Enterprise Integration With the Structural Services Architectural Style

Enterprise Integration With the Structural Services Architectural Style

José Carlos Martins Delgado (Instituto Superior Técnico, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4936-9.ch015
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The Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) and Representational State Transfer (REST) architectural styles are the most used for the integration of enterprise applications. Each is more adequate to a different class of applications and exhibits advantages and disadvantages. This chapter performs a comparative study between them. It is shown that SOA and REST are dual architectural styles, one oriented towards behavior and the other towards state. This raises the question of whether it is possible to combine them to maximize the advantages and to minimize the disadvantages. A new architectural style, Structural Services, is proposed to obtain the best characteristics from SOA and REST. As in SOA, services are able to offer a variable set of operations and, as in REST, resources are allowed to have structure. This style uses structural interoperability, based on structural compliance and conformance. A service-oriented programming language is also introduced to instantiate this architectural style.
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After three industrial revolutions, focusing on mechanization, mass production and digitization, respectively, the industry has set its goals on a fourth revolution, commonly known as Industry 4.0 (Liao, Deschamps, Loures, & Ramos, 2017), entailing a vision of an intelligent factory where people, machines, processes, customers and suppliers are streamlined to produce and maintain smart products and services, thereby contributing to an improved society.

One of the main challenges that need to be overcome to turn this vision into a reality is integration (Panetto & Molina, 2008), the ability to meaningfully and efficiently cooperate with other subsystems in order to pursue the goals of the system as a whole. Integration can be seen at all levels of abstraction and complexity, from low-level cyber-physical systems (Zanero, 2017) to high-level enterprise value chains targeting the capabilities required by Industry 4.0 (Schumacher, Erol, & Sihn, 2016). This chapter focus on the integration of enterprise information systems (or simply enterprise integration), a major goal to support the requirements of Industry 4.0. The EN/ISO 19439 standard (ISO, 2006) refers to enterprise integration as the process of ensuring the interaction between enterprise entities necessary to achieve domain objectives.

Enterprise integration is a very complex issue, spanning from lower levels, such as data and service interoperability, to the highest levels, including strategy and governance alignment. The former typically resort to technologies based on architectural styles such as SOA (Erl, 2016) and REST (Pautasso, 2014). The latter are mostly dealt with in a tacit way or at the documentation level, in coordination with the enterprise architectures.

The ISO/IEC/IEEE 24765 standard (ISO, 2010) provides the seemingly most cited definition of interoperability, as “the ability of two or more systems or components to exchange information and to use the information that has been exchanged”.

Interoperability asserts the ability of two systems to understand each other’s messages, whereas integration requires collaboration to achieve common goals. Interoperability is thus necessary but not sufficient to achieve enterprise integration (Chen, Doumeingts, & Vernadat, 2008), which usually entails cooperation and coordination at higher abstraction levels.

Just ensuring interoperability is already a daunting task, given the complex, heterogeneous and highly variable enterprise collaboration networks that characterize today’s fast-paced enterprise landscape, namely Industry 4.0 scenarios. This is particularly true when we consider the most recent, game-changing developments, such as cloud computing (Mezgár, & Rauschecker, 2014), big data (Marz, & Warren, 2015; Reed, & Dongarra, 2015) and applications in the context of the Internet of Things (Want, Schilit, & Jenson, 2015).

However, this is not the full picture. In general, the integration problem revolves around two conflicting goals:

  • Interoperability: Enterprises need to interact to accomplish collaboration, either designed or emergent. This necessarily entails some form of mutual knowledge and understanding, but this creates dependencies that may hamper the evolution (changes) of enterprise information systems;

  • Coupling: Enterprises should not have dependencies on others, in order to evolve freely and dynamically. Unfortunately, independent enterprises do not understand each other and are not able to interact, which means that some form of coupling is unavoidable.

Therefore, the fundamental problem of integration is to provide (at most) the minimum coupling possible while ensuring (at least) the minimum interoperability requirements. In other words, the main goal is to ensure that each interacting party knows just enough about the others to be able to interoperate with them but no more than that, to avoid unnecessary dependencies and constraints. This is an instance of the principle of least knowledge (Hendricksen, 2014).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Resource: An entity of any nature (material, virtual, conceptual, noun, action, and so on) that embodies a meaningful, complete and discrete concept, makes sense by itself and can be distinguished from, although able to interact with, other entities.

Conformance: Asymmetric property between a provider P and a consumer C ( P conforms to C ) that indicates that P fulfills all the expectations of C in terms of the effects caused by its requests.

Consumer: A role performed by a resource A in an interaction with another B , which involves making a request to B and typically waiting for a response.

Service: The set of operations supported by a resource and that together define its behavior (the set of reactions to messages that the resource exhibits).

Architectural Style: A set of constraints on the concepts of an architecture and on their relationships.

Compliance: Asymmetric property between a consumer C and a provider P ( C is compliant with P ) that indicates that C satisfies all the requirements of P in terms of accepting requests.

Interoperability: Asymmetric property between a consumer C and a provider P ( C is compatible with P ) that holds if C is compliant with P and P is conformant to C .

Integration: The act of instantiating a given method to design or to adapt two or more resources, so that they become interoperable as a requisite to be able to cooperate and to accomplish one or more common goals.

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