At Your Service
Europeans have come up with a new approach for software that may change the face of web-based services. The idea started when The Economist made a prediction in 2003 that applications would cease to be fixed software run by the operating system of your computer, but would become, instead, mixed web services accessed through application servers.
Applications are the perfect home for services like e-learning and manufacturing, but internet technology hasn't applied itself to the issue of coordinating these services in a logical way. The Sensoria project, funded by the EU, is trying to change all that by addressing current issues in software development such as security, cost, adaptability, and dependability.
This project was founded on the premise that services provided by the web are missing the elements needed to be able to call them "wrapped services." The various services must be able to orchestrate what they provide and this can only be done by communicating with each other. It's not enough to exchange data, applications must be in agreement as to the meaning of the data exchanged, says Prof. Martin Wirsing of the Institute for Informatics at Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich and a coordinator of the Sensoria project. Wirsing explains this as traveling to China without knowing any Chinese. As Wirsing puts it, “Sure, you can hand a taxi driver your destination written on a piece of paper, but if it’s illegible or has missing information, you are in trouble.”
To this end, Sensoria created Software Development Environment which employs graphic design tools to produce services. The end product is a service that can be sought and utilized by other services. The Sensoria people have designed SDE so that the services created work with other services in a manner that is adaptable and non-rigid. SDE is complex, but Sensoria went to great lengths to cover up the geeky side of things by creating a very user-friendly interface. All the hard work is done behind the scenes.
Sensoria's full name is "Engineering of software systems for service-oriented overlay computers." The project workers found it necessary to develop anew all the mathematics and methods to create something that better reflects the needs of the public while offering dependability. This was a daunting project that raided the finest institutions in Europe to get top brains working on service application solutions.
The key goal was identified as mastering the wherewithal to modify services so they can perform high-level functions. These modifications are termed "orchestrations" or "compositions." The orchestrations spin off new services which can become higher-level compositions, too. Explains Wirsing, “You can compare this to the music composed for an orchestra where the combination of different instrument groups allows the composer to create textures and sound-scapes that are much more sophisticated and complex than what can be achieved by any single instrument in the orchestra.”