Category Archives: Customers

Building a Cloud Native Platform for CitySprint’s On the Dot Delivery Service

Picture a scenario where you are analyzing the results of a marketing survey which shows that a high percentage of consumers prefer same day shipping, online tracking of their orders, choice of shipping options, and deliveries within a specific time slot. Then you find out that retailers already fulfill around 65% of these needs, but there is a gap in the market, a gap that you can fill by offering a novel service. This is precisely what UK-based logistics and delivery service provider, CitySprint did when they developed the On the dot delivery service, which allows shoppers to receive their orders during a one hour time slot of their choice without extra costs.

“We wanted to positively disrupt the time slot delivery space. In doing so, we wanted to build an API ecosystem that sparks interaction, open new channels and reach new streams of revenue,” says Eduard Lazar, Senior Solutions Consultant at LastMileLink Technologies (a CitySprint Innovation Lab). At the heart of of this project was generating value for users and driving innovation, “On the dot is all about convenience for consumers, be it as a fulfillment method or in terms of collection and delivery time slots. We also wanted to simplify integration and create a developer community through our API ecosystem,” he adds.

Defining the key challenges was one of the first steps before introducing On the dot to consumers. To begin with, CitySprint had to move their data centers to the cloud in order to become a cloud native platform. They also had to create open RESTful APIs, enable identity federation, foster innovation so that it can result in a community of developers who will think up new marketable ideas and simplify integration. Selecting open source software is one of main tenets at CitySprint, and as such, they set about developing an open source platform made of WSO2’s API management, integration and identity and access management capabilities, using a DevOps approach. Meanwhile, the architecture was developed using Apache’s Tomcat and Cassandra, and WSO2Carbon used for continuous deployment.

By placing API management at its core, CitySprint has been able to achieve the required functionality and formed their innovation community (an interesting anecdote on the latter, a TechSprint event was organized where high profile companies sent teams of developers to CitySprint to build innovative products within 24 hours. Results have been quite amazing with an added bonus of introducing CitySprint to new leads).

From a business perspective, implementing this project was primarily underpinned by issues of costs, in addition to those of speed, integration, lifecycle, and skillset. When CitySprint introduced more complexity into the system, this also meant they potentially introduced a time lag. Yet, can this platform control costs through simplification and reuse? Is there a way to save time by simplifying integration? Is the skillset future proof? Can they model the whole lifecycle?

The result – On the dot – answers all the above with a yes. On the dot cloud native platform has empowered CitySprint to enter the market with an adaptable platform, which allows developers to self-sign and begin using the APIs, it is integrated as there are multiple systems working together, they have also connected data and devices, integrated platforms with those of their partners, and connected the user experiences of both customers and partners. Following their successes in the UK, plans are underway to make On the dot a global phenomenon and CitySprint is certain they can achieve this with the right technology.

If you need more details on how CitySprint made On the dot, watch their presentation.

Learn more about WSO2’s API management, integration and identity and access management capabilities.

UNRWA and Capgemini: Creating a Refugee Centric Data Model for Better Insights

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has over 5 million registered refugees requiring education, healthcare and social safety assistance, among others. UNRWA aids refugees across five countries – namely Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank, Syria, and the Gaza Strip which has over 500,000 students, 692 schools as of now, and hundreds of primary health facilities.

In order to automate several processes across the region, the team based in Gaza had already developed the Education Management Information System (EMIS) consisting of three modules (students, staff and premises) and reporting tools. EMIS captures information and manages the educational progress of half a million students, by integrating data from registration, health, facility management and human resources systems that are already in existence.

Yet, given the numbers and scale of its operations, a central data model that has the capacity to integrate data from several entities was the need of the hour to support its regional operations and EMIS. To transform their information management system, UNRWA and Capgemini used WSO2 technology to create a model which mirrors UNRWA’s organizational ethos – placing the refugees at the heart of all their operations.

“The technology is there, but it’s really about the people,” says Francesco Lacoboni, Managing Consultant at Capgemini. Accordingly, the main drivers of the new UNRWA Enterprise Architecture are built upon the strategic principles of people, information, collaboration, and security. People influence how the information is created, managed, and consumed. The platform is an information-centric one – rather than managing documents, it manages open data and content. Its shared approach design aims to improve collaboration, reduce costs, maintain standards, and ensure consistency across the board. Security and privacy features for data protection round off the principles of this platform.

Before the new model was introduced, there was a time where the information that streamed through the system was physically replicated via the transaction log. For reasons of ease and efficiency, UNRWA and Capgemini decided to provide a common set of APIs to all the developers, not only to fulfill the needs of the specific application, but to also create the framework for future use of this semantic concept. Every entity has a credible API that can be used to navigate the knowledge, eliminating the need to design a new API. The resultant Common Data Model (CDM) was created using OWL (Web Ontology Language), and its architecture and governance completed using WSO2’s integration and API management platforms.

For Luca Baldini, Chief of Information Management Services at UNRWA, it was the first time such an approach was used and now that it has been rolled out, he praises its benefits: “The new model has been very productive, as it created a common language between IT specialists and our business representatives. We can use different kinds of technology for data retrieval and distribution.” Francesco believes one of the main benefits of the new model is that it helps increase the transparency of UNRWA’s operations. Now that the new model is successfully in practice, analytics is the next frontier and they hope to leverage WSO2’s analytics capabilities to meet their requirements. Spurred by the possibilities of analytics, plans are in the pipeline to use this data model along with unstructured data provided from the field to improve operations and add further value.

You can watch Luca’s and Francesco’s presentation at WSO2Con USA 2017 to hear more about their project.

Learn more about WSO2’s integration, API management and analytics capabilities if you would like to use them in your enterprise.

State of Arizona: Introducing a Statewide Private PaaS to Improve Efficiencies and Trim Costs

Government institutions across the globe are using cloud-based technologies to add value to citizens and improve their functionality. The State of Arizona is no different, having built the Arizona Enterprise Services Platform (AESP) to reduce costs, improve efficiencies and foster sustainability in the long term. With over 32,000 state employees, 170 business units, over 1,400 IT professionals, and over 100 data centers/server rooms, a transformation of this scale was challenging. Yet, Prasad Putta, the director of enterprise technology services at the Arizona Strategic Enterprise Technology (ASET) office in the State of Arizona who oversees this project, saw an opportunity for improvement and seized it.

ASET is responsible for IT strategy, enterprise capabilities, policies/procedures, and managing high-risk, high-funded projects. AESP was rolled out as an answer to several questions: “How do we not start projects from scratch, stop re-inventing the wheel all the time, and have better data sharing practices? What can we do about redundant solutions throughout the enterprise, ease up license cost payments and solve security issues?” asks Prasad. With these in mind, Prasad and his team had a clear set of objectives they wanted to achieve. At the top of the priority list were cost reduction and sustainability as being a public institution, accountability was a key consideration. Other objectives included the enforcement of standards, revenue generation from data and services, a profitable mechanism for data sharing, allowing better data discoverability, risk reduction, and ease of development/maintenance from a developer’s perspective.

To address these requirements, ASET turned to the public cloud and decided to implement AESP as a private PaaS. The team at ASET was not looking to replace all the applications, rather prefered custom applications across the state agencies. They were also looking to expose data through APIs for private consumption, make the collaboration environment API-centric across the state, shorten their development cycle and ensure all the data is private to the state to mitigate any security and compliance risks. ASET was also looking at economies of scale as not all of the hundreds of applications were fully utilized at one given time. Their existing architecture was entirely hosted on AWS, but for the revamped architecture, AWS was limited to the infrastructure while the rest was built by using WSO2’s integration and identity and access management capabilities.

Introducing AESP brought with it another set of challenges. With agencies working independently, they had to be convinced to opt-in for this platform. Additionally, round-the-clock support was needed along with the right pricing model. Fortunately, AESP found the successful strategies and has several applications in the pipeline now. “Size the menu right” is one of Prasad’s analogies for success, i.e. to reduce the scope of applications to the most sought after ones. Initially, his team spent 30% to 40% of their time maintaining the sheer volume of applications, which is now handled by WSO2’s Managed Cloud. Several issues, such as the pricing model, are still work in progress, but buoyed by the successes, Prasad foresees a busy future.

For more information, watch Prasad’s full presentation at WSO2Con USA 2017.

Find out more about how you can use WSO2’s integration and identity and access management capabilities to improve your organization’s operational efficiency.

The WSO2 Approach to Creating and Managing Content for Open Source Products

“Just open, honest communication is the best thing in the world” (Brett Davern). I was delighted when I stumbled upon this quote, because it sums up our approach to technical content at WSO2. There are plenty of advantages to open content: driving adoption and expansion, improving content quality via better feedback from users, and increasing successful usage of our products.

You may wonder why we make our documentation and even our training content publicly available for free. After all, support is an integral part of our business model, and it contributes to a sizable percentage of our revenue at WSO2. What we have discovered is that high-quality, freely available content does not deter users from buying support. For customers who are building mission-critical solutions, support is essential to receiving timely responses to problems they may be experiencing, whether it’s a bug in the code or a question about the best way to solve a particular problem.

One of the primary advantages of open content is that it drives adoption and expansion. Our goal is to have as many users as possible, and when our documentation and training content is freely available, users have a better opportunity to get up and running with our products quickly and effectively. As they learn ways to solve their business problems with our solutions, people discover more of our products and features that can be used to solve other problems that they envision.

Another major advantage is that open content helps you to improve content quality. More readers mean more feedback. At WSO2, we take it one step further by making the documentation available during the development process itself to ensure that we receive feedback during the entire content release cycle. Getting user feedback early helps us immensely in the planning stage to make sure that issues of concern are addressed in our next release.

When developing training content, we point to the documentation for much of the conceptual information, so that as you learn to use the products during training, you become thoroughly familiar with the documentation as well. This approach allows users to easily go back and find information after they’ve completed the training. We’ve also discovered the following best practices for creating content for open source products:

  • Categorize the content types – at the beginning of a release, plan not only the documentation and training content for each new feature but also what would work best as technical articles, blog posts, or marketing content.
  • Write for a wide audience – open source products have wider audiences, many of whom are non-native English speakers. Use clear, concise language and include a glossary of terms.
  • Test and review on multiple platforms.
  • Engage the community – introduce simple processes for contributing, develop reward systems, build relationships with users, and recognize people’s strengths to maximize contributions from a wider community.
  • Release documentation at each milestone to encourage timely and ongoing feedback.

When your content is ready for distribution, there is a range of platforms you can use. We primarily use Confluence and GitHub at WSO2, but some other platforms we’ve been researching are ReadtheDocs.org, Mkdocs, and Asciidoc.

To learn more about these platforms, best practices, open source content licensing, and detailed advantages of open content, check out my webinar on creating and managing content for open source products.

Honoring WSO2’s Long-Standing Customers by Helping Those in Need

Earlier this year at WSO2Con USA we celebrated our customers who’ve stuck with us through thick and thin for 10 long years — eBay, Kaiser Permanente, Trimble and Concur. In recognition of their long-standing relationship with us, we launched the WSO2 10-Year Customer Anniversary Undergraduate Scholarship Program — a program that offers a full undergraduate university scholarship to passionate students in Sri Lanka.

Standing by our commitment to education (we have over 100 alumni that have or are currently pursuing master’s degrees or PhDs), we figured there’s no better way to honor our customers than by helping those who need financial assistance in following their dreams of a quality education.

The fully-paid program enables the selected students to obtain a degree in Computer Science, awarded by the prestigious University of Westminster, London, UK, through Informatics Institute of Technology (IIT), Sri Lanka. The program also provides a monthly allowance paid by WSO2 to meet daily expenses and mentoring by WSO2 employees throughout their school tenure.

We partnered with IIT and began the search for the perfect candidates in early August. We received many applications from students from all walks of life but had to narrow it down to four (for the four customers). We selected the students based on their financial need, educational qualifications, and extra-curricular activities.

After a lot of deliberation, we announced the selected candidates last week! Our Congratulations go out to

  • Negeesha Divyanjalee Katulanda selected for the BSc (Hons) Computer Science course
  • Piyumi Hansika Madhubani Gamage selected for the BSc (Hons) Computer Science course
  • Chanuka Abeysinghe selected for the BEng (Hons) Software Engineering course
  • Jayasanka Buddhika Weerasinghe selected for the BSc (Hons) Computer Science course

We wish you all the best!

Brigham Young University: Enabling API Discoverability and Data-driven Business Insights with WSO2

Brigham Young University (BYU) began their API Management story 2 years ago when they decided to adopt an API-first architecture that follows a governed process. With over 451 APIs for both external and internal customers, and several development teams working independently of one another, Brayden Winterton (Software Engineer at BYU) likens its management akin to running a small city.

Modernizing their API management was a result of a problematic system that existed at that time. For one, the API manager in existence was closed-sourced and used an old, unsupported third party code. Adding some confusion to the mix, BYU had two versions of their API infrastructure in production – having started with one version, developing a second version along the way and the migration process forever a work in progress. Due to a memory leak, boxes had to be rebooted nightly (if not all API traffic ceased by noon the next day). Furthermore, there was no monitoring of API usage and the documentation support was out of date. In short, BYU was in a “serious situation” to use Brayden’s exact phrase.

Faced with all these scenarios, BYU was looking to implement a new API management solution. A key need was to create a centralized repository for all the APIs at BYU, which enables developers to search for and find all the available APIs, in addition to the respective authorization processes. A seamless transition without drastic changes to their existing developer work was another one of their important requirements. Low latency, up-to-date documentation, integrating with legacy systems and the ability to keep track of all the APIs being utilized completed their wish list.

To implement their requirements, they turned to WSO2 API Manager and WSO2 Identity Server. BYU now has subscriptions that allow consumers to get through to the API and subsequent monitoring; they were able to integrate all legacy systems with message mediation, minimized latency even while mediating quite heavily and of course, it is all open source. The BYU model works on open subscription first, however there are instances where they have needed to block a subscription until further approval was granted. They have been able to do this with an open source platform. Another huge plus has been the ability to utilize industry standards and BYU even got something that was not available to them previously – monitoring and analytics to support their business decision making. Improving discoverability and keeping the documentation up to date were the last pending issues for BYU, ultimately solved by the BYU developer portal in the second stage of their implementation.

“Our developers who have migrated are having a fantastic experience. They’re able to use things in a standard way, able to find the documentation they are looking for, utilize libraries, things aren’t drastically different, all of their old systems are continuing to work and they are getting a lot better reliability out of what they’re trying,” says Brayden. Adding to this success, BYU has seen higher API consumption as of late and with the improvements in place, Brayden is excited about the future.

If you would like to listen to Brayden’s full presentation at WSO2Con USA, click here.

Learn more about the WSO2 API Manager and WSO2 Identity Server if you haven’t tried it out yet.

Verifone: Using WSO2 Technology to Provide a Unique Payment Terminal that Increases Customer Engagement

In Honolulu, Hawaii, one man’s vision for the future of commerce has now become one of the world’s largest point-of-sale (POS) terminal vendors and a leading provider of payment and commerce solutions. Verifone still upholds this vision and keeps innovating for the future. At WSO2Con USA 2017 Ulrich Herberg, a senior Java architect at Verifone, joined us via Skype to speak about how they leveraged WSO2 technology when creating Verifone Carbon – a powerful device that combines elegant design into an integrated POS solution.

Verifone Carbon is a payment terminal that sets a new standard for a valuable and engaging consumer experience. It consists of two parts: a larger Android tablet facing the merchant and a smaller terminal with different kinds of payment functionality, such as Apple pay and payment through credit cards. These two devices are placed on a mobile base, which is used for charging the devices, printing receipts, and connecting to the ethernet.

What makes Verifone Carbon unique is that it’s embedded in an ecosystem called the Verifone Commerce Platform, which consists of a number of additional systems that provide more than what a typical payment terminal offers, explained Ulrich.

  • The developer portal allows third-party developers to create their own customer and merchant facing application by using Verifone’s APIs to download software development kits (SDKs) that can trigger payments, get information of successful or failed payments and more.
  • The app marketplace provides an interface similar to the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store where these apps can be placed and purchased.
  • The estate owner portal is used by large corporations that directly deal with the merchants to
    • Manage the estate (all the devices)
    • Get an overview of the devices
    • Manage, create, remove and update merchants
    • Purchase apps for the merchants
  • The merchant portal provides a smaller scope for the merchants only, which allows them to see their devices and purchase apps for their devices

With Verifone Carbon, merchants can now reward their best customers with loyalty points, display promotional media and coupons, leverage beacons for store analytics and invite customers to redeem personalized offers in real-time among other things.

Ulrich explained that for all of this to happen, they needed a solution that allowed them to manage and monitor all the Carbon devices. They started by evaluating commercial products. The commercial products worked on a pay-per-device model which would have been costly as they scaled up. At often times they didn’t have all the features they required and didn’t provide the flexibility to create any customized features.

The fully open source WSO2 Enterprise Mobility Manager (WSO2 EMM which is now significantly enhanced to provide enterprise IoT solutions as well as mobile device and app management in a single download via WSO2 IoT Server) overcame all of these challenges. “We were able to create a solution that fit our exact needs by either modifying the product on our own or getting WSO2 support services to help modify it,” said Ulrich. They avoided vendor lock-in and are independent of anyone else because they have control over the source code. They were also able to easily integrate WSO2 EMM with their existing terminal management infrastructure.

Ulrich then went on to discuss three major use cases of WSO2 EMM in Verifone Carbon.

Use case 1: Blank Android devices are shipped to the merchants so that they all have the same operating system image. WSO2 EMM uses individual device certificates to identify, authorize and authenticate these devices using mutual Transport Layer Security (TLS).

Use case 2: Verifone already has a legacy terminal management system which runs on a different operating system that can’t directly connect with and use Android features. So they used WSO2 EMM to communicate with the tablet.

Use case 3: Verifone doesn’t use the interface provided by WSO2 EMM so they had figure out how to use WSO2 EMM as a black box. They call it from their terminal management system, sends commands and monitors all the devices through it without having to know how it works internally. They did this by working closely with WSO2 to create a thorough list of RESTful APIs that were documented in Swagger.

Ulrich went on to list a few more WSO2 EMM features they currently use including

  • Getting device information including location data
  • Over-the-air (OTA) update that allows you to update the OS remotely
  • APK installation/update/removal in the background
  • Remotely locking, rebooting or factory resetting the devices
  • Debugging and sending Android logs to the server
  • Sending pop up notification to the tablet

He concluded by explaining in detail how they plan on scaling WSO2 EMM as the number of devices becomes larger.

To learn more about how Verifone used WSO2 technology to increase customer engagement through a unique payment terminal watch his talk at WSO2Con USA 2017.

Motorola Mobility: Using WSO2 Integration Platform to Increase Business Agility

Companies all over the globe are realizing the power of lean technology on the cloud and Motorola Mobility is one of them that’s taking action towards wielding this power. In February 2017, Sri Harsha Pulleti, an integration architect at Motorola Mobility and Richard Striedl, an advisory IT architect at Motorola Mobility, spoke at WSO2Con USA 2017 about their move to a hybrid cloud and container architecture with zero-touch automation.

A few years ago, on the day after thanksgiving, Motorola’s website crashed, resulting in the loss of many transactions from buyers who were flooding in to get their discounts. That’s when they started questioning how it happened, why it happened, and what they could do about it, explained Sri. All their web services were running through heavy-weight enterprise service buses (ESBs) in their data centers that didn’t have any other technical capability. They needed to move away from this to a lightweight platform in the cloud.

After evaluating many vendors they found WSO2 and its lightweight ESB – just what they had been looking for. Sri explained that they could quickly spin up instances of it and even set auto-healing and auto-scaling capabilities. WSO2 ESB (now extended as WSO2 Enterprise Integrator, which includes all the other key products and technologies from the WSO2 Integration Platform) also supports Amazon Web Services (AWS), which was their first option for cloud computing services. After choosing their vendor, Motorola began to make the necessary changes in their environment by re-architecting the system, setting up multiple ESBs and moving to a micro-platform architecture.

A year later, thanksgiving came along and this time everything went smoothly. “It was perfect, there were no issues and everything was absolutely fine”, explained Sri. However, a few months later, they realized that this was costly. Sri was given the challenge of finding something with the same capabilities as AWS, but at a lower cost. That’s when they started looking at OpenStack: an open source software for creating private and public clouds. It created an environment with similar capabilities to AWS and allowed them to set up their own data centers. After discussing further, they decided to run both environments (AWS and OpenStack) parallely and scale them up or down as needed.

This time, they decided to use containers, which allowed them to package their software into standardized units for development, shipment and deployment. But why? It’s lightweight, flexible and easy to scale. Sri then went on to discuss the importance of emphasizing collaboration and communication between developers as well as IT through DevOps: “It’s something everybody wants to achieve”. Instead of having just a DevOps team to achieve this, they made a zero touch automation DevOps platform. This homegrown application called Debug 360 built on open source products allows their developers to focus on developing the code and checking it into a repository while the end-to-end automation takes care of the rest. It now takes less than a week to complete any new development in an integration model.

Motorola now has WSO2 ESB on AWS and OpenStack, one without containers and one with. The next step will be to integrate these instances to achieve their ultimate goal of spinning up instances in both environments, Sri noted.

Motorola Mobility Advisory IT Architect Richard Striedl further explained the concept of cloud elasticity. He stated that they have learnt a lot especially in terms of enhancing DevOps while working with WSO2 the last few of years. The requirements for cloud elasticity included having the same DevOps procedures, cloud capabilities and application code and auto-scaling.

“We’re evaluating WSO2 API Manager,” said Richard while explaining their need for APIs to manage the environment, build the framework and have more control over it. At present, they have 35 applications with 90% of traffic going through OpenStack and 10% going through AWS. Richard concluded by exploring their future plans of dockerizing with data services and message brokering capabilities available in the new WSO2 Enterprise Integrator. “We might even take that step towards Ballerina as we all learned today,” he added.

To learn more about how Motorola Mobility is moving to the cloud through zero touch automation listen to Sri’s and Richard’s talk at WSO2Con USA 2017.

West Interactive: Using WSO2 Identity Server to Enhance Customer Experience

Headquartered in Omaha, West Corporation is all about telecommunication – be it conferencing solutions, safety services, interactive voice response solutions or speech application automation. Pranav Patel, the vice president of systems development at West Interactive, recently spoke at WSO2Con USA 2017 about the unique customer experience they offer through their multi-tenanted role-based identity and access management solution built using WSO2 Identity Server.

An increasing numbers of users today are turning to various different channels like the web, mobile devices, and social media to interact with vendors. Pranav explained that knowing the customer and making sure that they can access West Interactive’s services from whichever channel they prefer is a key requirement for them.

West has been in the telecommunication industry for the last 30 years, and quite commonly, have many solutions that are siloed and distributed. Connecting all these solutions was a major challenge they needed to overcome in order to provide a holistic experience to their customers, explained Pranav. This meant dealing with and managing various different identities that belonged to many different customer portals. They needed to create a solution that revolves around centralizing user identities to a single user portal and creating an efficient identity and access management system.

Pranav then examined the requirements they needed to meet in order to achieve operational efficiency, easily manage accounts, save costs, and provide great customer experience. Other than the evident single sign-on and federation requirements, multitenancy with hierarchical tenant management was an important feature that enabled them to serve all their tenants (a client of West represented as a domain in the system) and users (individuals that require access to the portal and are grouped at the tenant level) through their portal. The system also needed to enforce rule-based access control that allows access to certain products (web applications that need to be integrated) depending on who the user is. In addition to this, they had corporate policy requirements for passwords, needed to maintain password history and had a password expiry date that prompted users to frequently change the password. Audit logging and user bulk imports were some other requirements.

“WSO2 fulfilled several of our requirements out-of-the-box, especially support for various protocols and heterogeneous multiple user stores,” observed Pranav. He went on to explain that they could easily extend the product and customize it for any features that it didn’t already have, making it the perfect solution for West.

WSO2 Identity Server is used for

  • Introducing a relationship hierarchy between the parent tenant and child subtenant and allowing multi-tenancy
  • Asking for and storing answers to five security questions per user
  • Defining permissions or roles for products (web applications) and users
  • Providing single sign-on and federation for users
  • Allowing employees to mimic a user and see how they perceive the user portal
  • Enforcing password policies set by tenants

Pranav expressed how WSO2 Identity Server meets all their current requirements and how they would like to introduce customizable login pages (by tenant), two-factor and multi-factor authentication, automated user provisioning and self-registration among other features in the future. He concluded by saying they were looking forward to adding WSO2 Data Analytics Server to the mix in order to monitor what’s really going on in the system.

To learn more about West Interactive’s story listen to Pranav’s talk at WSO2Con USA 2017.

BLS: using WSO2 to make Switzerland’s railways work better

BLS is Switzerland’s second-largest railway company. It employs about 3000 people and runs both passenger transport trains in Switzerland and freight trains across the Alps. It owns or operates on seven major lines and also operates the standard gauge railway network of the S-Bahn Bern, which spans about 500 kilometers.

BLS_RABe_535_Loetschberger

The story starts in the 1990s, when the European Commission made railway infrastructure operators separate from train operating companies in order to create a more efficient railway network and more competition. Thus, a train operating company, such as BLS, has to now request a train path from an infrastructure operator and had to pay for this path.

In 2007, the main Swiss railway infrastructure operator had to replace its 25-year-old timetable planning system. The system had the interfaces to about 50 other systems from different railway companies. Unfortunately, there was a long delay – some ten years – and costs tripled.  But by 2015, the project was back on track, with BLS determined to finish it.

In an architectural sense, BLS realized that their product teams often may not build the best fit for a problem. There are many reasons for this – including a team being unfamiliar with the most optimal integration patterns, or a preference towards one particular middleware stack simply because they understand it better. BLS thus first devised a set of non-functional properties, relevant for describing integration problems. They then devised a decision matrix that returns a number of integration patterns for a given problem. Based on this, they devised a set of integration guidelines, including how the pattern should be implemented and what middleware was available for the purpose.

image00

They were then able to get on with the problem of integration. In the data flow structure below, BLS needed to introduce a mediation component, with traceability, routing, data validation, data transformation and protocol changes as its key functionality.

image02

For this they selected WSO2 Enterprise Service Bus; with it they were able to separate transaction data from master data. Transported by the interfaces between the train operating company and the infrastructure manager are train paths and data about the network, train paths, and junctions. Data was sent as a push with the transaction data; by using WSO2 Data Services Server, they implemented a data pull to store this data as a copy in the system.

This project commenced in 2013, when BLS started evaluating products for the task. By December 2014, BLS had four products on their list: after a cost-benefit evaluation, they were down to two by January 2015, and after a successful proof-of-concept build they had selected WSO2 by April 2015.

In their talk at WSO2Con EU 2015, the BLS executives described themselves as being satisfied with WSO2 on many fronts, both product release schedules and financial growth; the availability of partners in Switzerland; with the architecture and cost effectiveness of the product; and also, with the availability of the source code. Using WSO2’s Quick Start Program, they were able to rapidly prototype cost-effective solutions for their integration.

At WSO2, we’re proud to be a part of BLS’s success. Our open source products are used by enterprises around the world – ranging from companies like BLS to governments. If your organization has a need for world-class middleware, talk to us. We’ll be glad to help.