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Flexibility and full reuse: Sinetiq’s solutions for service-oriented architectures

by Karl-Johan Gramner, CEO at Sinetiq and Chris Horgan

Despite spinning off from its parent company just under three years ago, Sinetiq is no newcomer to the INSIDE community: as part of BnearIT, this commercial SME was a key player in the original Arrowhead project of 2013 and remains actively involved in developments around the Arrowhead Framework. Alongside this, they apply more than 20 years of experience in system integration, service-oriented architectures and component-based systems to help national and international customers improve their profitability and competitiveness. As CEO says, “we are the link between the theoretical and the real.” 

The start and the end  

“We would like to be mentors to our customers on how to accomplish a service oriented architecture. Once they’ve figured out how to build it, we can stand at the receiving end and help them out on the components or the different systems to be integrated,” begins Karl-Johan. “When you create a system of systems, I would say that in 100% of cases, at least one of the components will not fulfil the specification; either the API or the service itself will not have been created the way it was specified and something will crash. You then have to figure out, ‘okay, which of these 50 components is not behaving the way it should’. So, we tell you the way to structure your systems or components at the start and how to make the system of systems work in the end. Most IT consultancy companies help out with the big chunk of implementation in the middle, but we are not like most companies; we help you to integrate.” 

To this end, Sinetiq offers a wide range of knowledge and services, including product packaging, guidelines and training, architecture and design principles, interface maintenance and compliance, and testing, verification and validation. Standard solutions based on a service-oriented architecture are included and refined within their self-developed products, which enable end-users to obtain new data and functionalities efficiently and continuously. For instance, their consultancy workshop has been packaged into an integration agility assessment that allows companies to discover whether they can easily swap components in a plug-and-play manner. Such offerings enable controlled flexibility, full reuse of investments and a reduction in time to market through quick access to the necessary data for decisions. 

A bridge to practice  

To illustrate this further, Karl-Johan compares their role to a physical architect who draws up the plan for a house and makes sure that everything is in order at the construction site but leaves the actual fabrication of the walls to another party. This approach has given them deep practical experience with third-party products in component-based systems and a knack for collaborative innovation – both of which made them an ideal partner to join the first Arrowhead project 11 years ago. Orchestrated by Luleå University of Technology, this sought to address challenges in cooperative automation and legacy systems. The resulting Arrowhead Framework abstracts elements of Internet of Things (IoT) to services that enable interoperability between almost all IoT elements. This ultimately facilitates scalable, secure and flexible information sharing for the design and implementation of automation systems in domains as diverse as production, mobility and energy. 

“If you look at Arrowhead now, we were a big part of how the architecture is set up and structured,” Karl-Johan explains. “By the time the first Arrowhead project started, we had been doing real implementations for ten years. So, we were asked to participate as we had that practical experience, whereas many of the other participants had a lot of academic or theoretical knowledge. We could say, ‘that’s fine in theory, but you have to do like this in practice.’ That’s where we contribute.” 

Learning and sharing  

Following the release of the Arrowhead Framework in 2016, several other EU projects have furthered its development, including Productive4.0 and Arrowhead Tools. In 2020, Arrowhead joined the Eclipse Foundation due to its proven governance framework and processes for collaboration on open-source software, becoming Eclipse Arrowhead. Collectively, Arrowhead projects have brought together more than 100 participating organisations and, for Sinetiq, their continued involvement represents a chance to learn from some of the greatest minds in Europe. 

“The first reason we are involved in Arrowhead is to stay on top of cutting-edge technology. This is our chance to work with universities, professors, PhDs and whoever else really wants to innovate in this field,” Karl-Johan continues. “In the Arrowhead projects, they have verticals and horizontals. The horizontals are usually the technical work packages, like microservices or translation work packages in which researchers and innovators explain and define how things are. Then you have the verticals, which are the use cases in which different companies try out the technology that the technical work packages define. At Sinetiq, we will contribute to the technical work package on microservices, for example, but then we will also support the use cases by making use of the technical advancements made. In these projects, we are a bridge between the deep tech and the practical.” 

Of course, Karl-Johan is also grateful to the strong ecosystems in Europe that make such collaboration possible. “I understand that INSIDE is one of the facilitators, making sure that these EU projects come to play. It’s very, very important there are such organisations. Without them, there would be no projects. It shows that the industry has an interest in this kind of innovation and it’s hard otherwise for industry to tell the EU that this is important. That’s where INSIDE can be a strong voice, rather than one of us going there ourselves trying to say why they should start a project. I also recently learned of the opportunities at INSIDE, like the Brokerage, where you can listen to which new projects are about to be started and present your company. It’s another great way for European companies can stay competitive.” 

Making it work 

 And while this collective mentality helps make the entire European ECS domain stronger, Karl-Johan is also keen to emphasise how it makes individual companies more streamlined by avoiding doubled work. A core tenant of Sinetiq is never recreating what can already be found; participation in ecosystems for collaboration and knowledge sharing allow them to live up to this principle. “Our products are components in a serviceoriented architecture, which means that you should develop some products yourself if they are your unique selling points as a commercial company. We will never build anything that already exists in open source or is available at another provider. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, so we always have the following steps in mind. First, look at open source. Second, look at other commercial providers. Third, build it yourself. Fourth…okay, we’ll build it for you. Or we might already have it, of course.” 

“When I look into the future, we want to be both a provider of components or products and an expert consultant. That’s a difficult trip but it’s not impossible,” concludes Karl-Johan. “However, we only want to have products or components within a service-oriented architecture, and that’s the final reason for us being part of Eclipse Arrowhead1 : if our components support Arrowhead or are compatible with it, it makes this easier for us and brings us a big benefit. So, we are really eager for Eclipse Arrowhead to make it as a well-used opensource community and I hope that this is also the focus for all parties in the Arrowhead projects. We already have a common ground to start from, so all of us can make this work together.” 

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