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1. (CA2304554) INTEGRATED CUSTOMER INTERFACE FOR WEB-BASED DATA MANAGEMENT
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CLAIMS
What is claimed is:
1. An integrated data management system for providing one or more data management services from an enterprise over the Internet to a customer having a workstation at a customer site, comprising: a user interface executable in a customer workstation located at the customer site for authenticating the customer's access to the integrated data management system, the user interface further presenting one or more data management services according to a customer entitlement, for the customer to select; one or more client applications representing the one or more data management services, each of the client applications initiated by the user interface in response to a customer selection and providing an interface to a corresponding data management service selected by the customer; one or more secure servers located between the customer workstation and the enterprise for providing a secure transportation of data transactions between the user interface and the one or more secure servers, the one or more secure servers further forwarding the data transactions for processing at the enterprise; at least one dispatch server located at the enterprise for receiving the data transactions from the one or more secure servers through a firewall, the dispatch server further verifying the customer's access to the system and determining one of the data management services in the enterprise to which the data transactions need be routed for processing; and
one or more application servers providing the one or more data management services offered by the enterprise, the one or more application servers receiving the data transactions from the dispatch server for processing and forwarding response transactions back to the one or more client applications for presentation to the customer via the dispatch server and the one or more secure servers, wherein the customer is enabled at the customer site to request and receive the data management services from the enterprise according to the customer's entitlements in a secure Internet-based computing environment.
2. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 1, wherein the one or more secure servers support a secure sockets layer communications protocol for encrypted communication between the user interface, including the client applications, and the secure servers, the secure servers also providing session management including client identification, validation and session management to link the session with the customer.
3. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 2, wherein the system further includes digital certificates to authenticate the one or more secure servers to the user interface.
4. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 2, wherein the one or more application servers include an order entry server for providing authentication services, the order entry server further enabling the customer to enter orders over the Internet from the customer workstation for the one or more data
management services available at the enterprise, wherein the customer is enabled, via the user interface, to enter new orders, modify existing orders, and cancel orders for the one or more data management services within the customer entitlements.
5. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 4, wherein the order entry system fulfills order requests from the customer and electronically transmits fulfillment packages to the customer workstation.
6. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 4, wherein the user interface includes a Web-based graphical user interface (GUI) having a backplane object downloaded with and launched by the
Web-based GUI, the backplane object capable of launching the one or more client applications upon initiation by the customer according to the customer's entitlements determined from the order entry server, the backplane object further enabling inter-application communications among the client applications, wherein the backplane object and the client applications interoperate with one another to provide an integrated customer interface to the one or more data management services subscribed by the customer.
7. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 6, wherein the user interface further includes a logon object downloaded and launched by the user interface for accepting logon transactions from the customer, the logon object creating a session object for communicating with the order entry server to provide the customer authentication, wherein upon successful customer validation,
the user interface downloads the one or more client applications and the Web-based GUI having the backplane object.
8. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 6, further comprising: a user object for representing a current customer, the user object further communicating with the order entry server to determine the customer's entitlements to the Web enabled data management services, wherein the backplane uses the entitlements to present, via the Web-based GUI, only those Web enabled services to which the user has privilege.
9. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 8, wherein the client application is run directly by the backplane object when the customer selects the data management service associated with the client application, the client application running in a frame independent from a web browser's window.
10. The integrated system as claimed in claim 8, wherein the client application is an application launched from a new browser window retrieved by the backplane object.
11. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 8, wherein the one or more application servers include an inbox server, and the one or more client applications include an inbox client application, the inbox server providing a repository for storing information received from the one or more applications servers, the inbox server further transmitting the information received from the one or
more application servers to the inbox client application for presentation to the customer at the customer workstation.
12. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 11, wherein the inbox client application further includes a polling thread, the polling thread for detecting an incoming message from the inbox server via the one or more secure servers, the polling thread further starting a new thread upon detection of the incoming message, wherein the new thread starts and listens on a second one of the secure socket connections for detecting new messages, while the polling thread receives the incoming message on the first one of the secure socket connection, whereby multiple messages may be downloaded simultaneously as detected.
13. The integrated system as claimed in claim 12, wherein the inbox client application launches another client application associated with the information when the customer selects to access the information presented at the customer workstation.
14. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 11, wherein the one or more application servers further includes a report manager remote server providing a data management reporting function, and wherein the one or more client applications related to the report manager remote server further includes: a report requestor application for initiating communication with the report manager remote server; and, a report viewer application enabling display
of reports in accordance with customer-selected reporting options, the report requestor and report viewer applications being downloaded from the one or more secure servers to the customer workstation for displaying one or more customer-selectable data reporting items for the customer via the interface in accordance with the customer's entitlements.
15. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 14, wherein the report manager remote server further maintains an inventory of reports associated with the customer and receives a customer report request message via the interface, the report manager program accessing report items according to the report request message and generating a response message including a metadata description of reporting items to be displayed in the report, whereby customer-specific data from the one or more application servers and the metadata description of customer-selected reporting items are utilized to generate a completed report for presentation to the customer via the interface.
16. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 15, wherein the report requestor application enables customization of reporting items to be reported via the interface, the report manager remote server providing the reporting items capable of being customized according to the customer's entitlements to the report requestor application when generating a report request.
17. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 15, wherein the one or more application servers further comprises a report
scheduler application for enabling periodic generation of reports from the one or more application servers at a customer-specified frequency.
18. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 17, wherein the inbox server further stores and maintains customer specific report data to be reported to the customer, and, further receives a notification from the report manager remote server including a metadata description for generating the report, the report data and the metadata description associated with the report data being downloaded to the customer workstation via the one or more secure servers for generation of reports according to the metatdata description, the generated reports being presented to the customer via the user interface.
19. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 18, wherein the inbox server further comprises a pre-defined directory associated with each of the one or more data management application services, wherein each of the one or more application servers stores the report data and the information data to its respective pre-defined directory in the inbox server.
20. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 19, wherein the one or more application servers further include an operational data component, the operational data component comprising: an application for extracting data records from a billing system which generates data records specific to a product provided to the customer; an application for harvesting the extracted
data records for storage in an database storage device; and a decision support server for receiving customer requests for data, the decision support server accessing the customer-specific data from the database storage device and transmitting the customer-specific data to the inbox server in accordance with the customer request.
21. The integrated system as claimed in claim 20, wherein the database storage device organizes the customer specific data according to a star schema topology to facilitate access thereof.
22. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 20, wherein a reporting option includes running a pre-defined report, the report scheduler application communicating a message to the decision support server to run the pre-defined report at a pre-determined time, the pre-defined report being updated with customer-specific data available at the pre-determined time.
23. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 2, wherein the one or more data management services include an invoice viewing system for enabling the customer to retrieve an invoice, over the public Internet, which relates to the one or more data management services provided by the enterprise, the one or more client applications further including an invoice presentation application for enabling selection and presentation of invoice documents in accordance with the customer entitlement, the invoice presentation application further generating an invoice request message in response to customer
selection of a specific invoice option and forwarding the invoice request message via the one or more secure servers, and the one or more application servers further include an invoice server for maintaining a database of image files associated with documents from the application services and receiving the invoice request message, the invoice server accessing the database in response to a request message and generating a response message for forwarding back to the invoice presentation application via the one or more secure servers, wherein the response message is assembled in a form suitable for display and the invoice presentation application presents a customer selected invoice document at the customer workstation.
24. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 23, wherein the database of image files further includes an object database, the invoice server further comprising: a conversion device for imaging documents by defining key information necessary to retrieve documents from the data management application services and compress the documents for storing; and a store device for loading the compressed documents into the object database.
25. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 23, wherein the database of image files further includes an index database, and the invoice server further includes an index load device for storing index pointers pointing to the compressed documents.
26. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 2, wherein said session management provided by the one or more secure servers includes Web cookie generation at each instance of client identification to link a session with the customer through a plurality of discrete client communications in the session to verify the customer to the dispatch server at each transmission in the session.
27. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 26, wherein the cookie is generated by a program on a separate server during an entitlements communications, after identification and authentication of the client.
28. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 27, wherein the secure socket layer encrypts client identification, authentication and the session management cookie during each transmission.
29. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 28, wherein the session cookies provide simultaneous session management for a plurality of system resource platforms.
30. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 28, further including encryption for transmission of all customer data between the one or more secure servers and the dispatch server, and SSL encryption for transmission of all customer data between the one or more secure servers and the customer workstation.
31. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 28, wherein each client request from
the customer workstation is encrypted with a public key provided by the data management system, and each of the client requests includes an encrypted client cookie for client authentication.
32. The integrated data management system as claimed in claim 2, wherein the one or more client applications further includes a customer service application downloaded from the one or more secure servers for enabling a customer to generate trouble tickets to be processed by the enterprise; and, the one or more application servers further include a service application server for receiving requests for downloading customer's trouble ticket information to the customer workstation in response to a customer request, and for receiving information from the customer via the interface for generating new trouble tickets.
33. A method for enabling a customer to command and control one or more reporting and management applications relating to services and products offered by an enterprise via the public
Internet, from a customer workstation employing a client browser and capable of receiving Web-based communications from the enterprise, the method comprising the steps of: managing one or more secure client sessions over the public Internet between the client browser and at least one secure server; downloading and presenting Web-based GUI from the secure server for initiating one or more client applications which provide user interfaces to the one or more reporting and management applications according to pre-determined customer entitlements;
processing customer requests received from the one or more client applications and providing responses from one or more remote application servers, communicating the responses to the one or more client applications via the secure server for presentation to the customer at the customer workstation, whereby the customer is enabled to command and control the one or more reporting and data management applications relating to services and products offered by the enterprise.
34. The method as claimed in claim 33, wherein the method further includes: encrypting communications between the client browser and the secure server; identifying and validating the customer; and linking the session with the customer.
35. The method as claimed in claim 33, wherein the step of processing customer requests further includes: communicating through a firewall to at least one dispatch server to forward the customer requests to the one or more application servers using an internal network; and verifying system access by the dispatch server.
36. The method as claimed in claim 35, further comprising the step of: exchanging digital certificates to authenticate the secure server to the client browser.
37. The method as claimed in claim 35, wherein the method further comprises: downloading a backplane object with the
Web-based GUI; and launching the backplane object which initiates the one or more client applications upon a selection by the customer, the backplane object further enabling inter-application communications among the client applications, wherein the backplane object and the client applications interoperate with one another to provide an integrated customer interface to the services and products subscribed by the customer.
38. The method as claimed in claim 37, wherein the method further includes the steps of: downloading a logon object prior to the step of downloading the backplane object, the logon object for receiving a logon transaction from the customer and transmitting the logon transaction to an order entry server to authenticate the customer for access into the system, wherein upon a successful customer validation, the logon object sends a command to the one or more secure servers to download the Web-based GUI having the backplane object.
39. The method as claimed in claim 38, wherein the method further includes: enabling the customer to enter orders over the Internet from the customer workstation for the one or more reporting and data management applications via the order entry server.
40. The method as claimed in claim 39, further comprising: representing a current customer with a customer object, the customer object communicating with the order entry server to determine the customer entitlements to the one or more reporting and data management applications, wherein the backplane uses the entitlements to present via the Web-based GUI, only those
Web-enabled services to which the current customer has privilege.
41. The method as claimed in claim 40, further comprising: executing the one or more client applications directly by the backplane object when the customer selects a client application associated with a desired reporting and data management applications, the client application being run in a frame independent from a Web browser's window.
42. The method as claimed in claim 40, further comprising: launching the one or more client applications from a new browser window retrieved by the backplane object.
43. The method as claimed in claim 40, wherein the method further comprises: downloading a report requestor and a report viewer from the secure server to the customer workstation for presenting one or more customer-selectable data reporting items for the customer in accordance with the customer entitlements; initiating communications between a report
manager and the report requestor application; and enabling with the report viewer presentation of reports in accordance with customer-selected reporting options, the customer options specifying reporting views selected from graphical, tabular, and map views.
44. The method as claimed in claim 43, wherein the method further comprises the report manager: maintaining an inventory of reports associated with the customer; receiving a customer report request message via the Web-based GUI; accessing report items according to the report request message; and generating a response message including a metadata description of reporting items to be presented in the report, wherein the customer-specific data from the one or more remote application servers and the metadata description of associated reporting items are utilized to generate a completed report for presentation by the report viewer to the customer.
45. The method as claimed in claim 44, wherein the method further comprises: transmitting the reporting items for customization according to the customer entitlements to the report manager prior to generation of a report.
46. The method as claimed in claim 45, the method further comprising: enabling with a report scheduler periodic generation of reports from the one or more remote
application servers at a customer-specified frequency.
47. The method as claimed in claim 46, the method further comprising: storing and maintaining with a centralized inbox server the customer-specific data from the one or more remote application servers, the customer-specific data including report data and notification data received from the one or more remote application servers, the centralized inbox server further storing a metadata description of the report data, downloading the report data and the metadata associated with the report data to the customer workstation via the secure server for generation of reports according to the metadata description, and for presentation of the generated reports to the customer via the Web-based GUI.
48. The method as claimed in claim 47, the method further comprising: launching an inbox client application by the backplane; retrieving customer-specific notification data which are stored in the centralized inbox server; presenting the customer-specific notification data to the customer via the Web-based GUI.
49. The method as claimed in claim 48, the method further comprising: launching the one or more reporting and management applications associated with the customer-specific notification data when the customer selects the notification data presented at the customer workstation.
50. The method as claimed in claim 48, the method further comprising: detecting with a first polling thread of the inbox client application an incoming message from the inbox server via the secure server; starting a second thread upon detection of the incoming message; listening with the second thread for new messages; and receiving the incoming message upon detection by the first polling thread.
51. The method as claimed in claim 47, the method further comprising: creating in an inbox database a pre-defined directory associated with each of the one or more remote application servers; and storing the customer-specific data to the respective pre-defined directory.
52. The method as claimed in Claim 47, further including the steps of: extracting data records from a billing system which generates records specific to products and services provided to the customer; harvesting the extracted data records for storage in a database storage device; and communicating customer requests for data to a decision support server for accessing the customer-specific data from the database storage device and transmitting requested customer-specific data to the inbox server in accordance with the customer request.
53. The method as claimed in claim 52, further including the step of organizing the customer
specific data according to a star schema topology to facilitate access thereof.
54. The method as claimed in claim 52, wherein the method further includes: running a pre-defined report; communicating a message from the report scheduler to the decision support server to run the pre-defined report at a pre-determined time, the pre-defined report being updated with the customer-specific data at the pre-determined time.
55. The method as claimed in claim 47, wherein the method further includes: creating one or more invoice documents relating to the services and products offered by the enterprise; downloading the one or more client applications from the secure server for enabling selection and presentation of invoice documents in accordance with the customer entitlements; generating an invoice request message in response to customer selection of a specific invoice option and forwarding the invoice request message via the secure server to an invoice server; and maintaining a database of image files associated with the invoice documents; accessing the database in response to the invoice request message and generating a response message for forwarding to the customer workstation via the secure server; and assembling the response message to include a customer selected invoice document in a form suitable for presentation via the Web-based GUI.
56. The method as claimed in claim 55, wherein the method further comprises: imaging documents by defining key information necessary to retrieve documents from the one or more reporting and management applications; and loading the documents into an object database.
57. The method as claimed in claim 55, wherein the method further comprises: storing index pointers in an index database, the index pointers pointing to the documents in the object database.
58. The method as claimed in claim 55, the method further including the step of: generating a Web cookie at initial instance of client identification to link a session with the customer to verify the customer to the dispatch server at each transmission in the session.
59. The method as claimed in claim 58, wherein the step of generating the cookie is performed on a separate server from the secure server during an entitlements communications, after identification and authentication of the customer.
60. The method as claimed in claim 59, further including: encrypting client identification, authentication and the session management cookie during each transmission.
61. The method as claimed in claim 61, wherein the method further includes:
managing sessions simultaneously with the session cookies for a plurality of system resource platforms .
62. The method as claimed in claim 61, the method further including: encrypting transmissions of all customer data between the secure server and the dispatch server; and
SSL encrypting transmissions of all customer data between the secure servers and the client browser.
63. The method as claimed in claim 61, further including: encrypting each client request from the client browser with a public key; and including an encrypted client cookie with each of the client requests for client authentication.