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JBoss Enterprise SOA Platform Transforms Red Hat’s Business Processes
February 18, 2013
Red Hat needed a platform that offered high availability in the large number of systems required for order entry and entitlement processes, automated the order entry process, and delivered data consistency across key integrated systems.
The ESB functionality in JBoss Enterprise SOA Platform has enabled us to evolve from being reactive to being proactive partners who support the business, drive process improvement, and specify roadmaps for future solutions. Narayanan Raghavan Manager, Middleware and Services Red Hat
Red Hat needed a platform that offered high availability in the large number of systems required for order entry and entitlement processes.
Oracle BPEL Process Manager, Oracle Applications InterConnect, and Mule ESB to Red Hat® JBoss® Enterprise SOA Platform, which includes enterprise service bus (ESB) functionality
JBoss® Enterprise Application Platform, JBoss Messaging, JBoss Enterprise SOA Platform, which includes ESB functionality
IBM Blade hardware (HS-21, HS-22 blades)
The migration to JBoss Enterprise SOA Platform significantly improved the speed of order entry (cutting entry time by 52%), enabled IT to evolve into proactive business partners, and improved the availability and reliability of systems involved in the order process.
Background: Complex systems, complex problems
Red Hat systems support corporate functions like sales, order entry, billing, customer support, and subscription management. Associates often log into multiple systems to understand the full customer story. For example, a finance associate may need to know a customer’s purchase history and account information in order to support a sales associate.
To integrate these disparate systems, Red Hat used four different solutions—Oracle BPEL Process Manager, Oracle Applications InterConnect (OAI), MuleESB, and an in-house product called Entitlement Proxy.
Unfortunately, this approach required direct coupling of the systems, so every upgrade significantly impacted other systems. This interdependence hurt performance and lengthened development cycles, since projects had to be scheduled sequentially to avoid interrupting other applications.
Simple process, complex dependencies
A simple end-to-end process involved a complex web of application dependencies. The following steps had to take place when a customer placed an order in the Red Hat Web Store:
1. OAI synced customer information to the customer data hub.
2. A combination of Mule ESB and Oracle BPEL Process Manager synced the order and customer information to the Oracle eBusiness Suite Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP system to capture funds.
3. Entitlement Proxy synced the generated subscription to Red Hat Network (RHN) and Customer Portal to allow customers to download their products.
4. A Red Hat associate manually updated the Red Hat Global Support Services (GSS) ticketing system (a Salesforce instance) to enable customer support.
5. A Red Hat associate manually updated the customer and subscription details in the Salesforce customer relationship management (CRM) system to capture renewal details and help track potential future revenue.
This mix of manual processes and multiple integration platforms created numerous failure points and forced IT into a reactive break-fix mode. Despite the system integration issues, Red Hat associates still delivered.
“I remember spending many nights actively monitoring logs, tracking and fixing issues before they had any material impact. This took a lot of time away from the projects that were growing the business,“ says Narayanan Raghavan, the manager of Middleware and Services in the Red Hat IT department.
The middleware group within Red Hat IT knew it needed a better way to integrate the various systems.
Solution: Creating an automatic, fault-tolerant process with ESB
Red Hat’s IT middleware team considered using either Mule ESB or Red Hat’s own
JBoss Enterprise SOA Platform to improve integration. The ESB included in JBoss Enterprise SOA Platform was the only solution that delivered high availability, fault tolerance, performance, and standardized integration that Red Hat needed. The middleware team also found the Red Hat JBoss stack was easy to learn and understand.
Red Hat deployed JBoss Enterprise SOA Platform on a four-node cluster running JBoss
Enterprise Application Server. On the back end, the JBoss Messaging tier, with more than 250 JavaTM Messaging Service (JMS) queues and 16 topics, has a MySQL master-master data store. The JBoss ESB synchronizes eight different data entities, including account, contract, customer, order, product, relationship, subscription, and user.
The middleware team took a modular approach to integrating new systems. The team built a canonical data format per entity, and implemented a hub-and-spoke integration approach using the ESB functionality to facilitate XML-based message communication. Now, information moves transparently back and forth between the producers and consumers on the spokes, despite the fact that each of the systems has different protocols, such as FTP, HTTP, SOAP, and JMS.
Simplified order entry process
The new integrated environment is fully asynchronous and event-based. Event triggers are converted into XML messages. These messages move through the hub of JBoss ESB into the appropriate systems on the spokes and back again at a rate of 70 messages per second, resulting in more efficient systems.
When the customer places an order, an XML message goes to the ERP system, where it is converted into database objects, and saved as an order for revenue capture. This generates a subscription event, which flows into the subscription system and allows customers to log in through Red Hat Customer Portal to view their subscriptions. Subscription events are also synced to the Red Hat Network and the new Red Hat Subscription Manager (RHSM) entitling system, where customers can download their products. The same data also flows into the Red Hat GSS ticketing system, so the team can provide support to customers based on their purchases.
To prevent interruptions in the process flow, Red Hat IT also developed an administrative interface called QAdmin to quickly identify and fix data errors. The ESB automatically alerts the appropriate associate — whether it is a technical or a business associate — so the error can be fixed immediately across every system it affects. “Admin more than halved the number of tickets my team had to support by allowing us to share support responsibilities with the business,” Raghavan says. “It also helped educate our associates on how our systems inter-operate. This goes a long way when taking customer support calls.”
Benefits: JBoss Enterprise SOA Platform cuts order entry time in half
Integrating with JBoss Enterprise SOA Platform simplified the order entry process, saving Red Hat associates time and resources. The new architecture is easier to maintain and adapt to changing business needs.
“Developers now work on multiple integration projects in parallel without worrying about one affecting the other,” says Raghavan. “The ESB functionality in JBoss Enterprise SOA Platform has enabled us to evolve from being reactive to being proactive business partners who support the business, drive process improvement, and specify roadmaps for future solutions.”
With the new automated processes, other parts of the company have seen dramatic productivity gains as well. “My team no longer needs to bounce back and forth between three systems and enter data manually,” says Jackie Merino, supervisor of order entry. “The time to generate an order has significantly reduced from 10 minutes down to 4 minutes.”
The automated process also enabled the Red Hat GSS team to view the full customer story via a single dashboard, since the GSS Ticketing system now immediately receives all customer records.
The new order entry process nearly eliminated quarter-end and middle-of-the-night productionissues for the IT team. “Before, if there was a problem with the order entry processes, we were in reactive mode,” Raghavan says. “Now, if there is an error such as an incorrect email address in an order entry field, the system automatically notifies the business associate who can fix the error, independent of IT.”
As to the future, Raghavan says his team is excited about JBoss SwitchYard, a lightweight service delivery framework providing full life cycle support for developing, deploying, and managing service-oriented applications. “SwitchYard will further improve our time-to-market while also enforcing a consistent architecture based on enterprise integration patterns. It dovetails nicely with Red Hat IT’s future plans,” Raghavan says.