Logistics Mall-FAQ

Table of Contents

1   General Questions

2  Services in the Logistics Mall

3  Interoperability

4  Billing

5  Technology

6  Administration

7  Support


1  General Questions

1.1  Logistics Mall

1.1.1  What is the idea behind the Logistics Mall?

The Logistics Mall is the online store for the logistics industry, where a large variety of logistics services and software can be offered by different vendors. The Logistics Mall helps with the marketing of the products and services and it also makes it possible for the different services to be linked together to create new services and business processes (orchestration). Customers no longer need to buy licences because they are able to rent the service or software that they need and they can use the Logistics Mall to acquire a comprehensive range of services in one stop. The pay-per-use principle of the Logistics Mall for logistics services makes it easy for customers to see what their costs are and what services they are getting for those costs. Another advantage is that the implementation time, the time from purchase until the customer is able to use it to meet their requirements, is also shorter than with classical software projects because the customer has a Logistics Process Designer at their disposal to help customize the business processes to meet their needs.

1.1.2  Who is the target group of the Logistics Mall?

The Logistics Mall primarily targets small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) who cannot afford to have their own IT department or data centre or who want to outsource some of the processes. In addition to system houses, who combine their services together to develop new products, other target groups of the Logistics Mall are vendors and developers of logistics IT services.

1.1.3  What role does Cloud Computing play in the Logistics Mall?

Cloud Computing is the technological basis for the Logistics Mall. The Logistics Mall and all of the services offered there are operated "in a cloud".

1.1.4  Are there multiple clouds and who operates them?

The Logistics Mall is operated in a single cloud that is operated by Logata GmbH.

1.1.5  Can a vendor or product be certified to ensure compatibility with the Logistics Mall?

Yes. There are two types of certification: one for vendors and one for products. As part of the certification procedure, the vendor is checked for solvency and adherence to quality guidelines. Product certification involves meeting both required as well as optional requirements. By checking the product against these requirements, it is possible to ensure that the product can be operated reliably on the infrastructure of the Logistics Mall. The focus of the product certification is on ensuring that basic functions have been correctly integrated into the product (for example, Single Sign-On).

1.1.6 Who are the Logistics Process Designers? Why would a company pay for a Logistics Process Designer to connect the services and products in a sequence?

Logistics Process Designers (LPD) create cost-effective solutions for customer-specific business processes. They use their expert knowledge of the offerings of the Logistics Mall and logistics and their consulting expertise as a 3PL / 4PL Provider to create an executable concept. With the aid of a tool, they connect existing services and model them into new business processes that can be offered as new products in the Logistics Mall.

1.2  Fundamental Concepts

1.2.1  What is a vendor?

A vendor offers software and services in the Logistics Mall.

1.2.2  What is a user?

A user uses the software and services available in the Logistics Mall.

1.2.3  What is a Logistics Service Provider (3PL / 4PL)?

A Logistics Service Provider (LSP) is the further development of the traditional freight forwarding business (for example, customer-focused storage, picking, assembling, invoicing, and so on). A Third Party Logistics (3PL) Provider is a logistics service provider whose goal is to take over the logistics value-added services for transport, shipping, and warehouse processes for their customer as an outsourcing partner (for example, a manufacturing company). Using their own infrastructure and in-house logistics know-how, they manage the complex supply chains of their customers. The trend in this area is towards offering system solutions that cover everything including taking over the entire logistics order handling process and supporting the end customer.
A Fourth Party Logistics (4PL) Provider is a logistics service provider who plans and controls the global supply chain on behalf of a company. Their focus is on logistics planning and consulting, reengineering business processes, and global, cross-system IT and network modelling. They also have to be able to fully operate this network in a non-asset based way.

1.2.4  What is an infrastructure vendor?

An infrastructure vendor provides the hardware for the Logistics Mall (computing power, storage, and network).

1.2.5 What is Cloud Computing (CC)?

Cloud Computing (CC) is the need-based and flexible usage of IT services. These are provided in real-time over the internet and billed on a per usage basis. Cloud Computing makes it possible for users to redistribute their investment and operating costs.

1.2.6  What is a service in the sense of the Logistics Mall?

The development of the Logistics Mall is divided into 3 phases. In the first phase, the classical applications that are Web-ready and can be run in a browser are offered for rent in the Logistics Mall. This is comparable with the well-known principle of Application Service Providing (ASP). Phase 2 offers additional Web services that can be accessed on a common data basis via an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB). The communication via the ESB is based on the newly developed ontology for the Logistics Industry (see 3.1.1).
In phase 3, the Logistics Process Designer module of the Web services of phase 2 will be used to combine new IT services that can also support entire business processes.

1.2.7  What is an Application Service Provider (ASP)?

Application Service Providing (ASP) is the provision of a software solution as a service. Under this model, the user does not have to purchase and operate their own hardware or software but instead they use software that runs physically on the system of the ASP usually using something as simple as internet access. The billing for the IT services is in the form of licensing or transaction fees.

1.2.8  What is an API?

An application programming interface (API) is a particular set of rules and specifications that software programs can follow to communicate with each other. It serves as an interface between different software programs and facilitates their interaction, similar to the way the user interface facilitates interaction between humans and computers.

1.2.9  What is an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB)?

In computing, an enterprise service bus (ESB) is a software architecture construct which provides fundamental services for complex architectures via an event-driven and standards-based messaging engine (the bus). Developers typically implement an ESB using technologies found in a category of middleware infrastructure products, usually based on recognized standards.

An ESB generally provides an abstraction layer on top of an implementation of an enterprise messaging system, which allows integration architects to exploit the value of messaging without writing code. Unlike the more classical enterprise application integration (EAI) approach of a monolithic stack in a hub and spoke architecture, an enterprise service bus builds on base functions broken up into their constituent parts, with distributed deployment where needed, working in harmony as necessary.

1.2.10  Was is Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)?

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a form of Cloud Computing in which a user buys and accesses an application over the internet. Infrastructure resources and applications are bundled into an application service and all customers use the same application and infrastructure of a vendor.

1.2.11  What is Single Sign-On (SSO)?

Single sign-on (SSO) is a property of access control of multiple related but independent software systems. With this property a user logs in once and gains access to all systems without being prompted to log in again at each of them. If the user changes workstations, the authentication and the local authorization become invalid.

 2  Services in the Logistics Mall

2.1  Web Applications

2.1.1 What is a Web Application / Desktop Application?

A Web application is an application that is accessed over a browser. It is platform independent and does not have to be installed.

A desktop application has to be installed locally and runs outside of a browser in a window (not a Web site).

2.1.2  Does a Web application have to be installed as a package in the cloud? Who does it?

Yes. As part of the certification process, the vendor of the Web application delivers their product, which has been adapted to meet the requirements of the Logistics Mall, to the operator of the Logistics Mall and they install it and make it available for use.

2.2  Available Services and Usage

2.2.1  How does the customer find services?

The customer can search the vendor and product catalogue for the desired services. A semantic search can analyze the requirements of the customer and make it considerably easier to search for services.

2.2.2  How are the services marketed?

Marketing is done exclusively through the Mall Market Place (MMP) of the Logistics Mall.

2.2.3  How does a customer purchase a service?

Customers book services exclusively through the Mall Market Place (MMP) of the Logistics Mall. A registered user can configure and order software and support there.

2.2.4  How are the services hosted?

In the first phase of the Logistics Mall (see 1.2.6), the operator of the Logistics Mall will host the services. In the second and third phases, the vendor will have the choice to host their own product themselves or let the operator of the Logistics Mall do it.

2.2.5  Who monitors the services to ensure that they are running?

The operator of the Logistics Mall is responsible for monitoring the services as well as the complete 1st Level Support.

2.2.6  Is it possible to buy physical services (such as transporting a good from A to B) in the Logistics Mall?

Yes. Physical services can be purchased through the Mall Market Place (MMP). The customer buys a service and configures it as needed (for example, if a customer needs to transport a good from A to B then they will specify the execution date, pick-up location, and drop-off location).

2.3   Development of Services

2.3.1  How will the services be updated?

The update process is part of the certification process (see 1.1.5). An update will be viewed as a "new product" and will have to be certified by the operator. After it has been certified, it can be made available for ordering in the Logistics Mall or implemented in the contracts of existing users of the service.

2.3.2  Can services be developed that run offline and go online to load data?

Both the cloud and the services can only be accessed over the internet. This means that a service is always online so that a user has access to it at anytime. The service requires internet access so that it can communicate with the user. In addition to this, the service can also use general internet access to access resources outside of the cloud. In this case, the service does not always have to work "online".

2.3.3  Do all of the services in the Logistics Mall have to be available online or as Software-as-a Service?

Yes. The business model of the Logistics Mall is such that all services have to be available in the form of Web services.


2.3.4  What does a vendor have to do to make their solution cloud ready?

The certification process is what ensures that a solution is cloud ready (see 1.1.5). The vendor is also provided with a guide that describes the prerequisites for the product. A test environment is provided for the vendor so that can make sure that their product is cloud ready.

 3 Interoperability

3.1.1  Is it possible to determine the ideal API for interoperability?

Yes. This can be done using an ontology. The ontology describes the structure and definition of the data exchanged by the services. Similar to one of the many EDI standards (for example, EDIFACT), it also defines what data needs to be exchanged in order for, for example, a notification to be sent. The use of an ontology is not planned until phase 2 of the Logistics Mall and it replaces the proprietary data exchange of phase 1.

3.1.2  Will the fundamental process ontology be structured in such as way that it is easy for the companies to adapt it?

The ontology does not have to be adapted. The company’s in-house format only has to be transformed once for the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB, see 1.2.9) and then it can work with the ontology. The developers of the ontology have many years of experience in the fields of IT and logistics (planners, software engineers, logisticians). As experts, they work behind the scenes of numerous projects. Companies also help with the development of the ontology. The ontology will be designed in increments for the selected logistic areas to make sure that it is suitable for practical use.

3.1.3  Are the connectors between the individual services standardized?

The Enterprise Service Bus (ESB, see 1.2.9) connects the services. The ESB is the communications channel over which the services communicate with each other. The ontology used by the ESB (see 3.1.1 and 3.1.2) describes how the communication occurs (syntactic and especially semantic). However, the ESB will not be implemented until phase 2 of the Logistics Mall so a classic Application Service Providing will be operated in phase 1 (see 1.2.6).

3.1.4  What are the interfaces between the services?

The interface to a service is one that is in a format recognized by the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB, see 1.2.9) and is preferably based on the ontology (see 3.1.1).

3.1.5  Have the interfaces been defined yet?

These interfaces will be defined as part of the development of the Logistics Mall and be established for the production environment.

3.1.6  What standards will be used?

The ontology will function as the standard for the Logistics Mall (see 3.1.1). Exactly which domains and business objects will be standardized cannot be said at this time. However, it is certain that intralogistics will play an important role, which means that the ontology will focus on the business objects that can be exchanged with logistics applications/services in intralogistics, especially those from Warehouse Management Systems (WMS).

3.1.7  Who defines the interoperability?

Everyone who is participating in the development of the Logistics Mall (Fraunhofer IML / ISST, Logata, …).

3.1.8  How will the services offered in the Logistics Mall be integrated into the user’s existing systems (for example, if the user already has an ERP and now plans to use a WMS through the Logistics Mall)?

The plan is to implement connectors that will allow the existing systems to communicate with the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB, see 1.2.9). These connectors can be programmed in-house, commissioned to a third party, or, if available, purchased as a finished package through the Logistics Mall. The exact specifications for the connectors between local customer systems and the services in the Logistics Mall still need to be determined.

 4  Billing

4.1  General

4.1.1  Who are the contractual partners?

In the first phase of the development of the Logistics Mall (see 1.2.6), the user enters into a contract with the vendor of the purchased software and with the operator of the Logistics Mall, upon whose infrastructure the software is running. This approach leans towards the well-known principle of Application Service Providing (ASP, see 1.2.7). In the final development phase of the Logistics Mall, it will be possible to purchase business processes that are made up of many services from different vendors. We do not plan to make the customer enter into contracts with many unknown parties. We are currently examining the exact legal framework and possibilities for this situation.

4.1.2  How are the transactions for the pay-per-use handled?

The software or application manages all of the transactions by using an API to log all processes. The log files are analyzed and the pay-per-use transactions are extracted from them.

4.2  Licensing Model vs. Transaction Billing

4.2.1  What licensing model will be used?

Classical licensing models will not be used in the Logistics Mall. The end customer purchases a limited-term right of usage for the software in the Logistics Mall – not a software licence.

4.2.2  What types of billing models are being considered? Will everything be offered with usage-based billing?

For the first phase, the following three billing models will be available:

One-time fees

Subscriptions (regular fees, for example monthly or weekly)

Transaction-based fees

4.2.3  Is there a partner/reseller/customer referral program?

The operator of the Logistics Mall will be able to answer questions about contractual partners, resellers, or customer referral programs. These types of agreements are currently being worked on.

 5  Technology

5.1.1  Is IPv4 or IPv6 being used? Or both?

The Logistics Mall will initially be built based on IPv4 but it is not out of the question that it will change to IPv6 or that a parallel operation will be possible.

5.1.2  Will there be support for smart phone clients?

Yes. Smart phones with a Web browser will be supported. It will also be possible to connect and use a hand scanner for transmitting data to the Logistics Mall.

5.1.3  What are the technical requirements for participating in the Logistics Mall?

The technical requirements will be established during the certification process (see 1.1.5).

5.1.4  How will the available storage space in the cloud be found and allocated? How does "the cloud" know where all of the data is located?

The customer will be able to see that an application in "their" environment has its own file system. This will be a virtual computer that also has a virtual file system. Behind this file system there is infrastructure for memory management that knows how much of the storage space of the physical memory has been allocated.

5.1.5  Is it also possible to store different records in different parts of the world that can still be accessed by a program and have that program run smoothly?

In phase 1, the cloud will be operated from one data centre and geographical distribution will not be possible. If it becomes necessary in phase 2 and phase 3 to make it possible to connect to other data centres, then we will ensure that a high-performance data exchange takes place.

Locally-installed applications can usually be guaranteed to run faster than Web applications. The response times of Web applications, with the exception of especially demanding application such as high-performance picking stations, are completely suitable for use in production environments.

5.1.6  What happens in a cloud when the server goes offline?

The server is not the only "Point of Failure". Network components, power supplies, and other components can all fail. The chance of a complete failure is not determined by the type of cloud but by many factors. The cloud sever can also be set up as a hot standby system so that the data is backed up on a redundant server and in case of failure a second system takes over.

 6  Administration

6.1  User Administration

6.1.1  Can a company administer its own users?

The Logistics Mall handles the authentication of the user and creates a list of roles for an application that the user has or can be assigned to. The permissions required for using certain functionality (authorisation) is implemented by the application itself.

The end customer (user of the software) can control the permissions of user groups (for example, individual employees) for certain functionality and data as long as the applications support this.

6.1.2  Is Single Sign-On (SSO) optional or required?

SSO is required for the Logistics Mall (see 1.2.11) but it is optional for the applications or the services. Authentication and authorisation are not required for calculation services (such as packing optimisation).

6.1.3  If SSO is required, doesn’t the Logistics Mall need the corresponding API?

Yes. The Logistics Mall provides the required API (see 1.2.8).

6.1.4  Will it be possible to access applications and services in the cloud remotely?

There will be client-specific administrator accounts at various levels that can access the cloud depending on their privileges. Full administrative remote access to the virtual computers in the cloud will only be possible for special situations (for example, test environments).

 7  Support

7.1.1  How will a company be billed for support?

The operator of the Logistics Mall will handle the billing for support. There are several different concepts that can be used, such as billing based on the number of calls to support or support subscriptions.

7.1.2  Is there 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Level Support?

Yes. 1st Level Support will be provided by the operator. The vendor of the service will be responsible for 2nd Level Support. 3rd Level Support can also be provided by the vendor but it could also be provided by an upstream vendor (for example, database vendor).

7.1.3  Can test data be used?

Test environments, which make it possible to use test data, are only made available to the vendor of a product in the Logistics Mall so that they can test if their product functions in the technical framework. In addition to this, each vendor has the opportunity to provide example data in their application.

7.1.4  Can the log files be viewed?

Yes. Certain log files can be viewed when working with 1st Level Support or upon agreement with the operator.

7.1.5  Can reports be viewed?

Yes. Reports are available in the applications and are the responsibility of the vendor.