Servizio Comunitario di Informazione in materia di Ricerca e Sviluppo - CORDIS

LAURA prototype system

The LAURA Prototype implements the chosen architecture and instantiates the framework in practice. It also builds on modern Peer-to-Peer communication paradigm.

Traditionally, modern e-business applications were being built (both technically and conceptually) with a client-server interaction paradigm in mind. There are different flavours of client-server interactions in e-business ranging from fully centralized hub-and-spoke solutions to point-to-point links between the peers. In most cases, the structure of a traditional VO is assumed to be relatively static and the explicit presence of different intermediaries or static knowledge of participants is taken for granted.

However, the true anatomy of interaction within virtual communities, especially highly dynamic ones such as RBVO, is peer-to-peer by its nature. The participants do not seek 'a server', a 'centre' or a 'hub'; they seek partnerships irrespectively of the underlying infrastructure, partner location, etc. In other words, the actual value-added interactions occur between collaborating peers, whereas the supporting infrastructure carries greater or lesser overhead, reflecting the way it happens in off-line business practices.

This phenomenon, also known as peer-to-peer communication, has been successfully exploited for consumer-oriented purposes, and can be also applied to B2B virtual communities as the necessary technical provisioning becomes widely available. This idea is not entirely new, a P2P network resembles a small business community (virtual community), this sort of web of shifting and temporary interconnections is exactly what decentralised P2P systems are good at.

In the LAURA network context there are two types of peers:
- Domain Hubs, acting on behalf of SMEs, which are not capable of using LAURA business collaboration service themselves
- Advanced SMEs, using the LAURA collaboration service connected to their back-office and/or ERP systems

Project JXTA provides a framework that would allow developers to concentrate on providing high level, business-oriented functionality, rather than implementing the underlying infrastructure. Project JXTA also has an advantage of being open-source, and supported by an active community. Sun introduced JXTA technology in 2001 with an open-source, royalty-free license model and more than 80 known JXTA-based projects are currently in development. The JXTA technology is particularly applicable from the RBVO point of view and especially with regard to the multi-domain nature of our solution. The JXTA Virtual Network, which allows flexible mapping between the physical resources and the logical entities, required for a multi-domain e-business network such as LAURA.The slogan "JXTA Technology: Creating Connected Communities" captures the essence of JXTA technology, and also particularly matches the essence of the RBVO concept.

Existing peer-to-peer protocols are characterised by unreliable messaging especially in the context of the Internet, where the overwhelming majority of communication channels are unreliable. Messages disappear, connections break, servers crash and viruses attack. In short, the main issues to be addressed by reliable business messaging are:
Asynchronous messaging at the application level
Three reliability features:
- guaranteed delivery
- duplicate elimination
- and message ordering

The other principal decisions we made are the following:
- WWW interface and HTTP(S) protocol is used for SME end-user access to the LAURA network.
- Open Source e-business component framework from The Open For Business Project - OFBiz is used for the basic functionality such as catalogue management, user registration, business transaction monitoring, reporting, etc.
- Discovery of the remote domains by a domain hub is encapsulated into a generic interface, which allows different discovery techniques. For example, one of them is based on emerging Peer-to-Peer (P2P) technology and its Java implementation in particular - JXTA. Domain hubs use JXTA to exchange their meta-data and build lists of remote domains for subsequent product search within the selected domains.
- Domain hubs perform search of products and partners on behalf of SMEs by propagating the queries to the selected remote domains. Secure and reliable messaging is needed in this case to ensure the required degree of accuracy and, inherently, trust in the system. The transport option chosen for this task and subsequent business conversations is ebXML messaging. In order to be able to use other business messaging options a generic interface is also used here.
- Business processes specify the choreography of business transactions in collaborations between the partners and these are modelled and specified using ebXML BPSS.
- Business documents are modelled according to the Open Applications Group Integration Specification - OAGIS

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