As mission operations grow in scale and complexity, there is a prevailing need for automating operational processes to increase efficiency, mitigate risks, and reduce operational costs. The need for automating operational processes has produced a few disparate automation systems within the Advanced Multi Mission Operations System (AMMOS). Without a common solution for process management and automation, each AMMOS subsystem that requires a workflow capability will need to develop its own expertise in the workflow domain as independent systems are developed. This can lead to many incompatible implementations that functionally do similar things. The Common Workflow Service (CWS) attempts to address this issue to avoid independent ad hoc workflow implementations.

The AMMOS provides many of the ground data system functions needed to design, implement, and operate a Mission Operations System (MOS). As the need for automation and orchestration becomes more prevalent across the AMMOS functions, an effort was set underway to assess the use of workflow technologies. This assessment has culminated in the formulation of the CWS, a collaborative and standards-based solution for managing mission operations processes using techniques from the Business Process Management (BPM) discipline. Its goal is to provide a common process management solution that can be used across multiple functional elements within the AMMOS, thereby avoiding disparate workflow implementations. To achieve this goal, the CWS leverages existing BPM technologies and software to design and implement a common framework for defining, executing, managing, and monitoring operational processes.

The key features of the CWS include:

  1. BPMN 2.0 Process Execution Engine that supports both automated software tasks and manual user tasks.
  2. Human/User Task Management that manages the lifecycle of human tasks (e.g. assignment, claim, completion, etc.).
  3. Library of Common Tasks, which includes pre-implemented, pre-configured task definitions for commonly performed tasks.
  4. Distributed and Load Balanced operation that enables execution of processes to be distributed across computing nodes.
  5. Event-based Process Initiation that triggers execution of processes when events are detected.
  6. Web-based control and management interface.
  7. Drag-and-drop BPMN 2.0 process modeler.
  8. Security features such as a pluggable authentication model and secured connections.

The main advantage that CWS has over existing software is that it uses the BPMN 2.0 industry standard for modeling processes. This allows process models to be readily understandable by implementers, process modelers, and general users. Additionally, since it is based on an industry standard, other tools that adhere to the same BPMN 2.0 standard have the capability to view and render models defined by the CWS.

Another advantage that CWS possesses over existing similar software is that the CWS has been designed such that it can readily be deployed in a cloud environment. This allows for elastic scalability, especially in the cloud. The software is implemented using the Java programming language, and is portable across UNIX-based platforms.

This work was done by Adrian W. Tinio, Elias M. Sayfi, Galen A. Hollins, Costin Radulescu, Mitchell Schrock, and Jeffrey A. Estefan of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This software is available for license through the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and you may request a license at: https://download.jpl.nasa.gov/ops/request/request_introduction.cfm . NPO-49929


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the November, 2016 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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