Airbus DS Geo GmbH (initial name was Infoterra GmbH) was founded in 2001 to prepare and commercially exploit the TerraSAR-X radar earth observation satellite. Its objective is to sell radar images taken by the satellite and handle commercial ordering. This business requires fast responses to customers and timely and reliable fulfilment of orders is crucial for Airbus DSto keep customer satisfaction high and properly utilize the unique points of the satellite mission (all weather imaging and NRT delivery of image products). In addition, order management processes had to comply with strict security control due to German legislation on high resolution images (SatDSiG). Orders for many different imaging products and services - each with several variations and options - have to be processed in tight integration with the European Space Agency (ESA), the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and Receiving Stations located around the globe.
Airbus DS's business processes are characterised by a high quantity of transactions (more than 50.000 new catalogued objects per month) and complex custom workflows. To summarise, Airbus DS needs an ERP that is flexible enough to handle complex custom workflows and security rules and that provides reliable integration with various third party systems.
With order processes relying heavily on workflows, Airbus DS initially preferred an Oracle-based solution. The complexity of implementing a highly customized solution, however, proved to be a major issue, which eventually led to Airbus DS deciding on Nexedi and ERP5 for realising the project.
TSXX project leader at Airbus DS Geo Gmbh:
"ERP5 did not only bring the flexibility of Oracle, but being open source, it also made Airbus DS more independent: The satellite imaging business evolves too quickly to wait for the software industry. Instead, with the ERP5 solution. Airbus DS was able to drive the software, rather than being driven by a release policy from a single vendor."
All ERP5 business processes are implemented based on transactional workflows. Workflows visualise how objects move from one state to another during their life cycle in what could be seen the digital representation of an physical business process. Workflows also are extendable and can be fit to specific client requirements, making them an ideal tool for building custom applications such as the TSXX ERP5 implementation.
For TSXX, it is necessary to distinguish between cataloged and future images. The latter also requires to create ways of monitoring incoming orders for potential conflicts and data availability, which was realised using a custom front-end module directly displaying information from MySQL/MariaDB indices.
Before any future order is placed, it must be validated against security rules. Once validated, a technical quotation including screenshots is created in ERP5 before the actual sales order is planned. Once all required customer data is available and verified, the ERP5 sales and DLR packing lists are created and transitioned to the workflow state "Done" after all required images have been made. Finally, interfaces are used to order the tasking and processing of images before instructing the client on download coordinates and ways to access.
The implementation uses ERP5 applicative security model. With its dynamic and multidimensional rule based approach, it is capable of implementing access rules and policies which are at the same time very strict and permissive depending on rules allocated to a user or third party.
"For Airbus DS, ERP5 is the right solution for TerraSAR-X order management, because its web– and workflow-based approach provides the level of flexibility and security required for a global project such as TSXX. With ERP5, distribution partners around the world can access the central ERP5 infrastructure and place orders securely."
Aerospace and Defence industries often rely on a variety of heterogeneous systems which must be interfaced to a central application. ERP5 incorporates a Service Orientated Architecture (SOA), leveraging simple protocols such as HTTP, XML-RPC, REST, and SOAP to connect different systems. Most IETF standards (ex. SMTP, LDAP, IMAP, etc.) are supported, legacy standards (ex. CORBA or Z39.50) can be added directly through libraries or preferably through SOAP bridges thereby also easing the transition from corporate information systems to W3C standards.
Jean-Paul Smets, CEO of Nexedi:
"The TerraSAR-X project is the first implementation of ERP5 advanced security model in Europe. Together with the ERP Fast design methodology, ERP5 can model complex organisations with multiple sites, multiple partners and granular access rights to a shared central database. This project has also shown the possibility to interface ERP5 through SOAP Web services with other enterprise applications in a transactional way".
The implementation has been a success for Nexedi with the possibility of adding new features and regular updates every year since going into production. Initial performance issues could be easily resolved and critical components, like the switch from MySQL to MariaDB were made without affecting overall system functionality.
Sebastian Robin, responsible manager at Nexedi:
The TSXX project running for such a long time also enabled us to learn and improve our testing framework. Unit tests were absolutely necessary as we kept adding new features over the years. By testing rigorously for regressions and system performance through our fully automated test framework, we can ensure that our ERP5 implementation keeps performing at the required level as the application grows.