Technical feasibility

SECTION I: Testing

1 Has the R & D result been tested?
YES X
NO
1a In what mode has the result been tested?

•              Prototype

•              Pilot Application

•              Alpha/BETA testing

The FUSION methodology and tool suite for semantic Enterprise Application Integration was tested within the FUSION project (FP6-IST STREP) in which it was developed. The methodology and the software tools (research prototype level) were evaluated through three trial pilot applications.
1b. Please describe and discuss the testing results
The pilots involved a franchise network of schools in foreign languages and computing, a federated network of human resource agencies, and a multinational franchise network of telecommunications products and services.

From a technical point of view, the evaluation results showed that the proposed approach is highly generic and can be adapted to different industrial application contexts without the need for customisation of the software tools or methodology. Among the notable strengths of the technological approach is that adopters do not need to make any changes to their existing software applications to accommodate the FUSION solution, since it is overlayed on top of their existing infrastructure. Moreover, the use of semantic modelling based on a shared ontological vocabulary enables several “intelligent” functions in the software tools, thus reducing the user’s effort significantly. However, the evaluation also showed that the tasks that are associated with semantic modelling and ontology engineering can be rather demanding for the average user, since they require a significant level of familiarisation with the technical means employed for formal logic-based knowledge representation. This increases the level of expertise needed for the involved staff, as well as the associated cost.

From a business point of view, the evaluation showed that the associated risk in fully deploying this integration approach is directly related to the size of the company involved. In fact there seems to be a reverse proportional relationship between these two elements. The larger the organisation adopting the FUSION Semantic Enterprise Application Integration methodology, the less investment risk is inherited. The opposite is true for small companies. Additionally, we observed an analogous relationship between financial returns and IT and process complexity. The more complex IT systems and business processes an organisation employs, the more increased the financial benefits of such an investment there will be. This suggests that the overall approach is better suited for medium-sized and large enterprises, rather than SMEs.

SECTION 2: Current Stage of Development

2a To what extent does the development team have technical resources for supporting the production of a new product? (Researchers, human resources, hardware, etc. )
Note: Describe whether the R&D result is a result of collective effort and developers could be available for technical advice if the product is to be produced.
The methodology and tool suite were developed collaboratively by several of the organizations participating in the FUSION consortium. The South East European Research Centre was a member of the core team of technical partners in the project, and was in a position to have a complete picture of the challenges, strengths and limitations of the overall conceptual approach and technological basis of the solution, and the outcomes of all three pilot trials. Therefore, in terms of know-how, SEERC’s team in the project (Information & Knowledge Management Research Cluster) has sufficient capacity to advise on further development of the R&D result. In terms of human resources, the team would need to be reinforced through recruitment of adequately experienced software developers.
2b What are the technical issues that need to be tackled for full deployment, if needed?
Note: Reply might refer to technical processes, testing, further development, etc
The tool suite comprises three tools (Semantic Profiler, Semantic Registry, Process Designer), all of which were developed at research prototype level, and by three different consortium partners. The main technical issue to be addressed is that the Semantic Profiler and the Process Designer tools (which were not developed by SEERC) need to be developed again, on a different technology platform that allows web-based access through the browser. This can be done on the basis of their publicly available specifications, but will require significant effort. Moreover, all of the tools need to be tested extensively to ensure they are robust enough for commercial deployment.
2c What additional technical resources are needed for the production of this new product?
The development of a new product on the basis of this R&D result will require purchasing some hardware equipment (developer PCs, test servers) and some software licenses for the development process.
2d Overall assessment of the current stage of technical development.
The FUSION methodology and tool suite have not been under development since the completion of the project in the end of 2008.

SECTION 3: Deployment

3a Define the demands for large scale production in terms of
  • Materials
Not applicable.
  • technologies, tools, machineries
Computing hardware: 9000 Euro

Software licenses: 3000 Euro

Other fixed costs (office equipment): 10000

Running operating costs (rental of office space, etc) are not considered here.

  • Staff effort
Developing the R&D result into a mature marketable offering will require work by a team of seven persons, over a period of two years. The team will need four software developers, two senior developers, and one head of development. Note that this estimation of staff effort accounts for production only and does consider staff for marketing strategy, delivery channels, product maintenance, helpdesk, etc.

SECTION 4: Overall Assessment

1 What is you overall assessment of the technical feasibility of the research result?
The evaluation of the FUSION methodology and tool suite for Semantic Enterprise Application Integration revealed that the use of semantic technologies can enable intelligent information processing that reduces the effort of creating collaborative business processes manually. From a technical point of view, therefore, the feasibility of the idea has been validated. However, the evaluation also showed that the tasks that are associated with semantic modelling and ontology engineering can be very demanding on the users. This increases the level of expertise needed for the involved staff, as well as the associated cost. At the end of the FUSION project, it became apparent that additional emphasis should be placed in finding ways to employ semantic technology while hiding its complexity from the users. This represents an important technical challenge that needs to be dealt with for commercial exploitation to be possible and calls for significant further development and testing.

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