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									Special Issue on ICIT 2009 Conference - Applied Computing

                       AN INTERACTIVE COMPOSITION OF
                              ACTIVITY DIAGRAM

                              Yousra Bendaly Hlaoui, Leila Jemni Ben Ayed
                      Research Unit of Technologies of Information and Communication
                                               Tunis, Tunisia

              In today's distributed applications, semi automatic and semantic composition of
              workflows from Grid services is becoming an important challenge. We focus in
              this paper on how to model and compose interactively workflow applications from
              Grid services without considering lower level description of the Grid environment.
              To reach this objective, we propose a Model-Driven Approach for developing such
              applications based on semantic and syntactic descriptions of services available on
              the Grid and abstract description provided by UML activity diagram language as
              well. As there are particular needs for modeling composed workflows interactively
              from Grid services, we propose to extend the UML activity diagram notation.
              These extensions deal with additional information allowing an interactive and semi
              automatic composition of workflows. In addition this specific domain language
              contains appropriate data to describe matched Grid services that are useful for the
              execution of the obtained workflows.

              Keywords: Grid services, Interactive, semantic, composition, Workflow
              application, UML activity diagrams.

1   INTRODUCTION                                          application and on the other reduces the complexity
                                                          of the composed applications. There are several
     Today’s distributed applications [23] are            architectural approaches for distributed computing
developed by integrating web or Grid services [13,        applications [22] which make easy the development
14] in a workflow. Due to the very large number of        process. However, these approaches need rigorous
available services and the existence of different         development methods to promote the reuse of
possibilities for constructing workflow from              components in future Grid development application
matching services, the problem of building such           [16]. It has been proven from past experience that
applications is usually a non trivial task for a          using structured engineering methods makes easy the
developer. This problem requires finding and              development process of any computing system and
orchestrating appropriate Grid services in a              reduces the complexity when building large Grid
workflow. Therefore, we propose an approach that          application [22].
allows semi automatic and interactive composition of          To reduce this complexity and allow the reuse of
workflow applications from Grid services. To              Grid service applications, we adopt a model-driven
describe and model workflow applications we use           approach [24]. Thus we introduce in this paper a new
UML [25] activity diagrams. Recently, several             approach to build, interactively, workflow
solutions were proposed to compose applications           applications by following OMG(s) principals of the
from Grid services such as works presented in [8, 17,     MDA in the development process [2, 3, 4].
18]. However, the proposed solutions need                     In this approach [2, 3, 4], our focus is to
interaction with user and guidelines or rules in the      compose and model workflows from existing Grid
design of the composed applications. Consequently,        services that represent the main aspect in the
the resulting source code is neither re-usable nor it     development of Grid services applications. The
promotes dynamic adaptation facilities as it should.      workflow modeling identifies the control and data
However, for applications composed of Grid services,      flows from one depicted Grid service's operation to
we need an abstract view not only of the offered          the next to build and compose the whole application.
services but also of the resulting application [31].      To model and express the composed workflow of
This abstraction allows the reuse of the elaborated       Grid services, we use as abstract language the

UbiCC Journal – Volume 4 No. 3                                                                           599
Special Issue on ICIT 2009 Conference - Applied Computing

 activity diagrams of UML [25]. The provided model       the number of available services is in increase with
forms the Platform Independent Model (PIM) of the        the existence of several forms and manners to
proposed MDA approach. This model is more                compose such services.
understandable for the user than an XML [35] based            Based on domain ontology description, we lead
workflow description languages like BPEL4WS [15]         the user through to the composition process. Also,
which represent the Platform Specific Model (PSM).       we provide for this user a graphical interface based
     This paper is organized as follows. Section 2       on a domain specific UML language for automatic
presents the related work. Section 3 introduces the      grid service composition. This UML profile [5] is
different components of the composition system;          based on stereotypes, tagged values and workflow
section 4 specifies our proposed UML profile,            patterns [5] that we propose to ensure the automatic
composition patterns and different steps of the          composition. In the field of Grid services
interactive composition process. Finally, section 5      composition the most related work is the work
concludes the paper and proposes areas for further       presented by Gubala et al in [8, 17, 18]. In this work,
research.                                                the authors have developed a tool for semi automatic
                                                         and assisted composition of scientific Grid
2   RELATED WORK                                         application workflows. The tool uses domain specific
                                                         knowledge and employs several levels of workflow
     Many works were carried out in the field of         abstractness in order to provide a comprehensive
Grid and Web services composition, such as works         representation of the workflow for the user and to
presented in [8, 17, 18, 19, 20, 28, 29, 30]. In [28]    lead him in the process of possible solution
authors were interested in the semi automatic            construction, dynamic refinement and execution. The
composition of web services and proposed a               originality of our contribution is that firstly we save
validation approach based on the semantic                the effort of the user from the dynamic refinement
descriptions of services and on a logic based            and execution as we propose a Model Driven
language to describe and validate the resulting          Approach which separates the specific model from
composite Web services. However, the resulting           the independent model.
composed web service is not clear for user who is             Secondly, we use UML activity diagrams to
not familiar with logic based languages. In our          deliver the functionality in a more natural way for
contribution, we propose a solution not only to          the human user. The use of UML activity diagrams
compose workflows from available Grid services,          in the description of workflow application is argued
but also to provide graphical and comprehensive          in several works such as works presented in [1, 10,
models of the resulting workflows. In the same           12, 27]. Thus, the advantage of UML activity
framework, authors in [29] proposed a composition        diagrams is that they provide an effective visual
approach of Web services based on Symbolic               notation and facilitate the analysis of workflows
Transition Systems (STS). They developed a sound         composition.
and complete logical approach for identifying the             In our approach, we propose an UML profile for
existence of available composition. They have            composing systematically a workflow application
emphasized upon the abstract representation of the       from Grid services [5].
composition request (the goal of the composition)
and the representation of the resulting composite        3     THE   INTERACTIVE               WORKFLOW
Web service. For the representation, authors have              COMPOSITION SYSTEM
used UML state machine diagrams [25] which are
suitable only to describe a sequence of component           The system allows an interactive and semantic
services without addressing the other forms of           composition of workflows from Grid services. As
matching services in a workflow such as parallel         shown in figure 1, the system is composed of three
branches or and-branches. On the other hand, UML         components: a Grid Services workflows composer,
activity diagrams that we use in our modelling           an ontological Grid Services registry and a
approach support all kind of workflow composition        workflows execution system also we call it activity
patterns [10] such as parallelism, split and fork. The   machine.
authors in [19, 20, 30] have proposed a Model
Driven Approach for composing manually Web               3.1    The Grid services workflow composer
services. They were based on UML activity diagrams           This system is composed of three components:
to describe the composite Web service and on UML         the composition tool, the transformation tool and the
class diagrams to describe each available Web            verification tool.
Service. The user depicts the suitable Web service
and matches it in the workflow representing the          3.1.1 The composition tool
composite Web service using UML activity                      It provides a graphical interface in the form of
diagrams. This approach would have been better if        UML activity diagrams editor allowing to the user an
the composition were automatically elaborated, since     interactive, systematic and semantic workflow

UbiCC Journal – Volume 4 No. 3                                                                             600
Special Issue on ICIT 2009 Conference - Applied Computing

Figure 1: Different components of the workflow composition system

Composition [6]. This composition is based on the         translates the activity diagram into a Hyper-Graph
composition process which will be detailed in             (HG). This HG will be translated as well by the
section 4.3. In the Grid registry, services are           transformation tool into a NuSMV format file
described in an ontological form with statements          according to a relative semantic. The details of
regarding the service operation's inputs, outputs,        these semantics may not be relevant to the topic for
pre-conditions and effects (the IOPE set) [26].           which the paper is submitted. However these details
Through these notions, the composition system is          could be made available.
able to match different grid service’s operations
into a workflow following a reverse traversal             3.1.3 The verification tool
approach. Thus, and by associating the required                Checking errors in design models like UML
data with the produced output, the composer               activity diagrams is essential since correcting an
constructs a data flow between Grid service’s             error while the system is alive and running is
operations using our workflow composition                 usually very costly [21]. Consequently, workflow
patterns and UML profile[5]. The composer may             activity diagram models should be spotted and
also use a specific notion of effect that may bind        corrected as early as possible [6].
two operations together with non-data dependency.         Several techniques are used in the field of
If the Grid registry fails to find the right operation,   behavioural design verification such as theorem
the composition process stops. Otherwise, the             proving and model checking [11]. The latter is the
composition process will stop when all workflow           most useful because it is fully automatic and gives
dependencies are resolved.                                feedback in case of detected errors. It verifies
     The request is sent to the Ontological Grid          whether some given finite state machine satisfies
Registry in the form of SPARQL query [34]. This           some given property specified in temporal logic [9].
language provides a higher-level access to the            For activity diagrams, symbolic model checking
ontology transcribed knowledge for the automatic          has proven to be an efficient verification technique
discovery and semantic matching of services.              [11]. Thus, our verification tool is based on
     Therefore, once the workflow model is built, it      NuSMV symbolic model checker [9] that supports
should be validated and verified to ensure its            strong fairness property which is necessary to be
reliability before being executed and reused as sub-      verified in a workflow model to obtain realistic
workflow.                                                 results. With the model checker, arbitrary
                                                          propositional requirements can be checked against
3.1.2 The transformation tool                             the input model. If a requirement fails to hold, an
    To support the verification and the execution of      error trace is returned by the model checker. The
workflow models described in UML activity                 transformation tool translates systematically the
diagrams (UML-AD), the transformation tool                error trace into an activity diagram trace by high-

UbiCC Journal – Volume 4 No. 3                                                                           601
Special Issue on ICIT 2009 Conference - Applied Computing

 lighting a corresponding path in the given activity
diagram.                                                 3.3    The workflow execution system
                                                              The reliable workflow model is sent to the
3.2    The Grid registry                                 workflow execution system [6] which produces
     During the workflow composition process, the        implementation code for handling control flow and
Grid registry provides the composer system with          data flow. The activity diagram describing the
the description of services available at the moment      workflow model is translated into a specific XML
and provides reasoning capabilities to enable proper     file which will be the input of the execution system.
matchmaking of services inputs and outputs.              A workflow execution system executes different
     The Grid registry [6] is an ontological             workflow activities specified in the workflow XML
distributed repository of Grid services and sub-         document in the correct order and with their
workflows. This registry is responsible for storing      required inputs and outputs data. The execution of
and managing documents which contains                    an activity corresponds to the invocation of a Grid
descriptions of syntax and semantics of services         service’s operation. The workflow execution
and their operations expressed in an RDF file [33].      system monitors these activities using the tagged
The semantic Web is making available technologies        values information expressed in the activities but
which support automate knowledge sharing. In             does not perform them. An activity of the activity
particular there are several existing initiatives such   diagram modelling the workflow represents a state
as OWL-S [26] which proves that ontologies have a        of the workflow execution system in which the
key role in the automating service discovery and         system waits for an invoked grid service operation
composition. That knowledge is based on semantic         to complete its work. Hence, the defined semantics
descriptions of service classes published by the         of activity diagrams for the verification describe the
service developers and provided in the Grid              behaviour of the execution system. When the
environment [16]. Our Grid registry is based on an       system enters a state relative to an invocation grid
ontological description of services and workflows.       service node or activity ai, it invokes a piece of
      The service ontology [7] provides concepts         behaviour that is executed by the service or system
and properties that allow description and                environment. While the latter is in ai (activity ai is
matchmaking of available services. A part of this        active), it waits for the termination event of the
ontology is common to all services and it is based       invoked piece of behaviour. When termination
on a standard semantic web service description           event occurs, the system reacts by executing the
ontology OWL-S [26] which makes interoperability         outgoing edge E: it leaves the E's sources and enters
with existing services. A part from the common           the E's targets and the execution process continues
ontology, there is a domain specific part of the         for the other activity nodes until the final node is
ontology. The domain service ontology [7] allows         reached.
users to extend the common ontology schema in
order to provide a better specification of services as   4     UML      BASED     INTERACTIVE
well as their inputs and outputs. For these we define          COMPOSITION    OF  WORKFLOWS
a data ontology [7] which provides concepts and                FROM GRID SERVICES
properties for describing services input and outputs.
     Ontology alignment [7] is a process for finding          In order to match and compose different Grid
semantic relationships among the entities of             service’s operations, we need to analyze constructs
ontologies. Its main activity is to find similar         of workflow models at higher abstraction level.
concept in ontologies being aligned, in order to map     Since UML [25] is the core of the MDA [24], we
them. The measures for similarity computation can        use its activity diagram language to model
be divided into two general groups; namely lexical       composed workflows. The composition system
measures and structural measures. Lexical measures       provides to the user a graphical interface to
are based on surface similarity such as title or label   compose its request using a UML profile specific
of entities. In contrary, structural measures try to     for the domain of composing systematically
recognize similarities by considering structures of
ontology graphs. The most advanced similarity            4.1   UML Profile for composing workflows
algorithms use combination of multiple similarity             In this section, we present our UML profile
measures to obtain more information about                which is based on Domain Specific Language
concepts similarity. In our Grid registry, we adopt      (DSL) for customizing UML activity diagrams for
an approach using a combination of lexical and           the systematic composition of workflows from Grid
structural similarity [7].                               services [5].
We use similarity measures for mapping domain                 In our DSL (See Figure 2), an activity of an
ontology as initial selection and then the selection     UML activity diagram represents a Grid service's
will be refined with using structural similarity         operation, while object flows represent the types of
method [7].                                              results which flow from one activity to another.

UbiCC Journal – Volume 4 No. 3                                                                            602
Special Issue on ICIT 2009 Conference - Applied Computing

 Effects binding two operations are presented with       essential in the systematic building of workflow
control flows [5].                                       applications from Grid services. The use of these
     The name of an activity in the diagram              patterns depends on the number of the depicted
represents the name of the Grid service's operation.     Grid Service's operations and their inputs and
This name must be specified as a Grid service could      outputs [5]. These operations are results of the
have more than one operation often called interface      semantic research elaborated by the ontological
which are specified in its relative WSDL file [32].      Grid services registry. This research is invoked by a
     There are two different types of activities: yet-   request given by the composition system in order to
unresolved activities and established activities of      complete an unresolved activity in the workflow.
the composed workflow. The former represent the          The Grid service registry provides zero, one or
need for a Grid Service's operation to be inserted in    more operations producing the intended output.
order to complete the workflow. However, the latter      Operations are depicted to be inserted in the
represent abstract operations that are already           workflow interactively with the user.
included into the workflow.
     As there are two different activity types in a      4.2.1 Sequence Pattern
Grid service workflow model, an activity needs to             When the Grid registry provides one Grid
be typed and specified. To fulfil this, we propose to    service's operation that is able to produce the
use the DSL modelling element invoke to                  required result or the user selects one operation
stereotype an established activity which is used to      from the provided operation set; the composition
invoke an external Grid service's operation and yet-     system uses the sequence pattern to insert the
unresolved to stereotype activities which are not yet    operation in the workflow. In this case and as is
resolved. Object nodes of an established activity are    illustrated by the figure 3, a single abstract
data stereotyped. Unknown input and output for a         operation or activity (e.g. GridService1Operation1)
yet-unresolved activity are unknown stereotyped.         will be inserted in the workflow model described by
     In our UML profile, an object node could be         the UML-AD language. This operation may also
relatedto a final node as composed workflow of           require     some       data     for    itself  (e.g.
Grid application should always deliver a result.         GridService1Operation1Input) and thus it may
                                                         introduce a new unresolved dependency (e.g. the
4.2 UML-AD composition patterns                          yet-unresolved stereotyped activity). So, we use a
    We identify, in this section, how UML activity       follow-up method to build a simple pipeline-type
diagrams support some of basic Grid service              sequential workflow: a sequence pattern.
composition patterns [5]. These patterns are

Figure 2: Meta-model of Grid service workflow composition specific UML activity diagram language

UbiCC Journal – Volume 4 No. 3                                                                           603
Special Issue on ICIT 2009 Conference - Applied Computing

 A Sequence pattern is composed with sequential             to object node representing the required input which
activities which are related with control flow (non         both of them flow to a merge construct.
data operations dependency) or object flow (data                   Semantically, several services instances are
operation dependency).                                      invoked in parallel threads and the merge will only
                                                            wait for the first flow to finish. We distinguish, in
                                                            Figure 5, two different Grid service's operations,
                                                            GridService1Operation1 and GridService2Operation1
                                                            providing the same output data DataOutput.

Figure 3: The sequence pattern

4.2.2 And-branches pattern
     The and-branches pattern is introduced when the        Figure 5: Alternative branches pattern
introduced operation represented by an abstract
UML activity has more than one input. This pattern          4.2.4 Alternative services pattern
is based on the Synchronization pattern presented in                When composing workflows from Grid
[9].                                                        services, a specific matching based on semantic
     This pattern starts with object nodes,                 comparison could provide two or more different Grid
representing alternative operation inputs, which flow       services performing each of them the required
to a join node. The latter is linked to the abstract grid   operation. In such case and when the user do not
service's operation. This operation introduces some         choose one of the depicted Grid service’s operations,
unresolved dependencies in the workflow.                    the composition system uses the alternative services
     Semantically, several services instances are           pattern to involve the operations in the workflow
invoked in parallel threads and the join will wait for      model.
all flows to finish. As illustrated in Figure 4, the                In this pattern, the Grid service’s operation to
operation        of        the       Grid        service    insert is modelled by a composed super-activity with
GridService1Operation1 needs two inputs data                a specified input data object and specified output
GridService1Operation1Input1                         and    data object (Figure 6). The super-activity is
GridService1Operation1Input2. The relative pattern          stereotyped as AlternativeServiceInstance to indicate
produces two parallel threads in the workflow.              that its task may be accomplished by a set of
                                                            alternative service's instances. These alternative
                                                            service instances are described with sub-activities.
                                                            The sub-activities shall be grid service instances and
                                                            thus stereotyped as invoke. It was up to decision
                                                            mechanism of the workflow execution engine to
                                                            choose which service instance in such given
                                                            workflow node is to be invoked and executed. In
                                                            Figure 6, the data DataOutput is provided from
                                                            GridServiceOperation service operation which could
                                                            be        GridService1Operation1       provider       or
                                                            GridService2Operation2 provider.
Figure 4: And-branches pattern

4.2.3 Alternative branches pattern
       When the Grid registry provides more than
one operation able to produce the required result, and
the user do not select one of them, the composition
requires a specific pattern: the alternative branches
       This pattern combines the Exclusive Choice
and Simple Merge patterns presented in [9]. In this
pattern, each alternative service's operation is linked
                                                            Figure 6: Alternative services pattern

UbiCC Journal – Volume 4 No. 3                                                                                 604
Special Issue on ICIT 2009 Conference - Applied Computing

4.3 The composition process
    Figure 7 illustrates the scenario of the             Step 4: If the required operation is found then the
composition process of workflows from available          system displays its characteristics to the user to
Grid services. This composition is based on the          confirm the choice. The register may provide more
domain specific UML activity diagram language            than one operation. In such case the user could
presented in section 4.1. In the following, we           choose the operation to insert in the workflow model
comment the different process steps of the scenario      from the given list. If it does not specify its
presented in the figure 7.                               operation, then the system inserts all the given
                                                         operations using one of the composition patterns
Step 1: The user builds its composition request by       presented in section 4.2. Relatively to the number of
specifying what kind of outcome or result that it        depicted operations and their inputs and outputs, the
expects from the workflow application execution.         composer chooses the right composition pattern.

Step 2: The composition system analyses the desired      Step 5: For each input of inserted operation, the
output and sends a SPARQL query to request the           system defines one unresolved dependency as a
ontologies of the Grid registry describing the           workflow activity which is not yet established. This
available Grid services. The composer requests the       activity depends on some Grid service’s operation.
Grid registry for a Grid service’s operation having      For each unresolved dependency the composer asks
the specified result as output.                          the user if it wants to continue the composition
                                                         process or not. If the response is positive the
Step 3: If the required operation is not found and all   composer re-executes the process from the step 2 to
unknown results are resolved then the composition        resolve the current unresolved dependency.
process stops.

Figure 7: Scenario of the interactive composition of Grid service workflows based on UML activity diagrams

UbiCC Journal – Volume 4 No. 3                                                                           605
Special Issue on ICIT 2009 Conference - Applied Computing

5   Illustration of     the   interactive   workflow      the composer system is able to match different
    composition                                           operations into a workflow following a reverse
                                                          traversal approach. Thus, and by associating the
     In the following, we illustrate the composition      required data with the produced output, the composer
process through the example of the domain of the          constructs a data flow between operation using
city traffic pollution analysis. This application, as     workflow patterns and our UML profile [5]. The
presented in [23], targets the computation of traffic     composer may also use a specific notion of effect
air pollutant emission in an urban area.                  that may bind two operations together with non-data
     Step 1: Figure 8 shows an example of initial         dependency. In [10], five basic control patterns were
workflow that represents a composition request for        defined to be supported by all workflow languages
the results of the pollutant emission due to the city     and workflow products. These patterns are Sequence
traffic. The desired result, PollutionEmission, is        pattern, Parallel split pattern, Synchronization
described by the rectangle representing the object        pattern, Exclusive Choice and Simple Merge
node in the relative activity diagram.                    patterns. Figure 10 represents the example of city
                                                          traffic analysis Workflow after the full composition
                                                          activity. It involves several Grid service operations,
                                                          sequence branches, parallel split branches, simple
                                                          merge branches and a loop [5]. The loop is involved
                                                          in the workflow diagram as the application iterates in
                                                          order to analyze the possible traffic. The Figure
                                                          shows also how UML activity diagrams support the
                                                          five basic patterns in the composition specific
                                                          domain of Grid services workflows [5]. In the
Figure 8: Initial workflow as a composition request       example, some of object node or input data, such as
                                                          VehiculeType and StartZonzId, are given by the user
     Step 2: Figure 9 represents the workflow of the      of the application; they do not have an operation
computation of traffic air pollution analysis after one   provider. This illustrates the interaction between our
step of composition.        The service’s operation,      composition system and the user.
delivering the PollutionEmission result, is
AirPollutionEmissionCalculator. This operation is
the result of the composer query asked to the
ontological Grid registry. The operation requires two
inputs TrafficFlowFile and PathsLenght-File, thus
it infers two unresolved dependencies in the activity
diagram modelling the composed workflow.

Figure 9: An example of workflow after one step of

     Step 3: For every dependency that needs to be
resolved .i.e. a yet-unresolved activity, the composer
contacts the ontological registry in order to find
suitable service’s operations that may produce the
required result. The services are described in an
ontological form with statements regarding the
service operation’s inputs, outputs, preconditions and    Figure 10: The workflow application after the full
effects (the IOPE set) [26]. Through these notions,       composition

UbiCC Journal – Volume 4 No. 3                                                                             606
Special Issue on ICIT 2009 Conference - Applied Computing

6    CONCLUSION                                              Interactive Composition of UML-AD for the
                                                             Modelling of Workflow Applications, In. Proc.
    In this paper, we have presented an approach for         Of the 4th      International Conference on
composing interactively workflows from Grid                  Information Technology, ICIT'2009, Amman,
services [2, 3, 4, 6]. This composition is based on an       Jordan (2009).
UML profile for customizing UML activity diagrams
to compose and model workflows [5] and on                [7] Y. Bendaly Hlaoui, L. Jemni Ben Ayed:
composition patterns [5] as well. The interactive            Ontological Description of Grid Services
composition process was illustrated through the              Supporting Automatic Workflow Composition,
example of city traffic pollution analysis domain [23]       In. Proc. Of the International Conference on
We have developed and implemented most of the                Web      and    Information       Technologies,
presented components of the composition system.              ICWIT'2009, Kerkennah, Tunisia, ACM
    Actually, we are working on the implementation           SIGAPP.fr, IHE éditions, pp. 233-243 (2009).
of the workflow execution system that invokes and
executes the depicted Grid service instances and         [8] M. Bubak, R. Guballa, M. Kapalka, M.
manages the control and data flows in a run time             Malawski, K. Rycerz: Workflow Composer and
environment relatively to our proposed activity              service registry for grid applications, Journal of
diagram semantic.                                            Future Generation Computer Systems, Vol. 21,
                                                             pp. 79-86 (2005).

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UbiCC Journal – Volume 4 No. 3                                                                            607
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UbiCC Journal – Volume 4 No. 3                                                                           608

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