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JEE application for an IBM WebSphere portal environment
Our task was to develop a rate calculator for business customers on N-ERGIE’s website. Companies can use this rate calculator to compute their electricity and gas costs and trigger an order directly with N-ERGIE. Here, the challenge was to make the data for rate calculation available and to eliminate redundancies in the operating procedure.
Director of Platform Technology and Solutions at itecPlus GmbH
”Our cooperation with valantic was outstanding. Engaged, professional, open, and friendly. Mr. Michels as project manager and his crew did a great job. They understood immediately what’s important to us. The change to the new software went smoothly and the feedback from the colleagues who are responsible for master data maintenance and rate calculation is uniformly positive. It's easy! A completely successful project.“
N-ERGIE Aktiongesellschaft, Nuremberg, is a regional energy provider with approximately 2,200 employees. The Nuremberger generate annual sales of about EUR 2.6 billion from electricity, natural gas, water, district heating, and energy services. N-ERGIE is one of the top ten companies on the German electricity market. Its network region extends across large parts of central Franconia and neighboring areas. The electricity network alone includes approximately 27,000 kilometers.
itecPlus GmbH handled the project commissioning and support. This 100% subsidiary of N-ERGIE takes care of the planning, provision, and operation of information and telecommunications systems. Thus, itecPlus was our initial contact. N-ERGIE’s energy sales business customers and its corporate communications departments also participated. In addition to valantic’s project manager, there were also valantic software architects and developers on the team.
The task was to develop a rate calculator for business customers on N-ERGIE’s website. Companies can use this rate calculator to compute their electricity and gas costs and trigger an order directly with N-ERGIE.
Here, the challenge of the project was to make the data for rate calculation available and to eliminate redundancies in the operating procedure.
N-ERGIE’s previous rate calculator required a lot of maintenance. Data was recorded in various places, access to the data was through the IT department, and some of the data exchange between participating departments was handled manually. The new rate calculator was supposed to be more user-friendly and its processes easier and less subject to errors.
In addition to these organizational reasons for refreshing the rate calculator, there were also technical reasons: In order to remain fit for the future, N-ENERGIE is converting its infrastructure from PHP to Java. The company already uses IBM WebSphere as its application platform. The intranet portal for internal applications and the company’s public Internet presence are operated on it. The new rate calculator is a re-implementation and integration into the new portal environment.
As in inter-departmental projects, there were various stakeholders with different expectations. As part of a requirements workshop, we were able to define specific goals jointly:
For the data provision for the actual rate calculation, two things had to be taken into account. N-ERGIE provides power and gas across Germany, but it is only a grid operator in Northern Bavaria. In order to be able to provide electricity or gas outside the company’s own grid area, grid fees have to be paid to the grid operator in question. Each grid operator collects its own fees approved by the German Federal Network Agency. These have to be considered for the specific rate calculation. The information required for this is in an external database called “NetKalk.” One task was to use the customer’s address to determine who the grid operator for this address is and what the grid usage fees in question are. This led to the second particularity: So that a synchronization with the NetKalk database is possible, the address format input also has to correspond to the format of the data in the database. To avoid unnecessary and frustrating multiple entries, the address input is validated through synchronization with the postal code information of the Deutsche Post.
With provision of the data for the actual calculation, there were also special requirements that had to be considered. Electricity and gas prices are made up of many different components. All of these have to be entered and maintained.
One of N-ERGIE’s requests was central data management. To realize this, we wrote a portlet application that runs on the internal WebSphere portal server and can therefore be maintained via the Internet. There, the employees in the business customers department can maintain this so-called master data centrally.
In order to make the data for the determination of grid fees and address validation available, the initial stock of the NetKalk database and postal code data was imported via command line. The data records can be updated at any time if the database operators adjust their data stocks using the tools developed for this.
The applications in which the determination of the grid usage fees and address validation is done are implemented as web services and developed as standard JEE applications. The advantage of this is that other N-ERGIE applications can access these tools and there is no need for redevelopment for other projects. That is how we fulfilled N-ERGIE’s desire to reuse the developments. The rate calculator now accesses both of these applications via SOAP web services. The master data is part of the rate calculator and is read out via a direct service layer with database access.
After we brought the data together in the rate calculator, the programming was done for the algorithms for price calculation.
The goal of our work was to develop high-quality software that improves our customer’s processes. That’s why we are very open to changes in the current process. In the project with N-ERGIE, we approached the situation so that we made some changes right away without a lot of unnecessary discussion and we were able to make additional changes in the course of a change request.
Employees of N-ERGIE now have a tool with which they can determine the right prices for quotations and invoices across departments. All this takes is calling up an application. The required data is managed centrally on the Internet in a WebSphere portal application. The results of the rate calculator serve our business customers as the “single point of truth.”
We like the result. What’s most important is that the customer is very satisfied with the result – and also with us. The project went well, the mood on the team was great, and the project managers on both sides formed an unbelievably productive team.
EE 6 | Portlet API 2.0 | Java WS 1.3 | JPA 2.0 | JSF 2.0 | Portlet Specification 2.0 (JSR 286) | Dojo Toolkit
IBM WebSphere Portal Server Version 8 | IBM WebSphere Application Server 8 | IBM DB2 Version 9 | AIX 6.1