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SOA-Based Inter-Organizational Architectural Framework For B2B Marketplaces

Catalyzing inter-organizational collaboration and transactions

Above the data item-level interoperability there has to be the document-level interoperability that ensures that both sides of a transaction understand the documents made up of the mutually understood data items. This again can be based on horizontal standards like UBL, vertical-specific vocabularies like ACORD, or specific ontologies pertaining to the transaction.

At the top is the functionality-cum-service-level interoperability where both participants in the transaction understand the capabilities of the other by getting to understand the functional details of the services offered on the auctions. This kind of capability could be described in standards like WSDL or ebXML CPP. However, the matching process may involve some kind of exchange between the participants leading to a shared understanding of the services or functionality.
4)  Registry management: This is the component that interacts with the registry and with the matching engine.
5)  Process Orchestration: Some marketplace processes involving coarse-grained functionality require the orchestration of multiple partner services. For example, a buy request coming in from the customer would first invoke the Catalog listing service and then other partner services such as Payment, Logistics, and Delivery Tracking.
6)  Transaction Management: It's responsible for maintaining transactions across multiple invocations.

The Workings of the Architecture
Now we'll explain the workings of the proposed architecture for a public B2B marketplace (Figure 1) using a typical buyer scenario. In this scenario, the buyer intends to buy 1,000 batteries (UNSPC Classification No. 26-11-17-09) through the B2B marketplace by placing a listing in the buyer Catalog. The buyer wants to invoke the Reverse Auction service as well as the partner services such as Payment and Logistics, which are offered by third-party vendors. In Step (1) the buyer sends a request to the B2B marketplace systems. This request is verified at the marketplace layer and transmitted to the UDDI/ebXML registry to check for the availability of the Reverse Auction service in Step (2). In Step (3) the service integration bus transmits this service request to the matching engine and gets a response in Step (4). In Step (5) the UDDI/ebXML registry contacts the Buyer service and invokes the Catalog listing service followed by the Reverse Auction service. In Step (6) the Buyer service application sends a request to the B2B marketplace layer, which in turn directs the request to the third-party Payment and Logistics services in Step (7) that are offered by the partners. Steps (8) and (9) capture the responses from the third-party services as well as the B2B marketplace layer. Step (10) depicts the response from the Buyer services to the B2B marketplace layer and Step (11) depicts the response to the buyer about the results of the auction. In Steps (12) and (13) the seller of the batteries is notified of the sale. In this scenario the B2B marketplace layer acts as a key intermediary, redirecting the queries from various applications and services to and from the external UDDI. On implementing the Web Services-based SOA, the B2B marketplace acts as the service provider by offering services that are self-contained, self-describing, and modular. In most cases the B2B marketplace's services either have to be invoked by customers or it may have to interact with the services of its partners (e.g. Payment service).

Conclusion
The technology adoption trend is shifting to a scenario where the customers of a B2B marketplace need to interoperate not only with the B2B marketplace but with third-party service providers. So the B2B marketplace must be able to offer a single flexible point source for inter-organizational commerce. Web Services-based SOA shows promise in enabling inter-organizational commerce at a reduced cost by leveraging the existing investment in legacy systems and thereby increasing the efficiency of these enterprises. Web Services increase flexibility by offering the chance of creating flexible new business processes out of the existing IT infrastructure. To that end, we outlined a reference architecture that leverages Web Services and handles all the functionalities of a B2B marketplace. The architecture described provides core service orientation to the B2B marketplace. It can be considered a baseline architecture for all B2B marketplace enablements. The architecture enables truly flexible integration among the internal systems of the B2B marketplace and its customers along with those of its partners using Web Services. It also enables existing legacy applications to take part in the overall business architecture. Integration with the systems of the B2B marketplace' partners is also eased.

Web Services allows the internal and external stakeholders of B2B marketplaces to protect existing IT investments and make incremental investments over existing systems. The following are some of the benefits for B2B marketplaces in implementing a Web Services-based architecture:

  1. Web Services-based IT architecture would let the B2B marketplace offer its applications as services across its customers and partners providing increased flexibility and reuse
  2. Web Services would enable the B2B marketplace systems to be compatible with other internal systems without considerable effort interfacing
  3. A Web Services-based architecture would integrate the disparate systems so the B2B marketplace could extract data from various databases, applications, and processes. This would empower the B2B marketplace to make decisions based on the transaction trends and customer preferences and also have better planning.
  4. Web Services-based IT architecture would allow the B2B marketplace to service the requests of its customers regardless of the channels through which they want to access the service (e.g., a PDA) and thereby improve customer loyalty.

More Stories By Dr. Srinivas Padmanabhuni

Dr. Srinivas Padmanabhuni is a principal researcher with the Web Services Centre of Excellence in SETLabs, Infosys Technologies, and specializes in Web Services, service-oriented architecture, and grid technologies alongside pursuing interests in Semantic Web, intelligent agents, and enterprise architecture. He has authored several papers in international conferences. Dr. Padmanabhuni holds a PhD degree in computing science from University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.

More Stories By Dr. Jai Ganesh

Dr. Jai Ganesh is a Research Associate with the technology research division of Infosys Technologies Limited. He obtained his PhD in information systems from the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB) in 2003 and holds an MBA degree in corporate strategy and marketing. His research focuses on Web services, IT strategy and adaptive enterprises.

His research has been published in journals such as Information and Management, Journal of Global Information Management, International Journal of Retail and Distribution Management, etc. and conferences such as AMCIS, ICWS, ICEC, ICEB etc. He serves as a reviewer for a number of peer-reviewed journals and conferences, and has consulted for many software firms.

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