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"A method of handling a data request' 

Technical Field 

5 This invention relates to the field of data distribution and in particular to a method of 
handling a data request by exporting data from at least one database to at least one 
receiver via an intermediary server 

Background of the Invention 

10 

At present, data may be stored in many different formats and database applications 
are stored in distributed storage media. When electronic data processing was in its 
infancy, companies developed highly different in-house database formats and 
approaches, Not only was there a difference in the individual format and approach 
15 from company to company but there also existed differences in the format and 
approach in database applications in companies having more than one database. 
There developed a need for companies to be able to supply information to its 
workforce from a number of different databases with each database having its own 
individual format 

20 

There exists numerous different technologies available today to allow variable access 
to the different database formats. One solution to the problem is to provide a specific 
interface for each company application that must be accessed. This has the 
disadvantage that not only do the specific interfaces take up valuable time and 

2 5 resources to develop and maintain, but Ihe staff must become familiar with a number 

of different application interfaces which requires further time and expenditure on 
training. Heretofore, this solution has been found to be unsatisfactory and several 
other approaches have been taken to provide a more comprehensive solution. 

3 o One such approach taken by Microsoft Corporation [Registered Trade Mark] are their 

interface systems OLE DB (Object Linking and Embedding Database) and ODBC 
(Open Database Connectivity), These interface systems allow different applications 
to share information from the same database and for different applications to access 
the same databases. They allow the user to export data from various relational and 



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non-relational data sources and import that data into these databases. By using 
these interface techniques, it is relatively simple to link new applications to existing 
databases and platforms. It permits uniform access to highly different data and 
database formats. 

5 

In addition, there exists a UN standard for exchanging structured information between 
different organisations and companies in the fields of administration, commerce and 
transportation- This standard is termed EDIFACT (Electronic Data Interchange for 
Administration, Commerce and Transport), Converters are used in this standard that 
10 extract information from business applications and transfer it into the standardised 
form of EDIFACT, These converters are also used to transfer this information to the 
corresponding recipients. 

In addition, the CORBA system (Common Object Request Broker Architecture) exists 
15 that was presented in 1991 by Object Management Group (OMG), CORBA allows 
communication between a wide variety of applications at separate locations. CORBA 
defines data-transmission-neutral exchange formats for the different linked 
applications. The image of the format is done automatically- Changing the format 
means that the application must be redesigned and reconverted. CORBA is focused 
20 on distributing and finding information. 

A further disadvantage of the systems already described is that the applications must 
be linked directly and statically to the databases or other applications and they have 
to be recreated or the assigned links must be redefined when structures change. 

2 5 With today's mobile workforce, this can be not only prohibitive but impractical also. 

With mobile workforces, having direct static links are undesirable. Another 
disadvantage of the above-mentioned systems is that data from a database can only 
be accessed if the database permits immediate access to the user and furthermore, 
data may only be sent from the database to the respective client application if rt is 

3 0 directly linked to that database. Consequently, the proposed solutions have been 

largely unsatisfactory due to relatively high cost and linking requirements. 

Therefore, it is an object of the present invention to provide a method of handling a 
data request to exchange information between a database and a receiver without the 



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receiver having to be permanently connected to the database. 
Summary of the invention 

In accordance with the present invention, there is provided a method of handling a 
data request by exporting data from at least one database to at least one receiver via 
an intermediary server, the intermediary server comprising at least one database 
adapter and a memory buffer for temporary storage of data, the method comprising 
the steps of> 

(a) transmitting the data request from the intermediary server to the 
database; 

(b) retrieving the requested data from the database; 

(c) assigning the data with a unique ID number; 

(d) transmitting the requested data and unique ID number to the 
intermediary server; 

(e) passing the requested data through the relevant database adapter to 
transform the date into receiver readable format and storing the 
transformed data and unique ID number in the memory buffer; and 

25 (f) transmitting the transformed date and unique ID number to the 

receiver when the receiver is next enabled to receive the data. 

By using the above method, the receiver need not be connected to the database 
permanently. Any number of adapters may be provided at the intermediary server for 
30 the transformation of data from the databases so that access to any number of 
databases is possible for the receiver. The receiver may download the data from the 
intermediary sen/er the next time rt connects to the intermediary server The unique 
ID is shared between the databases, the intermediary server and the receiver, so that 
they alt can identify the data being transferred. The unique ID number may identify 



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the respective database or alternatively it may represent the information itself or 
indeed a combination of the two. The ID number may contain a destination address. 
Again, by using this method, the data may be tracked as it passes through the 
system. 

5 

In another embodiment of the invention, the data is requested from the database at 
predetermined intervals by the server. The server may demand an update on the 
data in the database from the database at regular intervals so that it will have up-to- 
date information on its memory buffer. By having up-to-date information on its 
10 memory buffer, rt may provide receivers with that up-to-date information that is 
already in its memory buffer without having to request the information from the 
database. Alternatively, the data request may originate at the receiver. When the 
receiver desires information, rt may request data from the database via the 
intermediary server. It may do so at predetermined regular intervals. 

15 

By way of the method according to the invention, \X is possible to couple any 
electronic data processing (EDP) application with another. Different business 
applications often fundamentally differ as to how they offer information to other 
applications. Frequently, this cannot be done directly. Corresponding interfaces can 

20 be designed as so-called application programming interfaces (APIs) or database 
interfaces. Just as access interfaces differ, the presentation formats of data differ 
that are used in business applications. The presentation formats of data are hence to 
be viewed as information from databases that is to be exchanged between the 
individual business applications or between a database and a client application. The 

25 procedure according to the invention is also suitable for this transfer of the 
presentation data, 

in another embodiment of the invention, the data with a particular unique ID may be 
compared against the corresponding data in a database. This may be done at 
3 0 regular Intervals and only the data which has been updated will be written to the 
memory holding the older version. This cuts down on communication traffic. The 
database or the intermediary server may request that such comparison take place. 
Since the data records from business applications are advantageously buffered, the 
data records in the databases do not have to be blocked or locked. By means of a 



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suitable data synchronisation process, the data or information and its structure and 
presentation is always kept current in the server or its assigned memory. The data is 
imported into the database on the database controllers request. 

S In a still further embodiment of the invention, the data may be altered at the receiver 
and retransmitted back to the database via the intermediary server. It may be 
temporarily stored in the memory buffer of the intermediary server until such time that 
the database requests the updated data from the intermediary server. This updated 
data may be made readily available to other receivers who may wish to download the 

10 data to obtain Wie most up-to-data version. In this way, it may be seen that the 
method according to the invention uses prior art technologies to transform and 
transmit static information from diiferent applications- The method according to the 
invention is, however, also able to exchange dynamic information between the 
databases and the receivers. The procedure can also be viewed as an application 

15 adapter which is connected between the databases and at least one receiver or the 
client application^) that it uses. 

By dynamic information* we mean information that is subject to change, for example, 
by insertion or changing of a data record. This information must be offered to the 
2 0 respective receivers. 

Given this flexible design of the method according to the invention, structured and 
unstructured data can be easily processed using prior art technologies and interfaces 
or access technologies to access data in relational databases or e.g. E-mail 
25 applications. The present procedure offers a universal technology that unifies 
technologies that are usually limited to a special field- It is also easy to assign and 
send information to other components. During processing of information, it is often 
necessary to process or provide information from other applications. The method 
according to the invention can also be used in this case as well, 

30 

When information is read out of databases, the metadata of the database are 
transformed into a uniform metadata model. The transformed data in the uniform 
metadata model are buffered with an individual ID and presented for transmission to 
the respective receiver. The receivers can connect at any time to the electronic 



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device and the connected memory buffers. After connecting, the respective 
information is transmitted to the receiver. Then the receiver can be disconnected 
from the intermediary server and the information can be changed when the server is 
disconnected, or new information can be created based on the structures of exi$ting 
5 information. If the receiver is connected to the intermediary server again, only the 
information that was changed or added is transmitted to the electronic device and 
then sent to the respective database. When sending data from the intermediary 
server to the respective database, the data is retransformed and the procedure 
automatically harmonises the structures or generates a signal if the harmonisation 
10 fails. If data is not transferred successfully, it is not deleted from the sending entity's 
memory. An administrator can return the information to the respective database 
manually and no information is lost This ensures greater reliability and security for 
the data in the database. 

15 As already stated, information is saved in databases in a structured form or in 
unstructured data sources. With Enmaii systems, the structure e.g. consists of the 
information units "sender", "receiver", "subject* and "text". This description of the 
information units is termed metadata in the following. In the example of E-mail, the 
metadata are static. With databases for a delivery system, the metadata are 

2 o changeable. There are three types of changes in metadata, namely: 

1 . the generation of new metadata (creation of a new table in the database), 

2. the change of existing metadata (addition, deletion or change in a table), and 

3. the deletion of existing metadata (deletion of a table or database)^ 

25 

It is also advantageously possible to define a profile for a receiver ( or a group of 
receivers) so that they are all updated at the same time or so that specific information 
is automatically transmitted to the group from specific databases, and the current 
information from the database is always available to the receivers. The groups may 

3 0 be updated at regular intervals or any time the data in the database changes. It is 

possible to link information from specific databases to information of the same or 
different database so that when data is exported, additional Information from other 
dataoases is aiso read out and simultaneously transmitted to the respective receiver 



It is also possible for databases to automatically transmit changed information to 
adapters using a notification mechanism. It is possible to send messages or 
notifications to the server or adapter and not the information itself so that the server 
or adapter can export the information from the respective database when it is ready 
to do so. It is also possible to set up the adapter so that it wOl examine databases at 
specific intervals. If the data has changed, it is exported and saved to be sent to 
receivers linked with this data. In addition, the method can offer form layouts and 
form structure data to be processed in a form design tool so that the form layout and 
structure data can also be buffered up-to-data, and the client applications can be 
automatically adapted to the changed form layouts and structure data of the 
respective database or uniform metadata modeL Such form layout data can also be 
generated and saved on the intermediary server in the process according to the 
invention and transmitted as needed to the respective client application. The 
procedure or adapter according to me invention can monitor information and its 
status , changes. A status change is understood to be the generation of new 
information or the change and deletion of existing information. 

In another embodiment of the invention, there is provided a computer implemented 
system for accessing databases operated by independent electronic processing 
devices comprising:- 



(a) a plurality of receivers; 



(b) an intermediary server; 

(c) a communications network connecting the processing devices and the 
server and the receivers and the server, at least the receivers and the 
server being only intermittently connected; 

(d) translation means in the server to accept data tram the database and 
convert the accepted data into a format suitable for transmission to 
the receiver; 



means to assign a unique JD to data in a database on accepting data 



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from the database; 

(f) a storage buffer for the tD and converted data; and 

5 (g) means on the receiver being enabled to communicate with the server, 

downloading the data and ID to the receiver. 

The system described above is seen as suitable for the distribution of data from at 
least one database to a receiver that is not permanently linked with the database. 

10 Such a system can provide added security to data integrity when data is being 
exchanged amongst receivers and databases. It is understood that the receiver on 
the intermediary server may be provided with means to request data from the 
databases. They may have means to request data at predetermined intervals and 
the receiver may be provided with means to alter data and retransmit that altered 

15 data back to the intermediary server. A system of this kind could have a fully 
updated dynamic database that is available to any number of mobile receivers. 

Brief Description of the Drawings 

20 

The invention will be now more clearly understood by way of example only with 
reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:- 

Fig. 1 is a block diagram of an architecture suitable for use in the method 

2 s according to the invention; 

Fig. 2 is a flow diagram for configuring the method according to the invention 
for the architecture of Fig. 1; 

3 0 Hg. 3 is a flow diagram of a data request according to the invention; 

Fig. 4 is a flow diagram illustrating the request and transfer of data; and 
Fig. 5 is a flow diagram illustrating the return of data to a database. 



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Detailed Description of the Drawings 

Referring now to the drawings and in particular to Fig. 1, there is provided a block 
5 diagram of an architecture suitable for use by the method, indicated generally by the 
reference numeral 10. The architecture 10 is divided into three distinct stages, a 
database stage 12, an intermediary server stage 14 and a receiver stage 16. 

The database stage 12 further comprises a plurality of databases 18 which include, 
10 but are not limited to, an OLE DB T an SAP R.3, a Helpdesk system, a file system and 
an email server. The intermediary server stage comprises a plurality of database 
adapters 20, a session server 22 and memory buffers 24. Each database adapter 20 
corresponds to a database 18 in the database stage. The receiver stage 16 
comprises a plurality of receivers including but not limited to clients 26 T a design 
15 centre 28 and an administrative environment 30. The receivers are connected to the 
session server 22 via a suitable transmission path, most iikely a mobile 
communications network. 

A date request is passed from the intermediary server 14 to the database stage 12. 

20 Data is retrieved from the appropriate database 18 and given a unique ID number. 
The data and ID are transmitted to the intermediary server 16 and the data is passed 
through the appropriate database adapter 20 that corresponds to the database from 
which the data originated, i.e. data from an OLE DB databank may be accessed 
using an ODBC adapter. The data is converted into receiver readable format and the 

25 converted data and ID are stored in the memory buffers 24 of the intermediary 
server, ready for transmission to the receiver at the next available opportunity. 

For example, data from a helpdesk system may be required. The data is retrieved 
from the relevant database and assigned an ID number. The data and ID are then 
3 o transmitted to the intermediary server, the data being passed through a helpdesk 
adapter to transform the data from the helpdesk database into a format that is 
readable by the receiver, which in this case may be a client 26. The transformed 
data and ID are then stored in the memory buffers of the intermediary server untit 
such a time that the client is able to retrieve the data, La. the next time the client 



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connects to the intermediary server. When the client downloads the data, the ID is 
also transmitted to the dient This way, it is possible for the client to return the data 
received from the server back to the server with any changes/modifications that may 
have been made along with the same ID number. By keeping the same ID number, 
the data may be altered before being reconverted into database acceptable format 
and passed bade to the correct database as required. The intermediary server has 
memory buffers to temporarily store data such as application data, structural 
information, user information and form information. The whole procedure may be 
controlled by the intermediary server and in particular the session server 22. 

Referring now to Fig. 2, there is shown a flow diagram for configuring the method for 
the architecture shown in Fig. 1. In step 202, existing metadata in the databases of 
the database stage are imported via the respective adapter and converted into an 
internal format The determined data types are translated into the internal data types 
of the adapter. Some examples of internal data types are number (int., short, long, 
byte, word, dword), decimal (float, double), date, time, time stamp, string, blob (binary 
large object) and compound data types {structures). All data types have attributes 
that e.g. establish the maximum length in the case of a data type string. The interna* 
format of this information may be, for example, XML. An example of an email 
metadata is:- 

<metadata> 

<name>email</name> 
<fields> 

<field name= ri sendertvpe=s p string ,, length :::: aO></field> 
<field name«"receiver J, type= n string H length!=8Q></field> 
<field name^"subjecrtype="string w length=aQ></fieid> 
<field name*lext^e= i, string n length=32000></field> 

<fields> 

</metadata> 

The metadata may be converted into the internal format either manually or 
automatically depending on the design and power of the system. Once the user 
information has been transferred, it is determined, at step 204, whether a notification 



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handler or a timer is to be installed. If a notification handler is to be installed, this 
may be done at step 206, however, if a timer is to be installed, this may be set up in 
step 208. If a notification handler is installed, then we have what is called passive 
monitoring. This is selected when the target application or the information supplier 
5 provides a notification mechanism- An application may register as a receiver for 
notification and if data in the system changes, the registered receiver is notified of the 
change and may update its data accordingly. A component of the notification may be 
the ID of the changed information, in which case, the relevant adapter determines 
and transforms the data and sends it to the server. If a timer is installed, at step 208, 

10 we have active monitoring in which case the timer will cause the server to request 
data from the database at predetermined intervals. By using the above, the user 
information may be exported from the respective database at specific intervals and 
compared with the save information. The most current user information is 
continuously administered and saved by the server, in step 210, the current form 

is information is transferred and at step 212, it is determined whether or not a 
notification handler is to be installed at step 214 or whether a timer is to be set up at 
step 216. 

A notification handler can only be set up when the respective database can 
20 automatically generate a signal when its database changes. The signal informs the 
server that the database has changed so that the server can then update the 
information on its memory via the respective adapter. If a corresponding notification 
system does not exist for the respective database, a corresponding timer can be set 
up to periodically request the respective information. 

25 

In steps 218 to 224, the structural information is initialised. At step 218, the structural 
information is transferred and at step 220, it is determined whether a notification 
handler is to be installed at step 222 or whether a timer is to be set up at step 224. 
Again, this will largely depend on the capabilities of tine databases being accessed. 
3 0 Finally, in steps 226 to 232, the application date is initialised by transferring the 
current application data in step 226, determining whether active notification of status 
and change of application data is possible and if so, installing a notification handler at 
step 230. If it is not possible to nave active notification, then a timer is set up at stage 
232, This concludes the initialisation of the system. The sequence may of course be 



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altered. Once the initialisation procedure has been completed, the data in the 
databases is monitored for changes. 

As mentioned, an 10 is generated for each exported information unit that is added to 
5 the information unit. If an information unit passes through several changes in status, 
the procedure ensures that the information unit is always issued the same ID. The ID 
may be issued by the databases or alternatively by the intermediary server when a 
piece of data is initially requested. 

10 An example of assigning an ID to an email would be as follows:- 

<data> 

<metadata>email</metadata> //associated structure des<x 
<status>update</status> //or new 

15 <swuoid>em2802644001</swuoid> //information unitiD 

<adapter>em001 </adapter> //adapter !D 

<fields> 

<filed name = 11 sender"> 
xxx @ yyy.com 

20 fieid> 

<field name = , .receiver^ 
aaa @ bbb.com 

field> 

<field name = „subjecf> 

25 XXX 

field> 

<fiefd name = „texO 
hello 

field> 

30 data* 

Fig. 3 is a flow diagram of event processing according to the invention. The start of 
the system is identified ai step 302. After the start, the system is configured at 304, 
The system configuration is shown in Fig. 2 and has already been described. After 



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the system is configured, a wait loop 306 is run until either a timer has run out and 
the periodic request for information has started, or a notification has been received 
from a database. Such notifications or active requests for information are shown as 
steps 308, 31 4, 320 and 326, These relate to a notification or active request for 
5 application information, farm information* user information and structural information 
respectively. These notifications steps proceed a request for data, the transportation 
and transfer of data steps. The respective information from the database is 
requested and transformed into receiver readable format The respective program 
steps for requesting, transforming and transferring the data subsequent to a 

10 notification or active request are identified as steps 310, 316, 322 and 328. For 
example, if a notification for user information is received at step 320, the information 
will be requested, transformed into receiver readable format and transferred to the 
receiver at step 322 if it is possible to do so at that time. If it is not possible to transfer 
it directly, it is stored in the server memory buffer. When the transfer is complete and 

is the request is finished, the method proceeds to step 324 before returning back to 
step 306, When all data has been transferred the system finishes on step 332. 

Fig. 4 is a flow diagram illustrating such a request and transfer of data. Staring the 
program from step 402 that e.g. can correspond to the configuration of the system 

2 0 (step 304 in Fig. 3), a query is issued at step 404 regarding whether a timer has been 
installed (active monitoring) or whether passive monitoring should be implemented. If 
passive monitoring has been installed, program step 406 is executed and the system 
waits for a notification of the respective data of the respective database. If active 
monitoring has been set up, program step 404 branches to program step 408, the 

2 5 timer is initialised and the process waits until the timer has run out 

After notification has been received or the timer has expired, program step 410 is 
executed. The information from the respective database is requested. Then the 
information is transformed into the internal model format according to program step 
30 412 and saved. If it is possible to transfer the information to the respective receiver, 
the information is sent to it in step 414. If additional information is linked to the 
request4ed information, the loop consisting of program steps 410 to 414 and 416 is 
run until ait information has been requested. Then the procedure branches to step 
408 or 406 depending on the selected type of monitoring (active or passive). 



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The program steps in Fig, 4 can be identical for ail the data such as user data, 
structural information or form information. 

5 The branching in program step 416 (where the process checks whether dependent 
information must be extracted from or sent to other databases according to set rules) 
depends on the established profiles and rules. Using the metadata, these rules 
define the relationship between two information types, Dependent information units 
are determined by the value of a field. All information units of the adapter that are 
10 defined as dependent and which contain the same values for a specific field are 
requested or extracted and transferred according to the above-described procedure. 

Fig* 5 shows the return of information from a client application to the respective 
database. At step 502, new or changed information is transferred from the client 

15 application to the system. The data is then converted from receiver readable format 
to application format at step 504. By referring to the transferred ID, the adapter can 
determine the data in the respective database or the target application and 
correspondingly reenter it ( overwrite it or delete it, depending on the status. This is 
achieved at step 506. At step 508, the server checks to see if the transfer was 

20 successful, if the data cannot be transferred directly to the target application or the 
database, the data is buffered at step 510 by the server on its memory. As soon as 
the data can be transferred, the respective adapter transfers it and deletes the 
buffered information from the associated memory depending on the status. The 
intermediary server may await a "transmission complete" message from the database 

25 before deleting the data and this will provide better data integrity as data is never 
deleted from the sending entity until it has been fully received by the recipient 

The embodiments in the invention described with reference to the drawings comprise 
computer apparatus and processes performed in computer apparatus* However, the 
3 o invention also extends to computer programs, particularly computer programs stored 
on or in a carrier adapted to bring the invention into practice. The program may be in 
the form of source code, object code, or a code intermediate source and object code, 
such as in partially compiled form or in any other form suitable for use in the 
implementation of the method according to the invention. The carrier may comprise 



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a storage medium such as ROM, e.g. CD ROM, or magnetic recording medium, e.g. 
a floppy disk or hard disk. The carrier may be an electrical or optical signal which 
may be transmitted via an electrical or an optical cable or by radio of other means. 

5 In th& specification the terms "comprise, comprises, comprised and comprising" or 
any variation thereof and the terms include, includes, induded and including" or any 
variation thereof are considered to be totally interchangeable and they should all be 
afforded the widest possible intBjpretafon. 

10 The invention is not limited to the embodiments hereinbefore described but may be 
varied in both construction and detail.