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The next integration evolution — blockchain – TechCrunch

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Here is one way to look at distributed ledger technologies (DLT) and blockchain in the context of integration evolution. Over the years, businesses and their systems are getting more integrated, forming industry-specific trustless networks, and blockchain technology is in the foundation of this evolutionary step.

Enterprise integration

Large organizations have a large number of applications running in separate silos that need to share data and functionality in order to operate in a unified and consistent way. The process of linking such applications within a single organization, to enable sharing of data and business processes, is called enterprise application integration (EAI).

Similarly, organizations also need to share data and functionality in a controlled way among themselves. They need to integrate and automate the key business processes that extend outside the walls of the organizations. The latter is an extension of EAI and achieved by exchanging structured messages using agreed upon message standards referred to as business-to-business (B2B) integration.

Fundamentally, both terms refer to the process of integrating data and functionality that spans across multiple systems and sometimes parties. The systems and business processes in these organizations are evolving, and so is the technology enabling B2B unification.

Evolution of integration

There isn’t a year when certain integration technologies became mainstream; they gradually evolved and built on top of each other. Rather than focusing on the specific technology and year, let’s try to observe the progression that happened over the decades and see why blockchain is the next technology iteration.

Evolution of integration technologies

Next we will explore briefly the main technological advances in each evolutionary step listed in the table above.

Data integration

This is one of the oldest mechanisms for information access across different systems with the following two primary examples:

  • Common database approach is used for system integration within organizations.
  • File sharing method is used for within and cross-organization data exchange. With universal protocols such as FTP, file sharing allows exchange of application data running across machines and operating systems.

But both approaches are non-real-time, batch-based integrations with limitations around scalability and reliability.

Functionality integration

While data integration provided non-real-time data exchange, the methods described here allow real-time data and importantly functionality exchange:

  • Remote procedure call provides significant improvements over low-level socket-based integration by hiding networking and data marshaling complexity. But it is an early generation, language-dependent, point-to-point, client-server architecture.
  • Object request broker architecture (with CORBA, DCOM, RMI implementations) introduces the broker component, which allows multiple applications in different languages to reuse the same infrastructure and talk to each other in a peer-to-peer fashion. In addition, the CORBA model has the notion of naming, security, concurrency, transactionality, registry and language-independent interface definition.
  • Messaging introduces temporal decoupling between applications and ensures guaranteed asynchronous message delivery.

So far we have seen many technology improvements, but they are primarily focused on system integration rather than application integration aspects. From batch to real-time data exchange, from point-to-point to peer-to-peer, from synchronous to asynchronous, these methods do not care or control what is the type of data they exchange, nor force or validate it. Still, this early generation integration infrastructure enabled B2B integrations by exchanging EDI-formatted data for example, but without any understanding of the data, nor the business process, it is part of.

With CORBA, we have early attempts of interface definitions, and services that are useful for application integration.

Service-oriented architecture

The main aspects of SOA that are relevant for our purpose are Web Services standards. XML providing language-independent format for exchange of data, SOAP providing common message format and WSDL providing an independent format for describing service interfaces, form the foundation of web services. These standards, combined with ESB and BPM implementations, made integrations focus on the business integration semantics, whereas the prior technologies were enabling system integration primarily.

Web services allowed systems not to exchange data blindly, but to have machine readable contracts and interface definitions. Such contracts would allow a system to understand and validate the data (up to a degree) before interacting with the other system.

I also include microservices architectural style here, as in its core, it builds and improves over SOA and ESBs. The primary evolution during this phase is around distributed system decomposition and transition from WS to REST-based interaction.

In summary, this is the phase where, on top of common protocols, distributed systems also got common standards and contracts definitions.

Blockchain-based integration

While exchanging data over common protocols and standards helps, the service contracts do not provide insight about the business processes hidden behind the contracts and running on remote systems. A request might be valid according to the contract, but invalid depending on the business processes’ current state. That is even more problematic when integration is not between two parties, as in the client-server model, but among multiple equally involved parties in a peer-to-peer model.

Sometimes multiple parties are part of the same business process, which is owned by no one party but all parties. A prerequisite for a proper functioning of such a multi-party interaction is transparency of the common business process and its current state. All that makes the blockchain technology very attractive for implementing distributed business processes among multiple parties.

This model extends the use of shared protocols and service contracts with shared business processes and contained state. With blockchain, all participating entities share the same business process in the form of smart contracts. But in order to validate the requests, process and come to the same conclusion, the business processes need also the same state, and that is achieved through the distributed ledger. Sharing all the past states of a smart contract is not a goal by itself, but a prerequisite of the shared business process runtime.

Looked at from this angle, blockchain can be viewed as the next step in the integration evolution. As we will see below, blockchain networks act as a kind of distributed ESB and BPM machinery that are not contained within a single business entity, but spanning multiple organizations.

Integration technology moving into the space between systems

First the protocols (such as FTP), then the API contracts (WSDL, SOAP) and now the business processes themselves (smart contracts) and their data are moving outside of the organizations, into the common shared space, and become part of the integration infrastructure. In some respect, this trend is analogous to how cross-cutting responsibilities of microservices are moving from within services into the supporting platforms.

With blockchain, common data models and now business processes are moving out of the organizations into the shared business networks. Something to note is that this move is not universally applicable and it is not likely to become a mainstream integration mechanism. Such a move is only possible when all participants in the network have the same understanding of data models and business processes; hence, it is applicable only in certain industries where the processes can be standardized, such as finance, supply chain, health care, etc.

Generations of integrations

Having done some chronological technology progression follow-up, let’s have a more broad look at the B2B integration evolution and its main stages.

First generation: system integration protocols

This is the generation of integration technology before CORBA and SOA, enabling mainly data exchange over common protocols but without an understanding of the data, contracts and business processes:

  • Integration model: client-server, where the server component is controlled by one party only; examples are databases, file servers, message brokers, etc.
  • Explicit, shared infrastructure: low-level system protocols and APIs such as FTP.
  • Implicit, not shared infrastructure: application contracts, data formats, business processes not part of the common integration infrastructure.

Second generation: application integration contracts

This generation of integration technology uses the system protocols from previous years and allows applications to share their APIs in the form of universal contracts. This is the next level of integration, where both applications understand the data, its structure, possible error conditions, but not the business process and current state behind it in the other systems:

  • Integration model: client-server model with APIs described by contracts.
  • Explicit, shared infrastructure: protocols, application contracts, and API definitions.
  • Implicit, not shared infrastructure: business processes and remote state are still private.

Third generation: distributed business processes

The blockchain-based generation, which still has to prove itself as a viable enterprise architecture, goes a step further. It uses peer-to-peer protocols, and shares business processes with state across multiple systems that are controlled by parties not trusting each other. While previous integration generations required shared understanding of protocol or APIs, this relies on common understanding of the full business process and its current state. Only then it makes sense and pays off to form a cross-organization distributed business process network:

  • Integration model: multi-party, peer-to-peer integration, by forming business networks with distributed business processes.
  • Explicit, shared infrastructure: business process and its required state.
  • Implicit, not shared infrastructure: other non-process related state.

There are many blockchain-based projects that are taking different approaches for solving the business integration challenges. In no particular, order here are some of the most popular and interesting permissioned open-source blockchain projects targeting the B2B integration space:

  • Hyperledger Fabric is one of the most popular and advanced blockchain frameworks, initially developed by IBM, and now part of Linux Foundation.
  • Hyperledger Sawtooth is another Linux Foundation distributed project developed initially by Intel. It is popular for its modularity and full component replaceability.
  • Quorum is an enterprise-focused distribution of Ethereum.
  • Corda is another project that builds on top of existing JVM-based middleware technologies and enables organizations to transact with contracts and exchange value.

There are already many business networks built with the above projects, enabling network member organizations to integrate and interact with each other using this new integration model.

In addition to these full-stack blockchain projects that provide network nodes, there also are hybrid approaches. For example, Unibright is a project that aims to connect internal business processes defined in familiar standards such as BPMN with existing blockchain networks by automatically generating smart contracts. The smart contracts can be generated for public or private blockchains, which can act as another integration pillar among organizations.

Recently, there are many blockchain experiments in many fields of life. While public blockchains generate all the hype by promising to change the world, private and permissioned blockchains are promising less, but are advancing steadily.

Conclusion

Enterprise integration has multiple nuances. Integration challenges within an organization, where all systems are controlled by one entity and participants have some degree of trust to each other, are mostly addressed by modern ESBs, BPMs and microservices architectures. But when it comes to multi-party B2B integration, there are additional challenges. These systems are controlled by multiple organizations, have no visibility of the business processes and do not trust each other. In these scenarios, we see organizations experimenting with a new breed of blockchain-based technology that relies not only on sharing of the protocols and contracts but sharing of the end-to-end business processes and state.

And this trend is aligned with the general direction integration has been evolving over the years: from sharing the very minimum protocols, to sharing and exposing more and more in the form of contracts, APIs and now business processes.

This shared integration infrastructure enables new transparent integration models where the previously private business processes are now jointly owned, agreed, built, maintained and standardized using the open-source collaboration model. This can motivate organizations to share business processes and form networks to benefit further from joint innovation, standardization and deeper integration in general.

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Pixel 6 can’t fly some DJI drones because of an incompatible app

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It’s not really that unusual for some mobile apps to stop working on newer phones, especially if the app hasn’t been updated in years. It’s a completely different situation, however, if the app in question comes from a large and popular brand that does support the latest smartphones. That’s the rather puzzling and infuriating situation that new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro owners have suddenly found themselves in after discovering that they can no longer fly their DJI drones. The company’s response, however, added insult to injury.

On the one hand, it might not exactly be too surprising for DJI owners and fans who have been keeping a close eye on the company’s products. Officially speaking, not even the Pixel 5 is listed in the company’s supported mobile devices, after all. On the other hand, the phone works just fine with the DJI Fly app, so Pixel 6 owners can’t be blamed for expecting the same situation with Google’s latest flagship.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case, and owners of some DJI models are forced to decide between their new phone and their favorite drone. Several such owners are reporting that DJI’s Fly app only shows a black screen instead of the usual video feed, making the app practically useless. In fact, some are reporting that DJI’s other apps also crashed immediately on Pixel 6 phones.

DroneDJ reports that a DJI representative suggested using another phone just to be able to use the DJI Fly app. Unsurprisingly, that was met with harsh criticism and backlash since not everyone has the capacity to keep another phone just to fly a drone. DJI could always argue that it never promised the Pixel 6 to be compatible with the app, but few buyers are able to check those technical specifications first, especially if they’re not located in a discoverable place.

There’s also the mystery of why the app wouldn’t work on the Pixel 6 in the first place, especially if it has no problem working on other Android phones. It’s especially puzzling considering this is Google’s flagship, not an old phone from some lesser-known company. As one person put it, there would have been an even bigger uproar if it was discovered that DJI’s app didn’t support the iPhone 13.

DJI did acknowledge the issue and had at least promised to pay attention to it and resolve it ASAP. That said, it also adds that “if it bothers you a lot,” affected users should borrow or use a compatible phone, echoing the earlier recommendation. It’s definitely a disappointing and almost insulting response, and it doesn’t exactly inspire much hope if last year’s Pixel 5 hasn’t exactly been added to the official list yet in the first place.

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Galaxy Note production has reportedly ended

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As if Galaxy Note fans needed more reason to be glum this year, more news just dropped over the weekend that probably puts what might be the final name in the fan favorite’s coffin. There have been numerous reports of the Galaxy Note line’s demise, especially since it didn’t make an appearance this year. With the Galaxy S22 Ultra expected to pretty much stand in its place, this report about Samsung ceasing the production of Galaxy Note phones is both expected yet also disheartening for Galaxy Note believers.

Of course, nothing’s official yet, since it pretty much comes from the usual anonymous industry source. According to ETnews, Samsung is halting the production of the Galaxy Note series this year, which has all the elements of a prophecy of doom for the much-loved series. That said, there’s still a window of opportunity for Samsung to change course, at least after 2022.

The report says that the primary reason for Samsung stopping Galaxy Note production is to give way to the Galaxy Z Fold and Z Flip. The production capacity that would have been reserved for the Galaxy Note would instead be allocated for making these foldable phones. It might make sense given how there is no Galaxy Note this year, but that also means that it won’t be producing any new Galaxy Note 20 units next year either.

Complicating matters for Galaxy Note fans is Samsung’s 2022 production goals that were leaked recently. According to the unofficial information, Samsung plans on producing 13 million units of combined Galaxy Z Fold and Galaxy Z Flip phones, more than it has for the Galaxy Note line in the past two years. Those plans apparently don’t have space for a Galaxy Note again, suggesting that it will be a no-show next year as well.

Given the ongoing constraints in components, it is understandable that Samsung will consolidate its resources on one or the other smartphone line. For better or for worse, the company is betting on foldables next year, specifically the Galaxy Z Flip 4, as it tries to push the still niche devices into mainstream consciousness. There’s also the expectation that the Galaxy S22 Ultra will practically take the place of the Galaxy Note in everything except the name anyway.

Of course, many Galaxy Note users are displeased with these reports, especially with suggestions that the Galaxy Z Fold is being groomed to replace their favorite stylus-toting phablet. Admittedly, the foldable phone still has ways to go to become a Galaxy Note substitute, especially if the Galaxy Z Fold 4 still won’t have a mechanism for storing the S Pen. In the meantime, however, the Galaxy S22 Ultra could give Galaxy Note fans their fix, checking all the boxes and putting the final nail in the Galaxy Note’s coffin.

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Samsung Galaxy S22: Rumors, leaks and everything we know

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The highly anticipated Samsung Galaxy S22 series is not long away from its release with speculations brewing for early 2022 launch, and rumors of the flagship doing rounds in plenty. The premium phone will come in three variants: the successors to Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21 Plus and Galaxy S21 Ultra respectively.

This line-up will try and retain the charm of the canceled Note series for this year at least. The Galaxy S22 Ultra will be the best device in the line-up, and current rumors and leaks assure the Samsung flagship for 2022 will edge out the competitors by a long way.

Design and display

The design of the Galaxy S22 and the Galaxy S22 Plus will be more or less the same as the predecessor, whereas the Galaxy S22 Ultra will have a boxier Galaxy Note influence courtesy of the squared corners and the S Pen slot. This fact is clear from the leaked renders by reliable leakster Steve Hemmerstoffer (a.k.a. OnLeaks) in partnership with Digit.

Another thing that’s very clear is the refreshing gamut of color options; the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22 Plus will come in white, rose gold, green and black colors. The Galaxy S22 Ultra will feature white, black, and dark red colorways.

The camera module on the rear of the Galaxy S22 Ultra will have a P-shaped camera housing split in half. Another backplate picture also suggests the existence of this radical design change. This has gained more substance as the recent real-life leaked images of the S22 Ultra prototype align with whatever is said earlier.

Trusted tipster Ice Universe and Mauri QHD recently tweeted about the screen size of the upcoming flagship. According to them, the Galaxy S22 will adorn a 6.06-inch Full-HD+ flat AMOLED display which will be a bit smaller than the one on Galaxy S21.

The Plus variant will have a 6.55-inch display and Galaxy S22 Ultra might get a slightly bigger 6.81-inch Full HD+ display. The latter is also speculated by Mauri QHD to have an adaptive refresh rate between 1Hz – 120Hz thanks to the LTPO technology. Ice Universe claims the phone will have a brightness level of 1500 nits or even 2,000 nits.

Specification and features

The processing power of the Galaxy S22 lineup will be a hot topic until its release. It will expectedly be powered by the 4nm Snapdragon 898 chipset, which will take graphics and AI to a whole new level. So will it bump up the camera performance and overall user experience with massive processing power. However, according to a leak, many global carriers are requesting Exynos variant of the phone over Snapdragon for a good reason.

The Exynos 2200 with the AMD RDNA 2 architecture-based GPU powering the Galaxy S22 variants will present a good fight. Capabilities comparable to gaming consoles and the Wild Life results leaked by Ice Universe suggest a graphics benchmark of 8,134 and average FPS of 50.3. In fact, the South Korean electronics giant is believed to be testing the AMD graphics-based chip that’ll change the landscape of gaming on mobile devices.

According to Max Weinbach, Samsung could offer both the SoC options for each device in the lineup irrespective of the region, as it did in the past. Either of these SoCs will be mated to 8GB LPDRR5X RAM and 256GB UFS 3.1 storage on the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22 Plus. The Galaxy S22 Ultra on the other hand will come with 12GB and 16GB LPDRR5X RAM and 256GB and 512GB UFS 3.1 onboard storage.

Camera prowess

While we had an early rumor of an Olympus partnership, the rumor has been washed away now. As per Ice Universe, the Galaxy S22 Ultra will see some changes in the camera sensors. The main camera lens will be a 108MP (f/1.8) HM3 sensor with an 85-degree field-of-view and laser autofocus.

The ultra-wide (with optical image stabilization) will be the same and the 10MP telephoto lens will have a larger pixel size for improved low-light photography. For the S22 Ultra, the company is working on a super detailed photo mode to match iPhone 13 Pro Max and Pixel 6 Pro.

Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus will have a 50MP primary sensor (probably ISOCELL GN2) with the RGBW unit for better color reproduction. Another rumor points to a 3X telephoto zoom level at 10MP resolution. The Galaxy S22 variant is also tipped to record 8K video at 60 fps, which will be better than the Galaxy S21 Ultra from the last year.

Battery and charging

The batteries on the vanilla Galaxy S22 and the Galaxy S22 Plus might see a downgrade with 3,700mAh and 4,600mAh respectively. Compare that to the equivalent predecessor variants which have 4,000mAh and 4,800mAh capacity batteries. The S22 Ultra will have the same 5,000mAh juicing up its guts though.

A recent listing spotted by SamMobile points to a 4,370mAh battery for the Plus variant and 4,855mAh for the Galaxy S22 Ultra. In either case, buyers seeking a higher battery capacity will have to live without such a change, if the final released Galaxy S22 line-up arrives with the speculated battery capacities.

Rumors in the past by Ice Universe have hinted at the reincarnation of the 65W fast charging for the Galaxy S22. That’s contradicted by a recently leaked listing on China’s tech regulator portal suggesting the 25W charging tech for the phone. If that’s the case, eager buyers will be a bit disappointed, especially seeing other OEMs offering crazy fast charging speeds.

Release date and price

The Samsung Galaxy S22 series is likely to launch in February 2022 but we have to factor in the global chip shortage. In that case, a delay of a few weeks or even months won’t be surprising. A recent rumor by Jon Prosser hints at a February 8, 2022 release for the line-up. The reliable tipster also claims the flagship will be up for pre-order the very same day with the sale going live on February 18.

Last year, the Galaxy S21 lineup saw a drop of a couple of hundred dollars on all the variants. While we don’t expect a further drop in price for the new Galaxy S22, similar pricing (in the best-case scenario) as that of the predecessor is on the cards. That said, a recent rumor could shatter the dreams, it tips a price increase to $849 for the vanilla Galaxy S22 and the Plus variant it suggests a $1,049 tag. The Premium flagship Galaxy S22 Ultra will cost a hefty $1,299 according to the leaked information.

Wrap-up

Usually, leaks by reliable tipsters turn out to be close to the official release specs, we have seen this in the past. So, we can have a fair idea about the upcoming Galaxy S22 series from all that’s around in the tech cloud already. An under-display selfie camera (which won’t have many changes) could be on the cards, while S Pen support for the Galaxy S22 Ultra could be a surprise everyone will relish.

We would wish for a fast-charging device, at least 45W charging support would be great together with better battery management courtesy of the new-age chipsets. So, a lesser battery capacity won’t hurt that much, and we are sure Samsung has got that covered.

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