Why Swiss Chocolate Relies on WSO2

The Swiss Federal Office of Information Technology, Systems and Telecommunication (FOITT) is one of the internal ICT service providers in the Federal Administration. It supports the administration by developing and providing efficient, secure, and user and public-friendly IT solutions. As part of its responsibilities, FOITT manages more than 40,000 enterprise users of two of their key platforms – one an electronic customs declaration process for imports/exports and the other, an automated way to manage revenue from taxes.

While these platforms have proved successful, FOITT embarked on a digital transformation initiative to make these more efficient. What they had hoped to achieve was the ability to scale to provide a more seamless experience to users.

At WSO2Con US 2017 Dr. Gion Sialm, chief architect at FOITT, explored how they leveraged WSO2 technology to achieve their objectives. They worked together with Yenlo, a WSO2 Premier Certified Partner, to implement their solution. To illustrate how the two platforms work, Gion took the example of Swiss chocolate – the process of importing cocoa to make chocolate and the distribution of the end product within and outside Switzerland.

The e-Dec (Electronic Declaration) Platform

All goods, and in this instance the import of cocoa and export of chocolate, need to be declared and there’s a specific process that needs to be followed. Given that it’s a fairly complex process involving many functions and stakeholders, FOITT created the e-Dec platform to simplify this process. What it essentially did was digitize this process and made it more efficient and user-friendly. As with any digital platform, the e-Dec platform too needed to be refreshed and revamped to be more aligned with new requirements.

For instance, the platform had a lot of different protocols and some were extremely outdated like POP3S and FTPS. Apart from this challenge, the application was based on the Oracle WebLogic Server, which follows the eXtended Architecture (XA) pattern. “Previously, WSO2 products didn’t support XA, but because of FOITT’s requirement, it’s now a part of their feature list,” noted Gion.

The Fiscal-IT Platform

On the retail side, all goods, like chocolate, sold within Switzerland carries a value-added tax (VAT). Previously, these transactions were done manually so FOITT built the Fiscal-IT platform that automated this process. Again, like the e-Dec platform, this too required improvements to further streamline this process.

For instance, the platform was created in a modular manner so as to have the best of breed technology for each feature resulting in a mix of multiple different technologies, like FileNet, Java and SAP, which all needed to be integrated. “Because we decided to employ microservices, we ended up with a lot of REST and SOAP APIs as well as JMS so we needed an enterprise service bus that was flexible enough to maintain these things easily,” said Gion.

The WSO2 Solution

They followed the same architecture for both platforms so as to reduce cost and speed up their go-to-market. The API Gateway, Publisher and Store components of the WSO2 API Manager as well as the WSO2 Identity Server as the Key Manager were used as their core API management solution. WSO2 integration technology was used for routing and message transformation between the sender’s and receiver’s different protocols. WSO2 analytics (not pictured in the architecture diagram above) also plays an important role in the solution — FOITT, together with their service providers, developed a dashboard using WSO2 Data Analytics Server to identify any problems that occur in the application. The user just has to type in the source and destination program and within a few seconds the metadata of all the messages is collected (message tracing) so that errors can be easily identified. The dashboard can even correlate the messages with the log files, which is a very important feature in a distributed landscape like this.

“WSO2 products relate to digital transformation like the Swiss army knife relates to MacGyver. Our platforms are evolving rapidly. In order to keep pace with this innovation it’s important to have a strong relationship and collaborate well with WSO2,” says Gion. “Automation is also key. We have to manage 11 stages throughout our platforms and doing it manually would be quite impossible,” he adds.

To learn more about how FOITT is leveraging WSO2 technology for key government initiatives, watch Gion’s presentation at WSO2Con US 2017: