Evolving Semantic Frameworks into Platforms: Unpublished ms.

I learned yesterday that the manuscript I submitted to HPCS 2008 was not accepted ūüė¶
It may take my co-authors and I some time before this manuscript is revised and re-submitted.
This anticipated re-submission latency, along with the fact that we believe the content needs to be shared in a timely fashion, provides the motivation for sharing the manuscript online.
To whet your appetite, the abstract is as follows:

Evolving a Semantic Framework into a Network-Enabled Semantic Platform
A data-oriented semantic framework has been developed previously for a project involving a network of globally distributed scientiÔ¨Āc instruments. Through the use of this framework, the semantic expressivity and richness of the project‚Äôs ASCII data is systematically enhanced as it is successively represented in XML (eXtensible Markup Language), RDF (Resource Description Formal) and Ô¨Ānally as an informal ontology in OWL (Web Ontology Language). In addition to this representational transformation, there is a corresponding transformation from data into information into knowledge. Because this framework is broadly applicable to ASCII and binary data of any origin, it is appropriate to develop a network-enabled semantic platform that identiÔ¨Āes the enabling semantic components and interfaces that already exist, as well as the key gaps that need to be addressed to completely implement the platform. After brieÔ¨āy reviewing the semantic framework, a J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) based implementation for a network-enabled semantic platform is provided. And although the platform is in principle usable, ongoing adoption suggests that strategies aimed at processing XML via parallel I/O techniques are likely an increasingly pressing requirement.

Book Review: Google Web Toolkit

Automagically convert Java to JavaScript. 

Thus begins the seemingly curious proposition of the Google Web Toolkit (GWT). 
Of course, it’s about a lot more than that.¬†
For one thing, GWT addresses a key gap in the rapid delivery of the¬†Asynchronous JavaScript and XML¬†(AJAX) based applications that are driving eyeballs and mindshare to Google’s Web site.
By the time you’ve read¬†Prabhakar Chaganti’s book on the GWT, you’ll be significantly wiser on at least two fronts. You’ll know that:
  1. There’s a broad-and-deep software engineering ecosystem around the GWT that is fueling progress and delivering highly significant results.¬†
  2. Chaganti is an excellent guide with the ability to negotiate this ecosystem and drive you towards tangible outcomes.

Using a task-oriented approach, the book proceeds as follows:

  • Chapter 1 rapidly places the GWT in context, and gets you started by downloading, installing and working with the samples provided. Available for Apple Mac OS X, Linux and Microsoft Windows, the GWT only requires the¬†Java SDK¬†as an installation prerequisite. The GWT is made available via the¬†Apache Open Source license;¬†this allows for the development of commercial and Open Source applications.¬†
  • With the Java SDK, the GWT and the¬†Eclipse IDE,¬†the developer has a well-integrated and powerful platform on which to develop applications. After illustrating the development of the obligatory “Hello World!” application at the outset of Chapter 2, attention shifts rapidly to use of Eclipse. Google’s Web-wired DNA is evident in everything they do, and the GWT is no exception. The GWT leverages the Java SDK and Eclipse to the fullest, while closing the gaps in developing AJAX-based applications in a very organized way. By the end of this Chapter, the reader knows how to develop a simple application with both client and server-side components and execute the same in both hosted (i.e., non-deployed) and Web hosted (i.e., executing within a Web-hosted¬†Tomcat servlet container). Made explicit in this latter deployment is GWT’s ability to support a variety of Web browsers – i.e., Apple Safari, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Opera.
  • The creation of services is the focus of Chapter 3. To quote from this Chapter, and in the GWT context, service “… refers to the code that the client invokes on the server side in order to access the functionality provided by the server.” The author is quick to point out that this is a separate and distinct notion from that used in the context of Web services. True to its billing, this Chapter works the reader through the creation of a service definition interface (a client/server contract that defines the service’s functionality and establishes rules of usage) and service implementation. Particularly important in this Chapter is the creation of an asynchronous¬†service definition interface, as this facilitates remote calls in the background to the server, and capitalizes on the AJAX support in the GWT.¬†With definition and implementation taken care of, the remainder of the chapter focuses on use (i.e., consumption of the service by a client). Conceptual illustrations compliment screenshots to effectively convey this content.¬†
  • Whereas the previous chapter delivered a prime number service, Chapter 4 introduces no less than six services that really showcase the capabilities of this application paradigm. With ample explanation and illustration live searches, password strength checks, auto form fills, sorting tables, dynamically generated lists and Flickr-style editable labels are each considered. Not only does one recognize these as design patterns that are already in everyday use (e.g., Flickr, Google Docs, Maps and Search, etc.), one also realizes their potential for re-use in one’s own projects.¬†
  • Chapter 5 introduces five interfaces that are more complex than those presented in the¬†previous chapter. These interfaces are pageable tables, editable tree nodes, log spy (the GWT spin on the UNIX tail utility), sticky notes and jigsaw puzzle. To reiterate,¬†one recognizes these as design patterns already in everyday use, and the potential for re-usability.
  • Browser effects are the subject of Chapter 6. Here the author introduces the¬†JavaScript Native Interface¬†(JSNI) as a vehicle that allows JavaScript libraries (e.g.,¬†Moo.Fx¬†and¬†Rico)¬†to be accessed directly from Java classes. A wrapper-based approach, independent of JSNI, is also introduced to leverage the¬†Script.aculo.us¬†effects. Although compelling effects can be achieved, cautionary words are included in this Chapter, as the impact may be diminished by browser-level incompatibilities.
  • By the end of Chapter 7, impressive calendar and weather widgets have been created, and readied for re-use.¬†
  • In Chapter 8,¬†JUnit¬†is introduced in the context of unit testing. Standalone tests plus test suites are given consideration; this includes tests involving asynchronous services. ¬†
  • Although this is only the second book I’ve ever seen from Packt Publishing (the first I’ve reviewed elsewhere), I’ve become accustomed to expecting bonus content towards the end of the book. Chapter 9, which addresses internationalization and XML support, falls into this bonus category. Of course, it’s no surprise that Google expertise on internationalizations ranks high, and this is evident in GWT support for the same. The author provides an hors d’oeuvre of the possibilities. XML support is of particular¬†personal interest,¬†so I was delighted by the degree of support for creating and parsing XML documents. I share the author’s sentiments with respect to XML support wholeheartedly: I too hope that future releases of the GWT will provide broader and deeper support for XML. ¬†
  • In the final chapter (Chapter 10), attention is given to increasingly automated methods for deploying GWT-based applications. Starting with a manual deployment in Tomcat, then an automated deployment with Ant, and finally an Ant-based deployment from within Eclipse.¬†
  • A single appendix details how to access and execute the examples provided throughout the book.
With the possible exception of a concluding chapter, page, paragraph or even sentence(!), to provide some sense of closure to the book, I am at a loss to report any omissions, oversights or errors of any consequence. And although it will have to wait for a follow-on contribution of some kind, additional discussion might be given to topics such as Google Gears or even Google Android.
Even though the book I reviewed was a complimentary copy provided by the publisher, I would happily pay for my own copy, and heartily recommend this book to others having interests in the GWT. 
By the way, Packt has an articulated scheme when it comes to Open Source projects:

Packt Open Source Project Royalty Scheme Packt believes in Open Source. When we sell a book written on an Open Source project, we pay a royalty directly to that project. As a result of purchasing one of our Open Source books, Packt will have given some of the money received to the Open Source project.In the long term, we see ourselves and yourselves, as customers and readers of our books, as part of the Open Source ecosystem, providing sustainable revenue for the projects we publish on. Our aim at Packt is to establish publishing royalties as an essential part of the service and support business model that sustains Open Source. 

I cannot suggest that Packt is unique in this approach. Regardless, their approach is certainly welcome.

BlackBerry Rules the Back Office – For Now …

I’ve had a¬†BlackBerry 8830¬†for a few months now. And I must admit, I’m getting over my¬†iPhone envy.¬†(iPhone’s still aren’t officially available in Canada!) The 8830 has the tactile keypad I’ve grown to love, a (two-dimensional) trackball in place of a (one-dimensional) thumbwheel, GPS-based mapping, etc. This means that built-in WiFi is about the only capability for which I find myself wanting.

But enough about the client-side device (CSD).
So much of the value delivered to the CSD is because of what’s in the back office – behind the scenes, as it were.
In writing a book review on BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) installation and administration, I was reminded of this aspect on the ongoing BlackBerry vs. iPhone battle.
What’s in the BlackBerry back office?
Allow me to itemize:
  • Integration – The BES integrates the CSD with the enterprise messaging platform (e.g., Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Notes, etc.) and the rest of¬†RIM’s¬†BlackBerry universe. In addition to email and calendaring, this has the potential to include instant messaging (e.g., MSN, IBM Lotus Sametime, etc.) and more.
  • Security – Because the BES provides a single locus of control (the BlackBerry domain), it can and has been leveraged extensively to deliver an industry leading environment for end-to-end security. Encryption, authentication, plus six levels for administrative roles, are all present.
  • Policies ¬†– To quote from¬†my review:

The BES ships with over 200 policies that can be applied variously to users, groups and devices … The ability to administer users, groups and devices with respect to policies (including software), from a single point of control (i.e., the BES server), speaks volumes to the appeal and value that this offering can deliver to corporate enterprise environments.¬†

  • Provisioning – The BES facilitates provisioning of users, groups, devices as well as associated software. Software can even be bundled and targeted to specific CSDs.
The back office supporting the iPhone has a long, long way to go to catch up with all of this – if that’s even a plan that Apple has.
In fact, a far greater threat to the back-office portion of RIM’s BlackBerry universe is the ecosystem developing around¬†Google Android.

Book Review: BlackBerry Enterprise Server for Microsoft Exchange

Packt Publishing claims its

… unique business model allows [them] to bring [us] more focused information, giving [us] more of what [we] need to know, and less of what [we] don’t.¬†¬†

If Desai & Renfroe’s¬†BlackBerry Enterprise Server for Microsoft Exchange: Installation and Administration¬†is any indication, Packt actually lives up to its claim. In just 172 pages, Desai & Renfroe achieve an enviable balance between being concise and being comprehensive. This statement applies as much to what the authors have written, as to their choice of what to illustrate. Specifically:

  • Chapter 1 places the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) in the broader context of¬†Research In Motion’s¬†(RIM) BlackBerry universe. In addition to itemizing relevant components, an introduction to the BlackBerry’s push model, security and Internet connectivity is provided.¬†
  • Though brief, Chapter 2 runs deep in addressing¬†BES architecture and implementation planning.¬†For example, we learn that the BES employs a modular architecture comprising over a dozen components. After succinctly enumerating the components and their function, BES requirements and prerequisites are identified. In addition to hardware and software requirements, recommendations are made with respect to networking your BES (e.g., firewall and/or proxy considerations) and providing it with a database. Easy to gloss over on first read are thoughtful recommendations on sizing the BES (including pointers to resources from RIM) and the database for the anticipated user load.¬†
  • Before BES components can be installed and enabled, the messaging environment and database server need to be configured. This is the subject of Chapter 3. Both local and remote database instances receive attention. Because each step is well illustrated, the book delivers on its intended purpose of serving as a solution guide.
  • The installation of the BES is a multistep process enabled via a wizard. As in the previous chapter, in Chapter 4 the authors guide the reader through this process making appropriate use of illustrations. They interject appropriate commentary, and are clear on out-of-scope topics. The early emphasis on delineating BES architecture (Chapter 1) is realized as the authors transition the reader through the BES installation.¬†
  • Of course, installing the BES is just the beginning, and therefore the next few chapters focus on the additional tasks required to operationally deliver this service to its users. After introducing the six permissible levels of administrative role on the BES, attention shifts in Chapter 5 to the matter of provisioning users, groups and devices. And with respect to devices, wireline and wireless options for provisioning are given consideration.¬†
  • The BES ships with over 200 policies that can be applied variously to users, groups and devices. Also covered in Chapter 6 is the topic of provisioning software from RIM and third parties. Of particular value is the authors’ example of a software bundle targeted to a particular BlackBerry model. The ability to administer users, groups and devices with respect to policies (including software), from a single point of control (i.e., the BES server), speaks volumes to the appeal and value that this offering can deliver to corporate enterprise environments. This Chapter’s treatment of policies and software provisioning serves as an excellent introduction to topics BES administrators will return to repeatedly, and likely with increasing degrees of sophistication.¬†
  • Unlike many of the other chapters, Chapter 7 provides only an overview of multitiered administration – i.e., properties and tasks relating to users, groups, (BlackBerry) domains and servers. This enumeration of possibilities, presented in context, works effectively.¬†
  • A deeper discussion on security is the focus of the first part of the final chapter (Chapter 8). Encryption and authorization, both of which receive detailed consideration, amplify the value of the BES and its context in the overall BlackBerry universe for corporate enterprises. An unanticipated treatment of disaster recovery closes Chapter 8. In sufficient detail to enable a solution, the authors discuss in turn the measures needed to ensure that both the server (the BES) and its data (housed by the BES’s local or remote database) are readied for a disaster situation.¬†

 

Although Desai and Renfroe’s BES book unapologetically targets the¬†Microsoft Exchange environment,¬†its value is not limited here. Those working in other environments, and those interested in learning more about BES’s place in the BlackBerry universe, will almost certainly derive value from this book. Because the book is clear and concise, yet surprisingly complete and well-organized, it is likely to be well-thumbed by BES administrators of varying expertise. ¬†

With the possible exception of a concluding chapter, page, paragraph or even sentence(!), to provide some sense of closure to the book, I am at a loss to report any omissions, oversights or errors. And although they might be better suited for a follow-on contribution of some kind, additional discussion might be given to topics such as performance and scalability (e.g., of local versus remote databases), the mapping of BlackBerry domains to organizational units, and/or improved degrees of DR.

Even though the book I reviewed was a complimentary copy provided by the publisher, I would happily pay for my own copy, and heartily recommend this book to others having interest in BES installation and administration. 

CANARIE’s Network-Enabled Platforms Workshop

Next week, I’ll be attending CANARIE’s Network-Enabled Platforms Workshop: Convergence of Cyber-Infrastructure and the Next-Generation Internet in Ottawa. Although the workshop is described elsewhere, to provide a little context consider that:

The purpose of CANARIE’s Network-Enabled Platforms Workshop is to explore the development of and participation in network-enabled platforms by Canadian researchers and other interested parties. The workshop will be an important step towards the launch of a CANARIE funding program in this area.

Based on the agenda, I expect this will be a highly worthwhile event, and I am looking forward to it.

My contribution to the workshop will be a short presentation described by the following abstract:

Evolving Semantic Frameworks into Network-Enabled Semantic Platforms

Ian Lumb
Manager Network Operations
Computing and Network Services
York University

A semantic framework has been successfuly developed for a project involving a network of globally distributed scientific instruments. Through the use of this framework, the semantic expressivity and richness of the project’s ASCII data is systematically enhanced as it is successively represented in XML (eXtensible Markup Language), RDF (Resource Description Formal) and finally OWL (Web Ontology Language). In addition to this representational transformation, there is a corresponding transformation from data into information into knowledge. Because this framework is broadly applicable to ASCII and binary data of any origin, it is appropriate to develop a network-enabled sematic platform that (i) facilitates integration of the enabling languages, tools and utilities that already exist, and (ii) identifies the key gaps that need to be addressed to completely implement the platform. After briefly reviewing the semantic framework in a generic way, a J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) based, work-in-progress proposal for a network-enabled semantic platform is forwarded.

I expect to be sharing more on this thread as it develops …

Data Points on Tim Bray’s Keynote at CANHEIT 2007

As advertized, Tim Bray gave a keynote presentation at CANHEIT 2007 earlier today (May 29, 2007). And even though I would not describe Bray as an overly dynamic speaker, he certainly did suceed in being entertaining, educating, engaging and thought provoking.

Hopefully, Bray’s presentation will be made available online.

Until it is, you may find the following data points of interest:

  • Bray spoke very highly of RAILS – RAILS in general, and Ruby on RAILS in particular. As a better way of doing things, he suggested that RAILS might even change the way you think about programming. To whet everyone’s appetite, Bray itemized two of RAILS’ principles:
    • Don’t repeat yourself
    • Emphasize convention over configuration

To substantiate his zeal for RAILS, he shared an example of a project that took four months to develop in J2EE; the same project was developed in five days with RAILS! The momentum behind RAILS is also quantified by book sales and attendance levels (in excess of 1,000) at a recent event.

  • Bray also spoke very highly of REST – Even as a Sun employee, Bray was compelled to state that REST may eclipse Java/J2EE in the not-too-distant future. Of course, like many, he suggested that the RESTful approach has already eclipsed Web services. He even shared an image of the WS-DeathStar (Source: Unknown).

  • Bray is contributing to the Atom Project – “Atom is a simple way to read and write information on the web, allowing you to easily keep track of more sites in less time, and to seamlessly share your words and ideas by publishing to the web.” Looks interesting!
  • Bray made use of Apple’s Keynote presentation software – After seeing how Bray and Al Gore made use of Keynote, I broker down and licensed a copy of the software. In both cases, I was struck by the elegant simplicity of their presentations. After all, the purpose of presentations is to communicate. More on Keynote some other time I expect …
  • Bray blogs at http://www.tbray.org/ongoing – Worth reading!

Leveraging Your SOAP Toolkit via the Eclipse Web Tools Platform

Just over three months ago, I wrote:

Because so much value is being driven through SOAP, you must choose your SOAP toolkit wisely. More specifically, toolkit choice will determine, for example, which [Second Generation Web Services] specifications are supported via implementations.

Ultimately, this lead me to suggest that:

Your choice of SOAP toolkit may be the most important decision you make in implementing a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) based on Web Services.

I still subscribe to this perspective.

Because it’s increasingly unlikely that developers will author SOAP and WSDL documents directly, however, your choice of Integrated Development Environment (IDE) is also increasingly important.

I’m coming to appreciate the value of a solid IDE as I dig into Web services more and more. Of late, I’ve been particularly impressed with the Eclipse Web Tool Platform (WTP).

Stay tuned.