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Oracle® Communications Billing and Revenue Management Elastic Charging Engine 11.2 Concepts
Release 7.5

E39807-04
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2 ECE System Architecture

This chapter describes the Oracle Communications Billing and Revenue Management (BRM) Elastic Charging Engine (ECE) system architecture.

Overview of ECE System Architecture

ECE is a grid application built on Oracle Coherence. A grid application is an application that leverages a data grid: a system composed of servers that work to manage information and related operations in a distributed environment. ECE implements distributed functions over a network of nodes. These nodes are Java applications that include Oracle Coherence libraries. Services are leveraged to implement application functions in the ECE components. The main components are:

  • Elastic Charging Server and Elastic Charging Client

    Elastic Charging Server and Elastic Charging Client receive and calculate data from client applications. They also send information to external systems.

    To send usage requests from the network mediation systems to ECE, the network mediation software programs must join the ECE cluster in order to access the ECE data and access other services required for sending requests. The network mediation software programs that perform usage metering create usage requests so that the usage requests can carry the usage information to the ECE charging servers in order to calculate usage. The network mediation software programs use the Elastic Charging Client to join the ECE cluster.

    ECE supports query requests from external systems, such as customer self-care or network mediation systems, so these systems can obtain data from ECE caches. For self-care systems, customers can query their account balance and account password information. Network mediation software programs use the Elastic Charging Client to send query requests.

    See "About the Elastic Charging Server" and "About the Elastic Charging Client" for more information.

  • Customer Updater and Pricing Updater

    Customer Updater and Pricing Updater ensure that BRM customer information and balances are up-to-date, and that PDC pricing data is up-to-date, respectively, to ensure that ECE has the most current customer and pricing data with which to perform charging calculations.

    ECE processes update requests from BRM to ensure its customer data is current. ECE uses the Customer Updater to manage update requests from BRM. See "About Customer Updater" for more information.

    ECE also processes update requests from PDC to ensure its pricing data is current. ECE uses the Pricing Updater to manage update requests from PDC. See "About Pricing Updater" for more information.

  • BRM Gateway

    BRM Gateway synchronizes BRM data with ECE data by sending update requests from ECE to BRM. ECE sends update requests to BRM for various reasons. For example, ECE sends update requests to BRM to update the subscriber lifecycle state in BRM and to trigger billing in BRM for a customer. See "About the BRM Gateway" for more information.

  • Rated Event Publisher, Rated Event Formatter, BRM CDR Plug-in

    Rated Event Publisher, Rated Event Formatter, and BRM CDR Plug-in send rated events and persist ECE-generated rated events and to external systems. ECE publishes ECE-generated rated events to the Oracle NoSQL Database by using the Rated Event Publisher. ECE formats rated events for other systems by using the Rated Event Formatter, and for BRM, the BRM CDR Plug-in. See "About Rated Event Publisher", "About Rated Event Formatter", and "About the BRM CDR Plug-in" for more information.

  • Elastic Charging Controller and Oracle Enterprise Manager Cloud Control

    Elastic Charging Controller (ECC) and Oracle Enterprise Manager Cloud Control monitor and maintain the ECE system. You install these applications on the driver machine, which is the server that is set up to be the primary administrator machine.

    A system administrator who wants to maintain, update and tune the ECE system uses ECC. ECC is the ECE command-line application used for day-to-day administration, managing and operating of the ECE system. See the discussion of using ECC in the BRM Elastic Charging Engine System Administrator's Guide for more information.

    A systems operator who wants to monitor the ECE system and perform basic operational tasks uses Oracle Enterprise Manager Cloud Control. ECE leverages Oracle Enterprise Manager Cloud Control for operations management. To use Oracle Enterprise Manager Cloud Control for ECE, you must install Oracle Application Management Pack for Oracle Communications. Oracle Application Management Pack for Oracle Communications provides management capabilities for BRM and other supported Oracle Communications applications. For detailed information about the management capabilities provided by Oracle Application Management Pack for Oracle Communications, see Oracle Application Management Pack for Oracle Communications System Administrator's Guide.

    For general information about monitoring and managing ECE components, see the discussion of monitoring and managing ECE in the ECE System Administrator's Guide.

  • External Manager Gateway

    External Manager Gateway enables BRM to send requests to ECE (and receive responses from ECE) by converting BRM opcode flists into ECE Java API-formatted requests. BRM sends requests to ECE for various reasons. For example, during rerating, BRM requests the calculation of usage charges for events that need to be rerated. See "About External Manager Gateway" for more information.

  • Ext

About Core ECE Components in the Cluster

Figure 2-1 shows the core ECE components or nodes in the cluster. The core components are shown in the Core Components in the ECE Cluster box.

Figure 2-1 How Core ECE Components Interact with External Applications

Description of Figure 2-1 follows
Description of "Figure 2-1 How Core ECE Components Interact with External Applications"

About the Elastic Charging Server

The Elastic Charging Server uses its charging server nodes to carry out all charging business logic, such as usage charging, query, and update logic.

By using the Oracle Coherence in-memory data grid, ECE can distribute objects required for usage charging and their related processing across multiple physical servers, eliminating single points of failure and single points of bottleneck. In addition, Coherence enables vertical and horizontal scalability for ECE.

ECE charging servers receive usage requests containing usage information from the Elastic Charging Client. Customer and pricing data required to process ECE requests are cached within the ECE cluster (where transaction processing occurs) so the ECE charging servers are not required to perform data lookups in external applications.

About High Availability with the Elastic Charging Server

The ECE charging server has built-in high availability features. ECE components that are part of the overall charging system, such as gateways, clients, and the Oracle NoSQL database, also have built-in high availability features.

ECE charging servers use Oracle Coherence technology and leverage features of Coherence clusters for high availability, including:

  • Distribution of ECE objects across multiple physical servers.

  • Distributed processing, with no single points of failure or contention.

  • Storage of information in multiple nodes across multiple physical servers and racks to protect against node, machine, and rack failure.

About the Elastic Charging Client

The Elastic Charging Client is a client library installed on applications that enables them to connect and send requests to ECE. When these applications start the Elastic Charging Client, they automatically join the ECE cluster which provides access to ECE node data caches and the services required for sending requests. The Elastic Charging Client is used for sending all types of requests: usage requests, query requests, update requests, and management requests.

Real-time charging events and offline CDRs from the network are transformed by network mediation software programs into usage requests that use a format required by ECE. The network mediation software programs use the ECE charging API for creating the usage requests.

The API payload is extensible through metadata so that you can define charging attributes for creating usage requests that satisfy your business (and charging) requirements. These request specifications can be extended or you can create new specifications. See "About Usage Requests" for information about the usage-request construction required by ECE.

The Elastic Charging Client sends asynchronous usage responses back to client applications that send usage requests. It can send requests as a batch to the Elastic Charging Server. The Elastic Charging Client can also batch requests that belong to a specific charging server node in the cluster.

The Elastic Charging Client knows in which charging server node on the cluster the customer data is cached; it leverages this information to route requests for processing so that the processing of the requests can occur where the data is located.

The Elastic Charging Client records latency tracking information for how requests were handled in the system.

Offline Mediation Controller is designed to integrate with ECE to send usage requests for offline charging. The Elastic Charging Client is installed on the Offline Mediation Controller distribution cartridge. See Oracle Communications Offline Mediation Controller Elastic Charging Engine Cartridge Pack User Guide for instructions on how to connect Offline Mediation Controller to ECE and submit requests to ECE for processing.

About the Elastic Charging Controller

The Elastic Charging Controller is used for managing the ECE server processes or nodes in the ECE cluster. The Elastic Charging Controller reads your topology file to know where all of the nodes of the cluster are located.The Elastic Charging Controller is installed on the driver machine.

The following are some examples of tasks you can perform using Elastic Charging Controller:

  • Starting and stopping ECE nodes in the cluster.

  • Pushing out configuration changes from the driver machine to all server machines across which the cluster is deployed.

  • Performing rolling upgrades of certain components into a running ECE system, such as changing JVM tuning properties, changing JMS configuration properties, or upgrading extension module customizations (changing extenstion JAR files).

For information about using Elastic Charging Controller, see the discussion about managing ECE nodes in BRM Elastic Charging Engine System Administrator's Guide.

About Pricing Updater

ECE must have access to pricing data to rate the usage requests it receives. ECE uses pricing data and pricing-related configuration data defined in PDC.

The Pricing Updater loads pricing data into ECE automatically when you publish pricing data in PDC for ECE.

When you publish pricing data in PDC, it writes the pricing data to a JMS queue. PDC sends pricing data in XML form in the PDC format.

The Pricing Updater listens on the queue. The Pricing Updater dequeues the data from the JMS queue, transforms the XML into the format understood by ECE (in ECE XML data format), and loads the data into ECE.

You provide information required for configuring the Pricing Updater when you install ECE. You can change this configuration if needed. See the discussion of implementing ECE with PDC in BRM Elastic Charging Engine Implementation Guide for information about configuring the Pricing Updater.

Caution:

The pricingLoader utility is used to load sample pricing data into ECE from XML files that are included the sample pricing data directory (ECE_Home/oceceserver/sample_data/pricing_data). Sample pricing data conflicts with pricing data created using PDC.

Do not mix running pricingLoader and Pricing Updater on the same ECE deployment.

About customerLoader

The customerLoader is a utility that primes ECE with customer data when ECE starts up. customerLoader loads data that you extracted from BRM; it loads customer data in parallel into the server nodes and obtains its data from XML files.

You use the ECE extract.sh utility for extracting credit profile and customer data from the BRM database which ECE requires for processing usage requests. The extract.sh utility launches Oracle Data Integrator (ODI) to extract the BRM data and to subsequently generate the ECE-compliant XML data files containing the credit profile and customer data. The extract.shutility also extracts product cross reference, credit profile, and customer data. When ECE starts the cross reference data loader, the cross reference data is loaded into ECE.

The ECE config loader loads the credit profile data that is defined in the credit profile XML data files into the ECE cluster. The customerLoader utility loads the customer data that is defined in the ECE customer XML data files into the ECE cluster. You manually invoke the configLoader and the customerLoader utilities for loading the data from the XML data files into ECE. See the discussion of loading customer data in BRM Elastic Charging Engine Implementation Guide for information about invoking the customerLoader utility.

The ECE customer XML data file conforms to the structure of the ECE customer XSD file (ECE_Home/oceceserver/odi_transformation/ECE_Schema.xsd). Refer to this file to see what data the extract.sh utility supports for loading from the BRM database into ECE.

After you load customer data from the BRM database into ECE, you must ensure that incremental updates can be made to the customer data in ECE when the data changes in BRM. See the discussion of loading customer data in BRM Elastic Charging Engine Implementation Guide for more information about the customerLoader utility.

About Customer Updater

The Customer Updater handles update requests from BRM to ECE. The customer data stored in ECE that is relevant to charging usage requests must stay current with the customer data in the BRM database. When events occur in the BRM database that modify the customer data, that data is published by BRM to a database queue. For example, a CSR action such as an adjustment or a customer self-care action such as a top-up can change a customer balance. In addition, account information changes, such as the purchase of a charge offer or a change in account status can also impact the charging of usage requests.

The Customer Updater listens on the queue and processes the update requests to obtain the information relevant for updating customer data in ECE. The update requests coming from BRM include data for new customer creation events. All updates on the BRM system that are relevant for usage charging are synchronized with ECE through the Customer Updater.

The BRM Account Synchronization DM can send any event data to ECE that it is configured to send; it defines the events that trigger event notification for synchronization with ECE. BRM uses its Payload Generator External Module (EM) to create complete business events to send to the Account Synchronization DM. The Account Synchronization DM then sends the business events to the database queue.

All business events sent to ECE are stored in the database queue. To ensure that the ECE system is in sync with the BRM system before usage-processing begins, the Customer Updater dequeues all the messages from the database queue before putting ECE into a usageProcessing state.

Figure 2-2 shows the data flow from event notification to ECE update:

Figure 2-2 Data Flow from Event Notification to ECE

Description of Figure 2-2 follows
Description of "Figure 2-2 Data Flow from Event Notification to ECE "

The primary purpose of the Customer Updater is to interact with BRM to receive update requests. The Customer Updater is a multithreaded process.

For BRM, you configure the Customer Updater to listen on the database queue where BRM publishes business events (update requests for ECE). See the discussion of configuring ECE in the BRM Elastic Charging Engine System Administrator's Guide for information about configuring the Customer Updater.

Refer to the BRM documentation for information about how to set up event notification in BRM and configure the Account Synchronization DM.

About External Manager Gateway

The External Manager Gateway is a JVM process that acts as a client to the Elastic Charging Server, sending requests to ECE from BRM.

The External Manager Gateway listens on a port for requests from BRM that are in opcode input flist format. The External Manager Gateway converts BRM opcode input flists into ECE requests and converts the subsequent ECE responses back into BRM opcode output flists.

The BRM rerating utility uses the External Manager Gateway to send rerating requests from BRM to ECE during the rerating process. See "About Rerating" for more information.

Custom BRM applications can use the External Manager Gateway to send balance query requests to ECE for querying the customer real-time usage balance that is managed in ECE.

For information about configuring the External Manager Gateway, see the discussion about implementing ECE with BRM in BRM Elastic Charging Engine Implementation Guide.

About the BRM Gateway

The BRM Gateway handles update requests from ECE to BRM (ECE sends requests to BRM to update data in the BRM database).

The BRM Gateway sends information to BRM when processes must be triggered in BRM or data must be updated in BRM due to ECE usage-request processing.

The BRM Gateway connects to and sends information to BRM for the following purposes:

  • Synchronize the first-usage validity initialized from ECE to BRM.

    See "About First-Usage Validity".

  • Update the subscriber lifecycle state in BRM.

    When changes occur to a customer's subscriber lifecycle state in ECE, ECE publishes a service event. The BRM Gateway uses the service event to send the subscriber lifecycle state information to BRM so that BRM can update the state in the BRM database.

    For example, the subscriber lifecycle state can go from a pre-active state to an active state in ECE when a customer activates a prepaid calling card from the network. ECE uses the BRM Gateway to send the new state information to BRM.

  • Trigger billing in BRM.

    If a customer starts a session immediately before billing is set to run in BRM, ECE sends a request to BRM to run billing for that customer. See "About Billing Notifications" for more information.

  • Refresh item POIDs in ECE.

    ECE gets a list of POID from BRM, caches them in ECE, and sets them in the rated event.

    For tracking a customer's balance impacts for a given billable item type, ECE maps the product type and event type combinations in a usage request to its relevant item type. ECE sends information to BRM to refresh the item POIDs in the BRM database.

The BRM Gateway is part of the ECE cluster, but it is not storage enabled; it is a Java process interacting with ECE through JMS. The primary purpose of the BRM Gateway is to interact with BRM to send update requests.

The BRM Gateway listens on the ECE notification queue for notification events that trigger update requests to BRM. When such a notification event occurs, the BRM Gateway connects to the BRM Connection Manager (CM) and sends the relevant data from the notification event to BRM. In sending the information, the BRM Gateway calls the necessary BRM opcodes that use the data for triggering processes in BRM.

You must configure the BRM Gateway to connect to the BRM CM. See the discussion of configuring the BRM Gateway in BRM Elastic Charging Engine Implementation Guide.

About Rated Event Publisher

The Rated Event Publisher takes rated event information in the ECE charging server and publishes this information into the Oracle NoSQL Database. The Rated Event Publisher takes ECE Java objects in the ECE charging server and publishes them in (Coherence) binary format to a NoSQL datastore.

About Rated Event Formatter

The Rated Event Formatter is a multi-threaded process that receives a stream of RatedEvent objects from the Oracle NoSQL Database and exports them in a format suitable for consumption by an external system. The Rated Event Formatter is designed to use different modules or plug-ins for formatting the rated event objects into whatever format is required by the system that needs to store the objects. The plug-in framework is designed for enabling integration with other downstream systems. For BRM, Rated Event Formatter includes the BRM CDR Plug-in. See "About the BRM CDR Plug-in".

See the discussion of configuring ECE in BRM Elastic Charging Engine System Administrator's Guide for information about configuring Rated Event Formatter.

About the BRM CDR Plug-in

The BRM CDR Plug-in is a module within the Rated Event Formatter, which is used to transform rated event objects into CDR files in BRM CDR format, and EDR text format.

The BRM Rated Event (RE) Loader loads the CDRs into BRM for updating customer account balances in BRM. See the BRM documentation for information about configuring RE Loader to load CDRs into BRM.

See the discussion of configuring ECE in BRM Elastic Charging Engine System Administrator's Guide for information about configuring the BRM CDR Plug-in.

About ECE as a Subscriber Profile Repository

When integrating PCRF policy clients with ECE, ECE acts as the Subscriber Profile Repository (SPR) because it stores the customer profile information used by the PCRF. ECE offers a combined Sp and Sy interface which the PCRF uses to retrieve customer preferences and policy counter information. For more information, see "About ECE and Policy Clients" and see the discussion about PCRF policy clients in BRM Elastic Charging Engine Implementation Guide.

About ECE Request Types

ECE receives various types of requests from other applications. ECE processes the following types of requests:

  • Usage requests

  • Policy requests

  • Top-up requests (a type of update request)

  • Query requests

  • Management requests

  • Update requests

ECE offers services which expose its client APIs that applications can use to create these requests. For more information, see the ECE API Reference appendix in BRM Elastic Charging Engine Implementation Guide.