QP

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