Core Architecture

This is the reference architecture for an Xalgorithms implementation. There may be many different implementations of this architecture. They will depend on technical context and the specific needs of the implementors. This document serves to illustrate the basic components and behaviours of any of those implementations.

Once upon a time, in Canada, there was a store called Consumer’s Distributing. It was an incredibly simple place. There were several kiosks with product catalogs on them and a few queues for taking customer orders. To make a purchase at this store, you browsed the catalog to find what it was that you wanted to buy. You wrote down the SKUs of each item on a specially prepared order sheet. When you finished writing everything you wanted onto the paper, you took it to one of the queues where a cashier would go into a warehouse in the back of the store to pick your orders. After a few minutes the clerk would return with your product or tell you that they did not have it in stock.

This story is an illustrative example of the way that the Xalgorithms is designed. Quite simply: Xalgorithms is a “store” where “rules” are ordered from a catalog and given to the “customer” for their use.

Throughout this document we will refer back to this analogy and we will use the various elements from it to illustrate how the solution would function.

Breaking down the analogy

Artifacts

There are some atomic elements in the Xalgorithms architecture that need explaining. If you consider the architecture a story, consider these the nouns.

The Product

The core “product” of this solution is called a rule. A rule is truth table that can be evaluated in the context of a “document” provided by an integrated solution. A document is a hierarchical collection of key-value pairs represented in JSON format. Using this format, integrated solutions can properly represent the context in which a rule should be evaluated.

Rules also include meta-information that determines whether the rule applies in particular contexts.

For example: The order sheet in our analogy could be represented by a JSON array in a document:

{
  "orders" : [
    { "SKU": "AF12345", "description" : "Light bulb", "price" : 6.95 },
    { "SKU": "ZZ54321", "description" : "Toaster oven", "price" : "149" }
  ]
}

Evaluating this document in the context of our analogy, there are a number of immediately obvious rules that might be applied to it. For one, there’s no sales tax in the order document, a rule could be written to determine the correct taxes based on the price key. That rule could even include tax exceptions based on the type of product.

The Customer

The “customer” in this solution is another software solution that has the goal of standardizing its behaviour against a common set of shared rules. These rules could apply to many different domains - this solution is domain-agnostic and does not constrain itself to any one in particular.

An example of another software solution could be an application that manages a set of Consumer’s Distributing stores. We will visit this in more detail later on when discussing an example deployment.

The Warehouse

Behind every store is a warehouse stocked with the products that appear in the catalog. Each one of them has a unique identifier that allows a clerk to quickly locate the product for the customer. If you look behind the scenes this is not a single warehouse - it is a supply chain of interconnected warehouses. We might imagine that in each region where there are stores, there are regional warehouses that stock products that sell well in that region. Each store warehouse might itself be stocked with products that sell well in that store. Between these warehouses is a logistics network that refines and maintains a steady supply of in-demand products.

Similarly, in this solution, we have a “warehouse” of “products”. This “warehouse” is called a rule reserve. This is a versioned data store that contains files that follow a standard schema. Each file is a single rule. The reserve serves to organize the rules, and act as a network service that supplies the rules when they need to be evaluated.

There is no single rule reserve. There is a network of reserves where each individual reserve is simply a peer.

Producers and consumers of rules might each talk to more that one reserve in order to retrieve rules for multiple domains (or some other partitioning factor). There may be authoritative reserves that contain a large volume of rules where competing consumers or producers can trust that the contained rules follow agreed upon standards. There may be downstream reserves that filter the rule sets from larger reserves in order to satisfy a particular application.

The Catalog

In order for a customer to efficiently locate the products they want to buy, the store provides a catalog. The catalog contains broad categories of products and an index for quick reference. Similarly, there is a catalog of rules called a rulelog.

The rulelog stores meta-information about rules, but not the rules themselves, The rulelog includes a unique reference that can be used to retrieve each rule. This meta-information is optimized to make applying the in-effect and applicable filtering as performant as possible.

Since there can be multiple rule reserves, the catalog is an aggregation of the rules in one or more reserves. This might be a complete aggregation where all of the rules in all associated reserves are represented or it might be a subset of the rule where the aggregation has been filtered down to a particular concern.

The catalog is a single data file that can be easily transmitted across a network.

Major Roles

Where the artifacts where the nouns, the roles are the verbs. They are active actors that cause information and control to move throughout the solution. The activity of each role is broken down into multiple stages.

These stages allow for variance in implementations and deployments of this architecture. We have designed the solution to allow both us and other implementors to author different modules and services that act in these roles and their stages.

Production of Rules

All of the products in the store must be produced in a factory. Similarly, rules are produced by rule authors.

The XA Rule Maker (XA-RM) is used by rule authors to create or update rules. It is capable of communicating with one or more reserves. We expect that XA-RM would be a complete application or, at least, a broad set of recommended application components that could be assembled into a working application.

Describe

Maintain

Compile

Distribution of Rules

As previously mentioned, we will need to provide an aggregate catalog spanning rule reserves that concern a particular integration application.

Disseminate

Application of Rules

In the actual store, customers browse the catalog and select the products that they would like to buy. Similarly, an integrated application will need to filter, select and apply rules that are appropriate for its domain. This capability is provided by a component called XA Rule Taker (XA-RT). We do not anticipate that XA-RT would be a complete application in its own right, merely a reusable library or module.

Any implementation of XA-RT should be able to process any information in the catalog and apply the protocol.

Accomplish

Evaluate

Deployment Constellations

An Example Implementation