WSO2Con Insights: Transforming the Ordnance Survey with WSO2’s Open Source Enterprise Middleware Platform

The British Ordnance Survey officially began in 1791.  Unofficially, it began some years before, when King George II commissioned a military survey of the Scottish Highlands. The work never really stopped. Today, over two hundred years later, Ordnance Survey Ltd is Great Britain’s national mapping agency: a 100% publicly owned, government-run company that’s one of the world’s largest producers of maps. They’re in the Guiness Book for the largest Minecraft map ever made – an 83-billion block behemoth that boggles map-makers around the globe.

Over the centuries, Ordnance Survey produced and sold some of the finest paper maps in the business. However they soon had a problem: people didn’t buy maps anymore. People downloaded maps. People accessed maps on a website. They just weren’t huge fans of the print and CD maps that the Ordnance Survey produced day in and day out.

The fault in our maps

Of course, the OS had to evolve. To solve the problem, they realized they had to move beyond retail and into selling data maps. The OS has a database called MasterMap, which is possibly the largest geospatial database in the world; it contains maps accurate to a single centimeter, updated some 10,000 times a day, underpinning some £100 billion worth of business activity in the UK alone. The OS wanted to make this database accessible. They needed a way to sell this data over the Internet; they wanted delivery mechanisms and a strategy. os-maps-devices-banner_1

The OS had been introducing technology to the map-making process since the 70’s, but this challenge was different. Their maps had to be supremely accessible – web pages, mobile phones, even someone on the highway looking for the next gas station, should all have to be able to access Ordnance Survey data without a fuss. They needed a system that understood context – the user on the smartphone might be using an official OS app for it; the user on the highway might be using something installed by the manufacturer or dealer who sold them the car; all of them would have to be treated and billed accordingly.

To do all this, they needed a robust API management solution that could recognize context, run the request into a system and deliver an output very, very fast.

Which is where WSO2 came in.

The wheels in motion

Initially, the OS worked with WSO2’s competition – Apigee. Apigee had a good APIM system, but they weren’t as good as the WSO2 platform in connecting to everything else. The initial QuickStart program proved WSO2 could do everything they wanted: within just two weeks, the OS had a POC system on their hands using WSO2 Complex Event Processor, WSO2 Identity Server, WSO2 API Manager and WSO2 Business Analytics Monitor, connected to Magento, which the OS was using.

WSO2’s comprehensive platform made everything significantly easier for the Ordnance Survey. Since the products integrated perfectly with each other, they no longer needed to look at many different vendors for everything they needed.

“When evaluating the vendors, we were looking for flexibility, we were looking for a willingness to get involved, to share information – to be on our side, I guess – and we were looking for a rich resource. Not a single product vendor with a range of products that would meet our needs,” said Hillary Corney, of the Ordnance Survey at WSO2Con Eu 2015.

The Ordnance Survey also liked the fact that WSO2 provided open-source without a premium price. Because Magento was also open source, and they had complete access to the code of the WSO2 solution, the OS team could very tightly integrate the two via SAML and SCIM.

OD Arch

“WSO2 is an open source platform, which allowed us to experiment early and learn in-depth without going through a complex procurement process, because in the government we have to go adhere to the EU tender process. And it’s a rich suite of products, which gave us confidence and allowed us to meet whatever circumstance we came up against,” added Corney. “The value add is really the speed of development; the fact that it’s open-source allows us to integrate, to customize it and bend the source code to our requirements in a way that’s not possible with straightforward off-the-shelf software. So I think that’s the biggest value for us – the flexibility.”

Ordnance – and the fact that it’s public sector – brought with it its own set of insights for WSO2 – especially in how public institutions work and the moving parts involved. As the engineers at WSO2 got used to these processes, we developed ways to get the project rolling without inflating the price, and WSO2 delivered exactly as promised. The Ordnance Survey is now working on not one, but two API delivery production environments with WSO2 software.

“The WSO2 team were embedded in our trenches, and the overall impression was that they really knew their stuff. It was one of the fastest proof of concept builds we’ve ever had; at the end of two weeks we were able to demonstrate almost everything – from start to finish.”

For further information on Ordnance Survey’s open source journey see Hillary Corney’s presentation slides at WSO2Con EU 2015.

Slides Ordnance Survey

Cloudy with a Chance of Big Data?

Today we kick off our first ever virtual hackathon!

Hackathon_logoIn celebration of our 10th year anniversary this year the 24-hour virtual hackathon, starting at 6 p.m. Pacific Time, will have ten teams from around the world build a scalable solution that processes up to 4 billion real-time events within a short period of time, all in the cloud.

100 Amazon EC2 instances, 2000 Docker containers, 10 Kubernetes clusters using 70 Kubernetes nodes, 4 billion events, 24 Gigs of data, and no, we are not done with the numbers yet. The most successful team to survive this mammoth challenge and produce an applicable solution walks away with $5000.

After all, this is WSO2’s first ever virtual hackathon, and what is a big data challenge without some big numbers?

The teams consist of an architect and developer located in various countries including the US, Brazil, Netherlands, South Africa, Colombia, India and Sri Lanka. The week leading to the hackathon offered competitors resources in the form of webinars on the WSO2 Analytics platform, conducted by WSO2 experts.

All successful teams will get an Amazon Echo each and passes to WSO2Con US 2015, scheduled to be held in San Francisco this November. The most successful team will not only receive the prize money but also a chance to present their solution at WSO2Con.

Hackathon_numbers

This is the fourth in a series of WSO2 Hackathons, focusing on specific areas of expertise in the industry. This challenge is focused heavily on analytics and data science, and how an uncountable number of connected devices and applications are generating massive amounts of data in today’s rapidly advancing connected world.

“Increasingly, enterprises are adopting data analytics platforms that are highly scalable and compatible with cloud technologies”, said Lakmal Warusawithana, WSO2 director of cloud architecture and vice president of Apache Stratos, who is leading the Hackathon. “This hackathon provides us a chance to showcase WSO2’s solutions for big data analytics, scaling to millions of events, running either on-premises or in the cloud, supporting high-volumes of mobile and device data across smart homes, and similar ecosystems. Our team is looking forward to hosting this hackathon, and witnessing the outcome.”

For more details on the challenge and the teams see http://virtual15.wso2hackathon.com

You can also follow #WSO2Hackathon for live updates

WSO2Con Insights: How Government of Moldova efficiently digitized public services

Iurie Turcanu, the executive director of the eGovernment Center in Moldova, describes his country as “small but ambitious”. Indeed, few would suspect that Moldova, which officially declared itself a republic after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, would be one of the few nations in the world to leap headfirst into e-Government.

“Two years ago our government set a primary objective for our nation – to digitize all publicMoldova services. That was a real challenge, because we have to do this fast and with relatively small budgets.” said Turcanu at WSO2Con EU 2015, where he and Artur Reaboi, an enterprise architect at the e-Government Center of Moldova, explained how they implemented this national interoperability platform, which streamlines public services delivery, both for citizens and businesses, as well as optimizing internal governmental business processes.

Apparently unfazed, they began to build a platform with the help of the WSO2 middleware platform.

The Foundation for e-Transformation

The government as a platform, or, as the World Bank puts it, the “Governance eTransformation Project” was undertaken by Turcanu and his team at the e-Government Center of Moldova, under the purview of the State Chancellory. Of course, they hit a number of problems on the way.

The first was the way things worked:

  1. Lack of communication between authorities, or even subdivisions of the same authority.
  2. Financial obstacles – some organizations sell data or access to data
  3. Technological obstacles – lack of standards, incompatibility, lack of documentation

The second set of problems lay in the scope of the problem. This was not a simple system of websites: they needed to built a system that would provide a unified connection bus between the different arms of government – judiciary, taxation, customs and more – and the citizens, and this needed to be accomplished with an absolute minimum of cost, time and human resources.

Government as a PlatformThey needed authentication solutions for the fundamental task of identifying the citizen. They needed to gather different data structures, technologies and weave a single central system in between all these moving parts. They needed electronic messaging to communicate information to citizens. They needed electronic payment systems. Finally, they needed hosting to have the whole structure running.

This was also a relatively central system, which meant it needed the one thing that would be devastating to get wrong: scalability. Indeed, as Reaboi, explains, this was one of the first doubts their sponsors had.

“The WSO2 solution answered all of our problems,” says Reaboi. “Our requirements were many and had to cover many contexts…and future needs. This is why we use lots of WSO2 products; in the middle of this is the WSO2 Enterprise Service Bus.”

The end product is highly flexible. A public agency can come to them and be given the relevant interfaces to access the data they needed; where it came from or what format it was originally saved as, would not matter to the agency – the business of transforming the data is handled by the WSO2 Data Services Server and the ESB, which allowed them to open up data locked in diverse legacy systems without having to modify the existing data or software.

The WSO2 stack’s inherent multi-tenancy and tabletperformance let them scale this model quickly. Their test project, before it was announced to the public, took on some 5000 messages per second with only 2 ESB nodes. For 3.5 million people, they reasoned, that was more than enough scalability.

Today, much of Moldova’s government services are online. Everything from citizen IDs to payment mechanisms has been launched, driving not just digitization, but governmental reform towards a more efficient way of running a country. Indeed, as Turcanu put it, “In fact, it is the basis for public services engineering which is going on parallel to this reform. It acts as the core element of the public service engineering reform of Moldova.”

The e-Government Center hasn’t stopped. They’re now working on electronic visas, electronic procurement systems, a system for developing online registry and permit solutions – the idea is to digitize everything by 2020. Looking on their progress, WSO2 is proud to be right at the heart of Moldova’s trailblazing achievements.

To further understand Moldova’s eTransformation project see Artur Reaboi’s full talk at WSO2Con EU 2015.

Video link