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A SEMANTIC SERVICE-ORIENTED PRIVATE ADAPTATION LAYER ENABLING THE NEXT GENERATION, INTEROPERABLE AND EASY-TO-INTEGRATE SOFTWARE PRODUCTS OF EUROPEAN SOFTWARE SMES

Periodic Report Summary 2 - EMPOWER (A semantic service-oriented private adaptation layer enabling the next generation, interoperable and easy-to-integrate software products of European software SMEs)

Project context and objectives:

Building information systems as compositions of semantic web services is considered as the next step in information technology evolution, since it enables software integration by combining loosely coupled interoperable pieces of functionality at a semantic, abstract level. In addition, the semantic representation of information in ontologies is expected to deliver formal service descriptions and to facilitate data consistency due to knowledge sharing between humans and applications. The proposed research initiative is intended to address all issues: data integration and business applications interoperability, semantic web services and ontological representation of information.

The vision of the EMPOWER project is to facilitate the creation of the next generation, loosely coupled, interoperable and easy-to-integrate commercial-off-the-shelf software products of the European software small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), leveraging the quality of the application software and the integration services delivered to their customers, by providing the enabling technologies for the ad-hoc exposure of pieces of functionality from each application software, based on the emerging semantic web services technology.

In order for the consortium to come up with the above mentioned vision, the EMPOWER project has a three-fold focus that will be achieved through the following research and innovation related activities:

(1) To provide the European software SMEs with an innovative framework and the enabling technologies that will allow them to design, develop and maintain a semantic service-oriented private adaptation layer upon each of their application software products, facilitating the standardised creation and ad-hoc exposure of pieces of functionality from the application software, utilised as loosely coupled, interoperable and easy-to-integrate modules for building evolutionary information systems for their customers, leveraging the quality of the application software delivery and integration services towards their customers.

(2) To validate and evaluate the research results by developing proof-of-concept SMEs-specific prototypes, proving the usability, applicability and adaptability of the proposed, innovative EMPOWER semantic service-oriented adaptation framework and environment in the development and delivery of loosely coupled, interoperable and easy-to-integrate enterprise services exposed from proprietary business software products of the participating European SMEs.

(3) To facilitate the take-up of the EMPOWER research results by the software development SMEs.

The 'Research for SMEs' project EMPOWER is led by LOGO and a consortium consisting of eight partners from six EC Member States and associated countries (i.e. Hungary, Romania, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey and Norway), including software SMEs, technology providers, as well as, research institutes and universities from the academia. The EMPOWER Project (co financed by the European Commission).

Project results:

As stated in the technical annex (TA) of the description of work (DoW), the EMPOWER project implementation plan is organised over 8 quarters (24 months). To guarantee smooth and effective project running and progress the following 7 work packages (WPs) have been identified:

- 5 project implementation WPs related to the conceptual and the architectural design of the innovative EMPOWER framework and adaptation environment, the development and the integration of the system components, the creation of the Interoperable enterprise services semantic map, the definition, development and execution of the pilot applications and the evaluation and the validation of the overall EMPOWER solution; and
- 2 project horizontal WPs related to intellectual and property right (IPR) handling, dissemination and training, as well as, to the administrative and technical project and consortium management.

All EMPOWER deliverables, which should be submitted until the end of M12 of the project (referring to WP1,WP2, WP3 and WP6), have been successfully delivered to the EC according to the updated Annex I of the EMPOWER grant agreement that is compliant with the current contract amendment. The next paragraphs present a brief summary of each WP major achievements during the reporting period and progress towards objectives. Please, note that the submitted deliverable D2.1 should be considered as a draft one, and its updated version will be delivered by M15, containing the full extension of the enterprise interoperable services semantic map (as imposed and required by the SMEs).

Potential impact:

The 24-month EMPOWER project proposes semantic adaptation environment, which enables the graphical design and ad-hoc extraction (as web services) of custom pieces of functionality (enterprise services) from legacy systems and the creation of the semantic profile of the exposed enterprise services.

The EMPOWER project will, finally, result, through the EMPOWER deliverables in:

(1) The innovative EMPOWER adaptation environment that enables the European software SMEs to ad-hoc define and extract (in a standardised and formal way) pieces of functionality from their legacy systems, implementing a semantic service-oriented private adaptation layer upon each of their software products, comprising:
(a) the system interoperability layer (SIL), which facilitates the service-oriented adaptation of proprietary software products, supporting the extraction of custom pieces of system functionality, utilising web services technologies on top of structured query language (SQL)-based database access, extensible markup language remote procedure call (XML-RPC) and / or file access utilities; and
(b) the semantic adaptation layer (SAL), which enables the semantic adaptation of the legacy systems, allowing the creation of the semantic profiles of the exposed enterprise services, including semantic annotations with regard to the service functionality and the respective input and output messages, and up- and down- casting transformations of the output and input (respectively) messages against the common reference ontological model.
(2) The EMPOWER reference framework for facilitating the creation of the next generation, loosely coupled, interoperable and easy-to-integrate Commercial-off-the-Shelf software products of the European software SMEs, relying on web services and semantic web technologies.
(3) The EMPOWER ontology that constitutes the corner stone of the semantic adaptation of the enterprise services exposed from given proprietary software products, providing data and functional semantics for the annotation of service profiles and serving as a common reference model or the formal representation of enterprise interoperable services and data objects.
(4) The enterprise interoperable services semantic map that constitutes the semantically enriched, abstract documentation of the interoperable pieces of functionality defined per each type of business software applications (manufactured by the participating software SMEs), i.e. the enterprise services, extending (if required) and utilising the EMPOWER ontology.
(5) 5 EMPOWER SME-specific prototypes (one per participating SME) that will validate and prove the concepts and software components and tools of the proposed EMPOWER framework and adaptation environment, regarding the semantic, service-oriented analysis and adaptation of the key software products of the participating European software SMEs.
(6)The EMPOWER adoption guidelines that will constitute a semantic service-oriented analysis and adaptation cookbook for the development of the next generation, interoperable and easy-to-integrate software products (based on the currently proprietary ones), including and documenting all the steps required, based on the lessons learnt through the evaluation of the prototype development and the performance of the SME-specific prototypes.

The EMPOWER project innovation and impact

The EMPOWER consortium will examine and use the current state-of-the-art semantic web service frameworks and apply them to e-business processes and transactions, focusing its research activities towards the SOA adaptation and semantic enrichment of business software systems.

Therefore, the main contribution will be:

(a) an innovative framework, a flexible and extensible architecture and systemic environment for facilitating the standardised creation and ad-hoc exposure of pieces of functionality from the application software, utilised as loosely coupled, interoperable and easy-to-integrate modules for building evolutionary information systems for their customers, and
(b) a multi- layer and -faceted ontology and semantic reference model for conceptualising the modelling of EMPOWER-enabled services as building blocks for compex information systems and innovative services and for establishing shared concept models enabling different applications to define semantically same information using a common reference.

Building information systems as compositions of public semantic web services is considered as the next step in information technology evolution, since it enables software integration by combining loosely coupled interoperable pieces of functionality at a semantic, abstract level. Despite its limited support for automated service discovery and composition, 'traditional' service-oriented architecture (SOA) introduces the superiority of service-oriented over data-oriented integration thus empowering the business process fusion (BPF) activity.

The semantic representation of information in ontologies is expected to deliver formal service descriptions and to facilitate data consistency and better information management and aggregation due to knowledge sharing between humans and applications. Formal service descriptions will bring service discovery and composition to the next fully automated level while ontologies and knowledge bases will structure content relative to several economy sectors, thus empowering information and knowledge management activities. The EMPOWER initiative is intended to address both issues: public semantic web services and ontological representation of data and information.

Another research activity of the EMPOWER project will be the development of a methodology and adoption guidelines for the implementation of information systems based on structure content and semantic web services. Such an engineering methodology will serve as a template for settling individual software engineering processes in and between collaborative development teams.

Finally, the major concern of the EMPOWER project is the establishment of a semantically enabled service-oriented adaptation layer that, with its participant enabling technologies and standards, will facilitate the standardised creation and ad-hoc exposure of pieces of functionality from the application software, utilised as loosely coupled, interoperable and easy-to-integrate modules for building evolutionary information systems for their customers.

List of websites: http://www.empower-project.eu