Accessing applications through an integration platform

Hogeschool Utrecht

Client: Utrecht University of Applied Sciences
Hogeschool Utrecht is a knowledge organization where, through high-quality education and research, work is carried out on innovation and professionalization of professional practice and the personal development of talent.

Request
An important spearhead in the teaching at Utrecht University of Applied Sciences is the flexibilization of education. Hogeschool Utrecht wants to support these ambitions by providing the appropriate information. Depending on the choices that are made when setting up business processes, information needs to be exchanged quickly, reliably and in many different ways. The development as outlined above, puts high demands on the integration of information systems.

Hogeschool Utrecht asked Finalist to lay down the integration foundation by unlinking the application landscape using an EAI/ESB platform. The EAI/ESB must provide this unlinking by:

  • Using open standards and formats and a (canonical) data model based on these;
  • Making the exchange of information independent of the availability of applications;
  • Limiting the impact when replacing an application.

Solution
Finalist started by implementing Red Hat JBoss Fuse as the EAI/ESB platform. This is a light-weight integration platform that enables applications to be opened quickly and easily based on EAI patterns. Together with Hogeschool Utrecht, Finalist developed a (canonical) data model, and in close collaboration with the application suppliers, a number of applications were made accessible through this platform, including various SaaS applications.

There was a preference for making every application accessible on the basis of open standards and formats, as this is the fastest way of linking. If this is not possible, then one of the many Red Hat JBoss Fuse platform adapters is used. The data that an application receives/transmits is transformed from/to a canonical data model (CDM) to be unlinked from the application. The message broker handles the exchange of messages between the applications in queues (in computer science a queue is a data structure for the storage of a varying number of elements in which the element that was added first is first removed) and topics. Queues are used if only one application is interested in the information. Topics are used if multiple applications are interested in the information. For example, in the case of Master Data Management where one application is the owner of specific information and other applications are interested in changes to this dataset. Also called a publish - subscribe. By using the message broker, applications are unlinked because they are not dependent on each others' availability, and are not familiar with each others’ presence in the application landscape.

Follow up
During the follow-up process, more applications will be accessed, and the goal is to allow the EAI/ESB solution to evolve into a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) to support the desired Digital Learning and Working Environment (DLWE).