The SeCSE project has promised to deliver an industrial-strength development environment for service-centric software engineering. Its applications deliver on those promises.
The SeCSE (pronounced sexy) project (http://www.secse-project.eu/) has sought to develop a platform capable of delivering on the promise of service-centric software engineering. It is a new computing paradigm that can mix and match services to create powerful applications, and the service elements can be reused, or updated individually.
It promises better, more cost-effective and more flexible application development and it is a powerful shift in software development on the fly, as conditions change.
SeCSE produced a Java-based platform that could easily develop services for any operating system. These services can be combined to create powerful applications – and SeCSE’s demonstrator showed the strengths of the system.
“Most of the scientific work was driven by the needs of our industrial partners, and the principal one which integrates most of the bits of SeCSE was based around the in-car journey service, a concept from CRF, the Fiat Research Centre. It integrated a lot of what we have done. It used both the design and runtime platforms,” explains Peter Sawyer, a researcher with the project.
Boot up in a car boot
“It looked a bit rough – it was a PC installed in the boot of a car – but it really worked. Not quite product ready, though,” notes Sawyer.
The system provided route services and mapping, could find the nearest car park. It could offer weather forecasts for the proposed route, and if the car developed a fault, it could find the nearest mechanic or car dealership.
“It was a combination of things like this, but one of the unique elements is that, if you are driving across Europe, the system could constantly negotiate for the best tool to do the job. As you cross the border, if one service becomes weak, or supplies less detailed information, the SeCSE system could instantly switch,” Sawyer reveals.
“Or perhaps a service breaks down, SeCSE will find an alternate supplier. Maybe you need to book a hotel, because your car will not be fixed before tomorrow. SeCSE could find one, book the room and pay the deposit.”
The system is something of a software development ‘philosophy’ right now, but as more and more services are designed in this framework, the number of things it can do grows dramatically.
The services in the test application worked in the automotive space, but similar types of service could work in the domestic sphere. Picture it: the fridge breaks down, so SeCSE services could be invoked to book a repair. Another service could alert the homeowner via mobile phone, instant messaging, or pager.
There really is no limit to what can be achieved with this model. Conceivably, in the future consumers will be able to cobble together a bunch of disparate services to get exactly the kind of functionality they want for a particular application.\
The work has been well received by academia, and SeCSE did enormous work in disseminating their ideas through journals, seminars and conferences. “I think we did some novel, valuable work and the academic community sees that,” explains Sawyer.
SeCSE was very active in standards, mainly through partners Computer Associates and European Microsoft Innovation Centre, with their work applying mainly to web service standardisation efforts and the work of the W3C (WWW Consortium) and OASIS (Information Society Open Standards Consortium).
The work will also live long after the project. The SeCSE development environment is an open source system and is available for people to download, play with and modify.
The question is where to go from here, suggests Sawyer.
“Nobody is going to go over to a completely service-oriented model, at least in the short term. It is too unfamiliar, and I think you will see some hybrids as people gradually move towards the service model more completely,” he predicts.
The strongest driver for the platform, and the approach, will be telecommunications, particularly in the realm of smart phones. “The people who use those kinds of devices will probably be the first to see the end-user applications,” he says.
And then software will be truly at your service.
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