Web-based Business Document Mapping using Smooks
This work has been finished in September 2013.
1. Presentation of problems
Electronic commerce (e-commerce) and especially business-to-business (B2B) exchange of data, information or documents, continues to grow in recent years. One of the major challenges in e-commerce is how to align different standards that have emerged over those years [1,2]. Enterprises have to invest substantial financial resources to integrate various heterogeneous systems, in order to communicate within organization systems or among trading partners [3,4,5]. Rapid developments in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) brought new cost-effective opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to exchange electronic business documents via the Internet using a wide range of integration tools. The current increasing attention into cloud computing as a way of how to minimize costs and introduce pay-per-use models, proves to be of high relevance for the creation of a cloud-ready tool with future potential .
The objective of this work is to enable SMEs and non-profit organisations to exchange business documents within B2B e-commerce using free of charge, modern information technologies and systems. In order to minimize investments for infrastructure and application licenses, Web-based solutions accessible as cloud services are proposed. This innovative approach opens new possibilities for addressing common issues with mappings and transformations of business documents. Enabling such a solution should motivate SMEs to start using automated B2B electronic communication.
2. Expected Results
The SmooKs Data Integration (DI) framework, an engine for processing XML and non XML data, currently does not support direct transformation. Therefore an innovative Web-based visual tool, capable of specifying relationships between two XML documents is designed and implemented. The crucial IT artifact of this work, will be the user interface which enables drag and drop mapping of documents and consecutive transformation using the SmooKs DI framework. Furthermore, the whole solution will be deployed as cloud service using Google App Engine and will be accessible from any standard Web browser. The result of this work is the outline of related work on B2B business document standards, mapping and transformation tools.
3. Methodological Approach
This thesis follows the guidelines of the design science research methodology . The main parts consist of related work relevant to B2B electronic exchange of structured business documents, their mapping and subsequent transformation. When transforming XML documents it is important to understand the model, and schema, as well as query languages [8,9]. Furthermore, an analysis of open source data integration frameworks is conducted, followed by a selection of the SmooKs framework. In order to enable direct transformation using SmooKs for XML and other business document standards, an architectural change of the SmooKs DI framework is proposed.
In the technical part, a user interface (UI) will be created. This is elaborated from an analysis of existing integration tools. The relationship between XML structure and tree structure are described in more detail in . And is taken into account for the design of a data model used to map source and target document. The design will be tested via direct transformation of the XML to XML using a template engine and SmooKs hosted as a cloud service. An evaluation of the prototype solution will serve as a proof of utility and form an open issue discussion.
4. State-of-the Art
Large enterprises, using customized enterprise resource planning systems (ERP), employ more advanced types of middleware such as enterprise application integration (EAI) or enterprise service bus (ESB) for various types of integration. SMEs, to integrate into B2B, focus on less complicated solutions as data integration (DI) tools or software packages, enabling them to extract, transform and load data (ETL) . The market is dominated by commercial products from Informatica, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and Pervasive , but there are multiple open source data integration frameworks available (Talend, CoverETL, SmooKs, Pentaho) . Talend is the leader in providing open source data integration frameworks. It uses SmooKs for Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). However, the main difference is the value proposition. SmooKs is a framework for Java programmers, while Talend provides a visual tool for non-programmers.
Using a visual tool to specify mapping of source and destination is not new, in fact it goes back as far as the first heterogeneous systems . To be more specific, federated database systems (FDBS) managing distributed, autonomous and different databases, laid the cornerstone for a reference architecture of mapping and transformation back in 1980’s . Recent classification as well as analysis of mapping tools for data exchange is highlighting that no tool performs well in all mapping situations . Most of the current market leaders are using integrated development environment (IDE) software applications installed locally on the desktop.
A literature survey reveals an increased interest into XML-based architecture in Web services [8,17]. Due to the simplicity of XML compared to SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language), XML has an important role in the exchange of various kinds of data, in mapping and transformation [8,16,18,19]. Some authors proposed XML to XML transformation using query languages [15,16]. The FreeMarker Template Language (FTL) offers a lightweight alternative to common query languages such as XSLT or XQuery. The SmooKs DI framework in conjunction with FreeMarker can be used to perform XML to XML transformation. Furthermore, SmooKs can extract data from EDI messages or read and write data formats other than XML. Further work is required to explore matching meta-models to automate mapping  with help of semantic systems and implement adapters to plug-in other business document standards.
5. Relation to Study
The master’s programme in Software Engineering & Internet Computing deals with all aspects of distributed heterogeneous software systems, their communication services and standards, and integration into global information networks. This master’s thesis covers areas ranging from Internet technologies, cloud computing or business document standards and their integration into information systems, through innovative design and implementation of the developed prototype. The work outlines relevant technological principles of B2B document mapping and transformation, based on the research and knowledge acquired throughout the study.
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