All posts by Vichitra Godamunne

The Enduring Case for Open Source Software

Photo credits: Clay Banks on Unsplash

Open source software is everywhere we can think of, solving industry challenges. What had its roots in the Free Software Movement (founded by Richard M. Stallman in the early 1980s) began getting more widespread attention in the mid 1990s (think Linux) and is big business today. Which is why 2018 was such a legendary year for open source software. We all remember that early in the past year Salesforce bought Mulesoft for USD 6.5 billion, then Microsoft announced its intention to acquire GitHub for USD 7.5 billion, and the year ended with IBM acquiring RedHat for USD 34 billion. Then there’s the projection that global open source services will grow to USD 32.95 billion by 2022!

Heady numbers aside, open source has been on the “tech trends to watch for year xxx” lists for several years now in multiple publications. Its relevance will only continue to increase in the years to come. This is because transparency, community collaboration, and accessibility have always been the cornerstones of open source software from its earliest days. And ultimately these are the foundations that will contribute to its benefits:

  • The ability to change, alter, and extend the source code without depending on the vendor all the time. We’re talking freedom here – from vendor lock-in.
  • With the community playing such an important role, the transfer of knowledge is one of the biggest assets of open source. This helps you continually improve the code and fix bugs. The result – continuous improvements in standards of your software projects.
  • The lack of a need to rely on a vendor and the flexibility this gives you are precisely what makes open source more cost-effective in the long run.
  • Gives you the option to experiment – and fail and move on quickly if things don’t work as you planned.
  • As you keep experimenting, you are placed in an ideal position to innovate fast and present something new to the market.
  • Finally, in the true spirit of community, you don’t merely “take” – you also “give” back to the community and make sure that others gain from your contributions.

Here at WSO2, we’re advocates of open source and our founders were inspired by its possibilities. We’re also the biggest open source integration vendor with analyst recognition to boot. So why do we believe in an open source approach to API-centric integration?

Because there’s an approaching endpoint explosion. The world is estimated to have around a trillion programmable endpoints and APIs, and no growth of this scale comes sans issues (and opportunities of course.) There are the changing protocols, formats, and diversity of endpoints to take into account. This is where all the best things about open source will help. Increasing changes will need the help of the community, you will need to avoid any kind of lock-in (be it vendor, data, or APIs) to remain flexible, and transparency always helps with accountability and consensus.

You may have many questions (and perhaps even misgivings) about adopting open source software: “Freedom is great but do I have support if needed?” “What about security?” “In spite of the talk, how transparent is this model?” WSO2 has dedicated 24/7 support and we’ll help with your security concerns (by the way, we have an open source identity and access management solution). On the topic of transparency, we take things one step further. WSO2 makes our product/solutions roadmaps and even financials public, in-keeping with our open and transparent ethos.

So, open source is here to stay. The world today is heavily discussing emerging technologies (such as biometrics, artificial intelligence, blockchain, robotics, virtual/augmented reality) and what their possibilities will be for our politics, economy, society, and wellbeing. We’re not here to predict what sci-fi looking future awaits us. But we can tell you that open source will be an ever present constant, to be found in any emerging software project. Because in the words of Ben Balter, senior manager of product management at GitHub: “Open source is the future.”

Discover who we are and our vision for open source API-centric integration.

Improving Coordination for Natural Disaster Responses with a Geospatial Data Sharing Platform

Photo credits:a befendo on Unsplash

GeoDASH is a geospatial data sharing platform in Bangladesh built using the open source GeoNode. It is supported by the Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction (GFDRR) – operated via the World Bank in Bangladesh – and implemented by the ICT division of the Bangladesh Computer Council (BCC). GeoDASH enables government agencies, private enterprises, academic institutions, and the public to manage, share, and visualize geospatial data. WSO2 API Manager is used to integrate multiple services and provide secure access to GeoDASH.

Data Sharing for Better Disaster Preparedness

GeoDASH came into being in 2014, when a roadmap was initially published as a means to facilitate the sharing of data between government agencies and help improve disaster responses. The beta version of the platform was launched soon after and a data sharing working group comprising of 11 key government agencies was established. Ownership of GeoDASH was transferred from GFDRR to BCC in 2015, and the project received media coverage the following year too. More recently in 2018, Bangladesh decided to integrate GeoDASH to the country’s National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) policy.

At present, GeoDASH consists of more than 50 organizations, 250 GIS maps, and over 500 users! Yet, the data belongs to the respective organization that uploads the data, making data sharing a challenge. To add to this complexity, further platforms are being introduced in addition to GeoDASH and NSDI. These include the Urban Resilience Project which aims to increase the capacity of government agencies to respond to emergencies and reduce vulnerabilities of areas in Dhaka and Sylhet. As a part of this project, the Dhaka North City Corporation plans to build another platform named UrbanSDI/MSDI. And finally, another SDI platform exists at the BCC.

Addressing Needs and Challenges

Given the number of platforms, interoperability is a must and this did not exist at the time. Furthermore, there was a lack of standardization and collaboration, due to the various organizations developing their own e-services; a central platform to search for all e-services was absent; security and monetization were issues of concern; and a collaboration mechanism was needed for data sharing.

Guidance is provided in the form of the Bangladesh National Digital Architecture, which is a holistic approach adopted to provide e-services for citizens. This framework addresses the inclusion of a national e-services bus for better coordination and collaboration, standardization of e-services, reuse of shared e-services, cost-effectiveness, and the improvement of e-governance. The framework also introduces the National e-Service Bus, built using WSO2 API Manager; an open source API management platform that addresses the full API lifecycle, monetization, policy enforcement, and even allows customization as required.

WSO2 API Manager has enabled integration and access of e-services, access control, security and monetization, interoperability, and the sharing of services and documentation. Services integrated to date include: food procurement, online internal recruitment, national identity database verification, government employee verification, geospatial data, birth and death registration, e-pensions for the education sector, a digital municipality system, and the ‘Alapon’ app for information sharing in the public sector. The implementation has met the objectives and improved both operational efficiency and coordination. Mohammed Abu Hamid, a consultant for the GeoDASH system at The World Bank, is optimistic about more successful integrations and registration of services in the future.

Learn more about GeoDASH, challenges faced, and future plans from Hamid’s talk.

We were named a Leader in The Forrester Wave™: API Management Solutions, Q4 2018 Report. Get the report here and learn more about WSO2 API Manager here.

A Citizen Centric e-Government Journey From Bhutan

Photo by Karen W Lim on Unsplash

Bhutan’s information and communications technology (ICT) policy is an integral part of the country’s holistic approach to socio-economic development. Their ICT journey began in 1999, with the introduction of the Internet. Since then, the country’s ICT infrastructure has reported significant growth, with mobile connectivity coming in at over 93% in 2018. The Royal Government of Bhutan’s Department of IT and Telecom (DITT) is responsible for framing the country’s ICT policy, developing ICT infrastructure, innovating, and promoting ICT as a whole. DITT uses the WSO2 Integration Agile Platform to provide online services in accordance with their citizen centric e-Government policy.

Centralized Infrastructure to Improve Efficiency

DITT began using WSO2 Enterprise Integrator (then named WSO2 Enterprise Service Bus) in 2010 to facilitate the provision of online services to citizens and extract information from the national citizen registry. They also began setting up a private network, which connects all government agencies from the centre to the local level. DITT centralized their government infrastructure in one government data center to improve efficiency. Standards were also introduced, as various government agencies had invested in monolithic applications independently, without following any particular form of standards. “We believe that the greatest benefits from technology can be gained by the state, if we make the optimal investment in ICT – rather than have every single agency investing in silo,” elaborates Jigme Tenzing, chief ICT officer at DITT.

Accordingly, the e-Government Policy of Bhutan is citizen centric and aims to strengthen the coordination and collaboration between government agencies. This e-Government policy is defined by the following:

  • It is digital by default – any new service, or reforms, relies on adopting technology.
  • ICT assets are shared to ensure cost-effectiveness and reduce any duplications and inconsistencies of data sharing.
  • Data owners are responsible for data collection, updating, and sharing – to avoid duplication and reduce errors/inconsistencies.
  • Information security and privacy are treated as a collective responsibility.
  • Business initiatives drive change requests and procurement of IT infrastructure.
  • e-Government projects work on a sustainable model for continuity.

A governance structure has also been implemented to manage, implement, and regulate this policy. This structure consists of a Review Committee, which is a technical body comprised of technical professionals who perform the initial review of systems and identify if there are any issues with maintaining consistency, and whether or not an investment needs to be made in the first place. Then there is an Executive Committee, which decides on financial/budgetary concerns and manpower, above which is a Government Council made up of government secretaries who communicate with the Cabinet.

One Government Approach

This approach is underscored by the need to provide a single platform, which citizens utilize to access services from the government with a single sign-on mechanism. This architecture’s information exchange layer is built by using WSO2’s integration and analytics products and identity management is managed by WSO2 Identity Server. WSO2’s integration platform – WSO2 Enterprise Integrator – provides a centralized enterprise service bus (ESB) with data and process integration, along with B2B integration capabilities. The analytics platform – WSO2 Stream Processor – understands streaming SQL queries in order to capture, analyze, process, and act on events in real-time; facilitating streaming data integration and analytics. WSO2 Identity Server is optimized for single sign-on and identity federation, with comprehensive support for strong authentication.

Data access is provided as APIs (and not via the integration layer). Hence, the architecture also consists of WSO2 API Manager (which provides full lifecycle API management, application development, access control, and rate limiting) to allow data access, after authentication by WSO2 Identity Server. This architecture also consists of other open source tools in addition to WSO2. “We still have some work to do, particularly identifying the custodians of data, but we have a lot of expectations from this architecture,” concludes Jigme.

To learn more about Bhutan’s e-Government journey, watch Jigme’s presentation on the topic.

WSO2’s integrated platform provides open source technologies for API management, enterprise integration, identity and access management, and streaming analytics. Learn more about us here.

We were even named as a Leader in the Forrester Wave™: API Management Solutions, Q4 2018 Report. Access the report here.

You can also read KuppingerCole’s Executive View of WSO2 Identity Server here.

An Integration Platform in Luxury Fashion – How Farfetch Delivers Value to Partners and Customers

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

E-commerce platforms in the luxury fashion industry occupy a small portion in the wider online fashion e-commerce industry. Established in 2007, Farfetch offers a leading online platform in the luxury retail industry, connecting brands, boutiques, partners, and the end customer. When looking at the numbers, currently over 1,000 boutiques and brands sell products using the Farfetch platform. Farfetch serves over 2 million users in 190 countries (plus, the Spring/Summer 2018 season alone had 5.7 million units of items stocked in the platform). Their online business operations are driven by an integration platform, built by using WSO2 Enterprise Integrator.

A scalable integration platform for a growing business

On a day to day basis, Farfetch communicates stock information between their partners and customers, manages orders and returns, and handles the logistics on behalf of their partners. Several years ago, Farfetch requested their partners to integrate with their architecture and built a SOAP API to facilitate this integration. However, with time, the partner network grew and integration became even more important, and Farfetch realized the solution at the time was not scalable in the long term due to the lack of a relevant platform.

Therefore, in 2016, Farfetch built their own integration platform named FFLink using WSO2 Enterprise Integrator, an agile integration platform that helps enterprises to build and scale integration solutions. FFLink is based on 2 components. The first component is universal plug-in, where Farfetch built a plug-in for a system that is used by multiple partners whilst ensuring scalability of the system. The second component targets their top partners, with whom Farfetch embarks on custom projects depending on the business case. In this instance too, scalability is important. In theory, Farfetch prefers to provide out-of-the-box integration options for their partners although in practice, this is not always possible as some of the bigger brands have custom API layers on top of their system, rendering it difficult to use with other partners. With FFLink, partners now integrate using the same API as Farfetch and the plug-ins.

Building the architecture to overcome challenges

In recent years, Farfetch has been nearly doubling their growth rate every year (sometimes more). One of the challenges now is no longer the integration platform – but managing and scaling this platform, along with the partners. Furthermore, Farfetch is also looking at discontinuing the use of their API which they introduced at the start but some partners continue to use it. This discontinuation process cannot be abrupt and they’ve introduced a process by which these partners will graduate start using FFLink. To do this, Farfetch has exposed one API to their partners, which they will then connect to their new and modern REST API internally. This ensures that Farfetch continues to support all their partners (including the ones using the original API) and simultaneously ensure their internal architecture continues to evolve and deploy new APIs.

The challenges don’t end there. Although Farfetch is satisfied with the way in which they were able to create FFLink and deliver value to their partners, they experienced some difficulty in supporting and maintaining all their partners. As such, they began to look at ways in which they can modify FFLink further, taking into account issues of scale, business growth, partner management, and support. They then introduced the second version of FFLink – which is an event driven architecture. Every transaction received by FFLink is transformed into an event. All orders that are synchronized between Farfetch and partners are transmitted through a central event service, regardless of the source system or the target system. This has eased the monitoring and scaling functions for the team at Farfetch. The main role of this architecture is to discover events. For example, when the system receives a new order, APIs are pooled by Farfetch and their partners to find this new order after which an event is created. However, not all partners use APIs and some of them still use files – leading to problems. In order to deal with this, Farfetch has built storage services in the system whose function is to discover and manage events that are triggered using files. Partners who use APIs are able to create events via the API gateway in the integration platform, through the exposed APIs.

Once an event is created, synchronous ones are published on the messaging, overseen by the orchestration layer. Asynchronous events trigger the orchestration layer, which turns it into a message and transforms it as needed. This is where WSO2 Enterprise Integrator plays a key role, helping Farfetch to scale this platform and build the orchestration layer. WSO2 Enterprise Integrator has integration runtimes, message brokering, business process modeling, analytics, and visual tooling capabilities.

Benefits

The new architecture has allowed Farfetch to set up a central back office, helping them to configure, manage, and monitor the system. This has helped them to anticipate and communicate any problem that they encounter to their partners, thereby ensuring the smooth day-to-day management of their functions – something which the team at Farfetch values greatly, given the continued growth of their business.

To learn more about FFLink, watch this presentation by Vasco Rocha, head of engineering, platform services at Farfetch.

Find out more about WSO2 Enterprise Integrator here.

Women in Open Source Tech Roundup: April and May 2019

We launched a campaign to celebrate the intelligent, awesome, and interesting personalities behind our technology earlier in the year. In April and May, we spoke to female software engineers, a technical writer, an enterprise architect, and a research engineer to find out how they found themselves where they are today and why they want more girls to join this industry.

This roundup gives you the chance to get to know them better.

Dakshitha Ratnayake

We started April by featuring Dakshitha, an enterprise architect at WSO2’s CTO office. Dakshitha defines success in life as being the ability to juggle both motherhood and career development to the best of her ability. “Keep learning” is her mantra, because change is constant and it’s never too late to learn, adapt, and improve yourself in the long run. When she’s not at work, she loves to run, play basketball, sing, bake, and cook – Dakshitha has a lot going on always!

Some interesting facts about Dakshitha…

  • Pet peeve: Cantankerous keyboard warriors
  • Childhood ambition: To become an astronaut
  • If she weren’t an enterprise architect, she’s be a writer, a chef, or a teacher.

Anupama Pathirage

As a teenager, Anupama wanted to be a hacker. But she became a software engineer instead and is currently a technical lead for Ballerina, a cloud native programming language. Anupama first came across a programming language as a teenager, and she never thought that one day, she’ll be working on developing a new programming language from scratch. Success for Anupama is the ability to be satisfied with whatever we choose to do in life.

Some interesting facts about Anupama…

  • Pet peeve: People who constantly talk about doing something but never take action or follow through
  • Childhood ambition: To become a computer system hacker (of course!)
  • If she weren’t a software engineer, she’d be an entrepreneur.

Sinthuja Rajendran

Sinthuja is a senior technical lead at WSO2. She loves her job as it involves conducting research about current and emerging trends in technology, and advising others in her team. Although she studied telecommunications engineering at university, her true career passion lies in computer science and software engineering. For Sinthuja, success is inner happiness – whether it’s following your dreams or you’re delighted that you performed a simple task better than you initially anticipated.

Some interesting facts about Sinthuja…

  • Pet peeve: Expecting great results sans the effort
  • Childhood ambition: To become a pilot
  • If she weren’t a software engineer, she’s be an interior designer.

Yvonne Wickramasinghe

Yvonne loves animals, helping to rescue stray animals wherever she can. She’s passionate about nature, raising awareness on issues such as deforestation and environmental damage. Yvonne is also a technical writer at WSO2. She believes in being true to one’s self to achieve success and advises others to not be afraid of failure. Yvonne thinks that women have a remarkable ability to thrive in fast-paced environments – and sometimes, this can lead to misinterpretations.

Some interesting facts about Yvonne…

  • Pet peeves: Cruelty to animals, deforestation, and destroying nature
  • Childhood ambition: To become a medical practitioner
  • If she weren’t a technical writer, she’d be a business analyst or product manager.

Nayantara Jeyaraj

Nayantara (or Taro as she’s more commonly known as) loves music, Instagramming, and pop culture. When she was at university, she learnt about the digital divide in today’s world. Eventually, this is what spurred her to become a research engineer so that she can contribute to bridging this gap – in whichever way she can through her work. She encourages others to move out of their comfort zones, keep learning, and introduce new ideas.

Some interesting facts about Taro…

  • Pet peeve: When someone says that they don’t like k-pop, even worse, BTS
  • Childhood ambition: To be an adventure-fiction writer
  • If she weren’t a research engineer, she’d be a pop-culture content producer at BuzzFeed.

Keep a lookout on our LinkedIn and Twitter pages because we’ll be featuring more of these videos in June. Kudos to Ishara and Vidyas for being a part of this project with me behind the scenes. We’d love to hear from more women who work in open source technology to learn more about your experiences. Drop us an email on vichitra@wso2.com and isharan@wso2.com to be a part of this campaign.

Lindex: Innovating with APIs in the Fashion Retail Industry

Fashion is a dynamic industry and any fashion retail business needs to be as agile as possible, particularly in the present era of e-commerce and instant customer gratification. This is a reality that the Scandinavian based fashion chain Lindex is all too aware of, having been around since the 1950s. Currently Lindex has 470 stores in Scandinavia, Central Europe, Baltic states, Middle East, and the UK, with an employee base of over 5,000. Their business is underscored by sustainability, as 55% of their clothing is made from sustainable materials. Lindex decided to enhance their digital services by exposing APIs over their existing monolithic architecture. This enabled them to build applications that improved user experiences for both customers and employees.

Move With The Times

15 years ago, Lindex began their first foray into e-commerce. This was very much an experimental project, where a team was tasked with designing a platform and more importantly, monitoring customer responses to such a platform. Lindex started with a monolithic architecture which had worked satisfactorily for a decade. But there was a snag – they had accumulated a lot of technical debt over the years and moreover, security models had changed. It was time to try something new. Lindex considered open source, as they understood that it provides greater extensibility and flexibility when building a solution.

That something new was the development of a customer loyalty app – their change agent. Lindex wanted an omni-channel app which gave users a hassle free experience, with product information, prices, and promotions being shared between the app, website, and stores. They were clear that they did not want to integrate this new system with the existing monolith and furthermore, they also knew that a new team was needed.

The new platform consisted of customer loyalty app, the new ‘My Store’ app, and other customer experience solutions on the top layer, all to be exposed via an API layer. Once Lindex had completed the implementation of this first set of APIs it immediately became apparent that different levels of complexity within the backend systems would require different versioning of each of the created API’s moving forward as each monolithic application was adapted to become digital. It was recognized that the team would require some form of management for the API framework and a business case was undertaken to assess a number of API Manager systems which complied with industry standards and more importantly, would work seamlessly with their existing customer repository. Lindex also had a preference for a security solution that was able to work seamlessly with their existing customer repository. These requirements, along with the need for an open source solution, led them to WSO2 API Manager (which addresses API management, development, and integration). They also chose WSO2 Identity Server, which is optimized for identity federation and single-sign.

Multiple Teams for Multiple Customer Experiences

While the app team was developing the new application, Lindex’s team responsible for their existing monolithic architecture was busy refactoring the code in order to expose functionality in the customer shopping experience – i.e. features like shopping cart, wish list, pricing, promotions, and order details. They also had other development teams working on other areas of customer experience simultaneously. The ‘My Store’ program was upgraded, they were able to create a ‘My Stock’ app and a ‘My Customer’ app (when in-store personnel were acting on behalf of customers). During the complex process of setting up multiple levels of authentication across different user groups, Lindex found that WSO2 Identity Server provided the authentication capabilities needed for these apps. In total, there were 5 teams working on enhancing customer experience and there are plans for expansion.

Like their initial venture to e-commerce, this project has also been an experimental one for Lindex, to understand what works best and adds business value. They now believe that a gradual replacement of backend functionality is what works for them. “Thanks to WSO2 and the open source model, this has been a breeze. It’s been risk-free for us. The middleware has been rock solid from the get-go really,” says Johan Edling, an enterprise IT architect at Lindex.

Some Lessons Learnt Along the Way

Lindex gained some valuable insights when they worked on this project, and if they were to return to square one, their key advice to others starting this journey would be as follows:

  • Set up API statistics right at the start of the project, even if it looks expensive at first glance. Failing to do so is not the best course of action.
  • Time is always important – time must not only be allocated to the development of API resources, but to changes you anticipate as well.
  • Perform automatic testing of API resources and ensure that teams working on the project have the relevant API development skills are things to consider.
  • Document error handling guidelines.

With the new API design in place, Lindex now offers a modern shopping experience for their customers.

For more details, watch Johan’s talk.

WSO2 was named a Leader in The Forrester Wave ™: API Management Solutions, Q4 2018 report. Check it out here and learn about WSO2 Identity Server here.

Achieving GDPR Compliance in Heraklion, Crete

The city of Heraklion, capital of the Greek island of Crete, is many things – it’s a tourist attraction, a port and ferry dock, and a smart city. In fact, Heraklion was recognized as one of the world’s 21 smartest communities in 2014 and even has a technological university. As a tech-driven city, the Municipality of Heraklion decided to build a web portal for more than 6,000 users and a case management system for 700 employees. Also in this plan was the creation of an email system based on Postfix and Horde, mobile applications for the convenience of both citizens and employees, an e-payment gateway, and several WordPress sites for affiliated organizations of the municipality.

Solution Requirements

The IT infrastructure of the Municipality has multiple applications and users. And both ITDT and the Municipality wanted to create unique user profiles (and avoid duplications), a single-sign-on process for users, provide authentication mechanisms and very importantly, achieve GDPR compliance. A team comprising of the University of Crete, the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), and ITDT Solutions (a company based in Cyprus working with a range of customers in Cyprus and the Balkans) worked with the Municipality of Heraklion to achieve these ambitious goals.

The new solution had a list of proposed items for successful project completion. The starting point for this project was the creation of a new LDAP infrastructure based on OpenLDAP (the LDAP infrastructure which existed at the time needed upgrading). User migration had to occur from the web portal’s database and other applications. Identity management is a huge requirement and the team used WSO2 Identity Server and the national identity provider for advanced security services. And the final important item was the migration of applications to SAML2 and OAuth2.

GDPR Compliance Made Easy

GDPR compliance and its importance led the project team to WSO2 Identity Server, which as an identity solutions provider, is GDPR ready. This meant that ITDT and the rest of the team did not have to do much to become GDPR compliant by themselves. ITDT created a single user store for convenience which simplified the process (the other option was to become compliant for each and every user store and application). The self-care user portal of WSO2 Identity Server plays a crucial role in GDPR compliance since it functions as a medium for users to exercise their individual rights as defined by GDPR for data managed and retained by WSO2 Identity Server. This self-care portal allows users to access and rectify any information about themselves at any point of time. Users can also request portal administrators to delete their entire user account if needed. It also enables users to revoke consent and exercise their right to be forgotten, in addition to providing them with a portal format of storing data, the right to pause/ restrict data processing, and of course, transparency on how their data will be processed.

WSO2 Identity Server comes with other perks as well. For one, it enabled ITDT and team to build a central identity so they migrated all their user stores to the central LDAP infrastructure by the project’s end. Secondly, WSO2 supported various inbound authentication mechanisms (SAML, OAuth, JWT, etc). Lastly (and best of all) is that WSO2 Identity Server is open source. This project did not have the most generous budget, and the Municipality of Heraklion needed a solution that did not have extra licensing costs attached to it. WSO2 Identity Server has an Apache 2.0 license, thereby giving the team heading this project the freedom to use this solution.

Benefits and Expansion

Apart from creating a robust solution to achieve GDPR compliance, ITDT has been able to create unique user experiences and reduce development costs for the Municipality. A digital transformation project of this nature (or indeed any such project), naturally provides insights to the team leading it by the project’s end. What ITDT learnt was that the migration of user stores is harder than they had initially anticipated as it required a lot of manpower. The team also learnt that WSO2 Identity Server is an ideal platform for creating custom solutions whilst keeping the core solution unchanged. Given the success of this project, the next step involves expansion – to other applications in Heraklion city and to other municipalities in Crete. Data exchange between municipalities and universities in Crete, and creating loyalty schemes between public and private bodies are other areas of interest. Identity management will continue to play a central role in all these plans.

Watch this presentation to learn more.

WSO2 Identity Server can be used for a host of identity management requirements, check it out here.

This article helps you understand how WSO2 Identity Server helps you achieve GDPR compliance.

Women in Open Source Tech Roundup: March 2019

Diversity. Inclusion. Challenging misconceptions. Gender equality. These are the topics in the tech industry that are being increasingly examined by organizations who are stepping up to change the percentage of women in the industry — offering them education, training, and mentoring opportunities. Globally, it is estimated that only 17% of technology jobs are occupied by women and of those, only 5% of women occupy leadership roles. A geographical breakdown of the number of women in leadership roles in the tech industry shows this, as North America accounts for 18.1%, Latin America for 13.4%, Africa and Europe for 11.2%, and Asia for 11.5%.

The numbers could look bleak (or encouraging, depends how you look at it), but the stories are always thought-provoking, warm, and inspirational. At WSO2, our story of inclusion is one we want to share. This March, we launched a video campaign starring the women at WSO2 who develop our open source products. Open source in general has a diversity problem yet interestingly, 33% of employees at WSO2 are women. When we say we’re open to integration, we mean it literally and figuratively. That means we want to create a workplace culture which strives for inclusion – be it hiring new team members from different parts of the world or hiring even more exceptional female candidates and giving them the same opportunities as their male counterparts.

We introduced some of these fantastic individuals in our teaser trailer.

This blog gives you the chance to get to know them better.

Seshika Fernando

We kicked off our campaign by featuring Seshika, who is the head of financial solutions at WSO2. Seshika’s had a versatile career so far – started in software engineering, before deciding to try something different – business analysis in the banking industry. She then returned to the tech industry (citing boredom). For Seshika, everything hinges on ability and capability. Her belief is that the company she works for must align with her personal values.

Sherene Mahanama

Sherene started her career as a technical writer at the age of 19. She didn’t necessarily plan on becoming a technical writer – rather, it was something that she came across due to her interest in writing and technology. At present, she works in identity and access management, and is very interested in GDPR and adaptive authentication (topics she even blogs about). Sherene thinks that we must all fight to maintain the highest standard of quality in our work and doesn’t believe that cultural misconceptions should discourage girls from exploring career paths that they want to pursue.

Some interesting facts about Sherene…

  • Pet peeve: Fake rumors
  • Childhood ambition: To become an FBI agent
  • If she weren’t a technical writer, she’d be a food taster!

Sithumini Senevirathne

Sithumini was very interested in learning more about programming and software development. So she started learning programming by herself, became a Sun Certified Java programmer, and developed a set of software. All this before she even began attending university! Sithumini thinks we must all establish a personal brand and collaborate to succeed. She advises women in particular to view their colleagues as potential collaborators (rather than competition) and work towards achieving a common goal.

Some interesting facts about Sithumini…

  • Pet peeve: People who spend more time on their phone during dinner or lunch than they do interacting with the people present at the table!
  • Childhood ambition: To become a news presenter
  • If she weren’t a software engineer, she’d be a university lecturer.

Natasha Wijesekare

This is Natasha’s first job. Natasha doesn’t think coding is easy – so she starts her day with a list of to do’s and if she’s managed to complete all of them, she’s satisfied. If she surpasses her daily list, then she’s absolutely ecstatic! Notwithstanding challenges, Natasha loves what she does. One of her favorite projects is Ballerina, a programming language, and she values the learning opportunities provided by this experience.

Some interesting facts about Natasha…

  • Pet peeve: People who talk over you when you’re clearly still in the middle of the sentence!
  • Childhood ambition: To become a scientist
  • If she weren’t a software engineer, she’d be a lecturer.

That’s it for March. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to view more of these videos.

We’re also keen to hear from women who work in open source technology all over the world and feature them in our campaign. Know anyone who has an awesome experience to share with us? Or perhaps you’re interested in being featured yourself (don’t be shy!)? Get in touch with me (vichitra@wso2.com) and Ishara (isharan@wso2.com) to start a conversation on how you can play the starring role in one of our videos or blogs!

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And before we call it a wrap, great projects happen because of great team members. Shout out to Ishara and Vidyas, without whom the Women in Open Source Tech campaign wouldn’t have been possible.

Update: Read the April and May 2019 roundup here.

Medical Device Integration for Better Decision Making in the Healthcare Industry: A Case Study From Engineering Ingegneria Informatica S.p.A

Medical devices that communicate with one another…sounds futuristic (or like something from a science fiction movie or novel), but it’s happening today. Engineering Ingegneria Informatica S.p.A, an Italian based software solutions provider, developed a Medical Device Integration (MDI) solution that enables devices to communicate securely, efficiently, and intelligently, enhancing patient care and monitoring capabilities. And to create their solution, they rely on the entire WSO2 Integration Agile platform.

Medical Device Integration with the WSO2 Integration Agile Platform

MDI comes with its distinctive set of challenges. Communication between medical devices is complex, hence each device needs a standard and secure communication protocol based on multiple channels. Then there’s the issue of processing thousands of events. A large hospital has a multitude of patient data, generated from thousands of sources. Engineering Ingegneria Informatica S.p.A needed to analyze these events and view patient data in the form of trend lines on customized dashboards. Also needed were monitoring dashboards displaying data regarding the status of devices.

The architecture behind MDI makes use of WSO2 Identity Server, WSO2 API Manager, WSO2 Enterprise Integrator, and WSO2 Stream Processor, along with WSO2’s IoT platform (now developed and supported by Entgra). To begin with, WSO2 Identity Server – a holistic identity and access management product – makes this solution and communication between components secure by using protocols such as OAuth2 with JWT tokens. This identity platform also generates tokens to access WSO2 API Manager.

WSO2 Enterprise Integrator facilitates all the communications in this solution and comes with integration runtimes, message brokering, and business process modeling capabilities. This agile integration platform is responsible for communicating with external modules, between the various devices and the central MDI system, and with Terminology Services to perform compensation and transformation of incoming/outgoing streams. Furthermore, WSO2 Enterprise Integrator provides technology for this solution to generate alerts or notifications from MDI to application solutions.

WSO2 Stream Processor – a lightweight stream processing platform – analyzes clinical messages from the device driver in real-time. Technical and clinical information has been divided into different complex event processing (CEP) flows. This makes it possible to manage technical warnings or CEP feeds of clinical data, and the machine learning component acquires and refines classified algorithms to help predict critical situations. WSO2 Stream Processor, in particular, has helped Engineering Ingegneria Informatica S.p.A to address the challenges of processing and analyzing the many events and the need for a customized dashboard.

The IoT capabilities are used to develop device drivers with installation packages. Each device driver has a health module that transmits technical information (which ranges from data like the heartbeat to the status of components). Each driver is also able to transform specific device protocols (such as RS232, HL7, etc.) into an encrypted generic platform message, thereby eliminating the need for MDI to identify each protocol.

The Benefits for Patients in Real Life

There’s quite a complex architecture in operation, so how does it function in a real-life situation? Marco Mastroianni, a software architect at Engineering Ingegneria Informatica S.p.A, explains how their solution applies to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Patients in the ICU are dependent on monitoring and life-sustaining devices where the use of information from combined (or integrated) data sources play a critical role in predicting a patient’s condition. Underpinning everything is time and the speed of communication. In such environments, monitoring capabilities and notification mechanisms come to the foreground. The data generated by these devices appear in the form of signals which is of value to signal processing techniques. Therefore, this process helps to both monitor patients and design algorithms that are used to implement patient alarms.

Patient monitoring is not limited to hospital premises – the MDI solution helps to monitor them in their homes too. Monitoring is dependent on communication between devices, how they’re managed, and how patient data is received by medical professionals. An MDI solution such as this reduces the probability of errors (particularly human errors) – greatly supporting the wellbeing of patients and the quality and speed of decision making.

You can listen to Marco’s presentation for more details on the MDI solution built by Engineering Ingegneria Informatica S.p.A.

WSO2 offers an open source integrated platform for digitally driven organizations who want to become integration agile. Everything you need to know is here.

Scaling Single-Sign-On with the Swiss Alpine Club

Mountain climbers and hikers in the Alps need reliable assistance, and that’s exactly what the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) provides. Established in 1863, SAC is passionate about alpinism. They’ve contributed to the development of the Alpine region over the centuries and are advocates of safe, responsible mountaineering whilst ensuring free access to the mountain world.

Today, SAC has approximately 150,000 members, 111 sections in Switzerland that manage 153 mountain huts. On average, SAC sees 1 million daily visitors to these huts. SAC offers a range of services to both members and non-members. They have a SAC route portal, manage an online store with SAC products, offer discounts for accommodation, organize educational and training opportunities, and much more. Furthermore, SAC relies heavily their 7,000 volunteers who work as officials, guides, and youth organizers. These volunteers are supported by SAC’s IT office, which is located in the Swiss city of Bern.

Integration and Identity Management for User Convenience

SAC defined their digital strategy 2 years ago, and the cornerstone of this strategy is easy usage and access of services for their members and non-members. To this end, they had a straightforward set of goals which include: one identity login across all SAC services, single-sign-on (SSO) to access different services, easy onboarding of members, and to provide self-management of user accounts. SAC has around half a million users (this number keeps growing daily) and there are about 6,000 roles. Given the number of roles and types of membership (for example, officials, wardens, subscribers, etc.) means that there is a quite complex identity management structure at SAC.

SAC worked together with WSO2 Certified Integration Partner Avintis to implement their strategy. Right from the beginning of this project, both SAC and Avintis agreed on the consolidation of SAC’s user store. SAC’s new solution is composed of 2 parts – one part is concerned with integration and the other focuses on authentication, powered by WSO2 Enterprise Integrator (which can be used to build, scale, and secure integration solutions) and WSO2 Identity Server (which is a uniquely flexible product for identity needs) respectively. Being open source, both WSO2 Enterprise Integrator and WSO2 Identity Server provide SAC with a solution to avoid vendor and data lock-in, and use open standards for identity management and integration. This also further enables SAC to keep abreast with ever changing market needs.

The solution has a bi-directional integration with Microsoft Dynamics NAV and WSO2 Enterprise Integrator. They’ve also implemented REST based web services. This solution also consists of one master user store, with multiple service providers. At present, they have 6 service providers but this could potentially increase to 100 depending on the speed at which their implementation progresses. SAC translates their business cases to their user store and assign the right roles in the user store. They’ve created a login app on top of WSO2 Identity Server, which received the customer services that passes through WSO2 Enterprise Integrator. Furthermore, the identity management component follows the OpenID connect protocol.

The Result: One Login App for Everything (Literally)

SAC has reduced their data silos with the new solution. The resulting single login app facilitates user authentication, registration, membership applications, account activation, and password resets. Users can now book accommodation, subscribe to SAC services, shop in the online store, and access any other service with one single identity.

SAC’s plans extend beyond creating a seamless and convenient user experience. They’re now looking at WSO2 API Manager (which can be used to address any spectrum of the API lifecycle, monetization, and policy enforcement) for secure access to and management of upcoming/ existing APIs. In order to achieve scalability and reduce downtimes to zero, SAC runs most of the applications in Docker containers using Jelastic PaaS, and plans to migrate all of their web infrastructure to this cloud platform.

With plenty of changes anticipated in the near future (along with rising numbers of visitors to the Alps), Daniel Fernandez, head of IT at SAC, advises meticulous planning when undertaking a digital transformation project of this nature. And in addition to planning, he advocates being prepared for unexpected situations, as in his opinion a project such as this has an impact on everything else in an enterprise.

Listen to Daniel’s presentation for more details on how SAC implemented SSO.

WSO2 API Manager, WSO2 Enterprise Integrator, and WSO2 Identity Server form the WSO2 Integration Agile Platform. Learn all about our open source approach here.