IBM Global Mailbox - Technical overview

The main components of Global Mailbox and the architecture for the components to work together

High availability in Global Mailbox is based on specific availability principles. There are some limitations to the high availability properties of Global Mailbox.

Global Mailbox is a facility for creating a directory of mailboxes with submailboxes and hosting them across multiple data centers. Messages are created by Global Mailbox for applications (on behalf of trading partners, as application users) and stored in mailboxes.

A mailbox is a secure document payload repository. Mailboxes are secure because there is a permission model that controls who can access which mailbox.

By creating a network of multiple data centers that host mailboxes, the mailboxes can be available even if a data center is not operational. Other data centers in the network continue to perform the transactions. Data, including metadata, is replicated between the data centers.

Mailboxes are have the following features:

  • Mailboxes are organized in a hierarchical tree structure.
  • There is a root mailbox at the highest level in the directory structure.
  • Each mailbox can have only one parent.
  • Mailboxes can be created without an owner, until users or groups and permissions are assigned to them.
  • Mailboxes can contain the following items:
    • Messages
    • Other mailboxes
    • Permission information for specific users
The following mailbox types are concepts that contribute to the operation between applications:
  • Traditional mailboxes - Sterling B2B Integrator mailboxes that are in one node, or instance of Sterling B2B Integrator.
  • Sterling File Gateway mailboxes are traditional mailboxes with advanced routing and visibility that is enabled by Sterling File Gateway
  • Global Mailbox can be configured in multiple data centers with replication of the data so that messages are stored in multiple data centers and are available even when one data center is offline or has an interruption in communication. Global Mailbox is an optional feature of Sterling B2B Integrator that enables mailboxes that can be distributed across multiple data centers.

(Linux® or UNIX)

appConfigUtility.bat updateAppConfig --appName=Sterling Integrator Instance 1 --Pcom.ibm.mailbox.messages.allowDuplicates=true

Global Mailbox administrators can manage mailboxes, messages, permissions, virtual roots, and event rules in the Global Mailbox management tool.

Global Mailbox administrators or users that are assigned to the following Sterling B2B Integrator permission groups can access the Global Mailbox management tool:
  • MAILBOX
  • Deployment
  • Mailbox Administrators
  • Sterling B2B Integrator Admin
The Global Mailbox administrator user interface, or the Global Mailbox management tool, consists of the following three explorer pages that allow Global Mailbox administrators to manage mailboxes, users, and events:
  • Mailbox Explorer
  • User Explorer
  • Event Explorer

Mailbox Explorer

From the Mailbox Explorer page, Global Mailbox administrators can manage all messages, submailboxes, permissions, and event rules for all mailboxes in the Global Mailbox system. The mailbox navigation tree allows Global Mailbox administrators to view all mailboxes and submailboxes on the Mailbox Explorer page.

Global Mailbox administrators can perform the following tasks for a mailbox from the Mailbox Explorer page:
  • Create and delete mailboxes and submailboxes
  • View information about each message, including the message creation date, the message creator, and payload size
  • View and modify extraction criteria for individual messages
  • View and modify user permissions for a mailbox
  • View and resend all events that are generated by a message
  • View and modify all event rules that apply to the mailbox
  • Create or delete an event rule
  • Enable or disable event rules

User Explorer

The User Explorer page allows Global Mailbox administrators to manage all users in the Global Mailbox system by application. With the Find a User search field on the User Explorer page, Global Mailbox administrators can perform the following tasks for a specific user:
  • Create or remove all mailbox permissions
  • View and modify all mailbox permissions
  • View the existing virtual root
  • Set a new virtual root
  • View the application that the user belongs to

Event Explorer

From the Event Explorer page, Global Mailbox administrators can manage all event rules and events by application. By selecting an application on the Event Explorer page, Global Mailbox administrators can perform the following tasks:
  • View all event rules that exist for the application
  • Modify event rules, such as updating the Message Name Filter criteria
  • Evaluate an event rule
  • Create or delete an event rule
  • Enable or disable event rules

With the Events tab on the Event Explorer page, Global Mailbox administrators can resend all events by application that match the filter criteria that is specified. For example, if one or more events were unsuccessfully processed, Global Mailbox administrators can resend events for processing by specifying filter criteria that matches the unsuccessfully processed events.

Administrative users in Sterling B2B Integrator (admins) are granted all permissions in Global Mailbox.

When a service or adapter is configured with a repository type of Global Mailbox, a user designated as a Sterling B2B Integrator administrator is granted all rights and permissions to Global Mailbox resources, without having to specifically add them. There is no scenario whereby a Sterling B2B Integrator administrator gets a permission denied or authorization exception type error because they have all permissions within Global Mailbox.

The virtual root must be set for each admin user in Global Mailbox. If an admin user without a Global Mailbox virtual root accesses an FTP or SFTP server adapter that is enabled for Global Mailbox, the user is directed to traditional mailboxes and not to Global Mailbox.

Admins can directly access the Global Mailbox management tool from Sterling B2B Integrator if single sign-on is configured. Admins must have the necessary permissions in Sterling B2B Integrator to access the Global Mailbox management tool by single sign-on.

In Global Mailbox, admins are not listed on pages where permissions are assigned. Permissions for admins cannot be restricted.

Global Mailbox administrators can create event rules to automatically initiate specific actions when a message is added to a Global Mailbox.

An event records information about each message transfer each time a message is received by a Global Mailbox. Events contain information about the following aspects of each message transfer:
  • The date and time (V5.2.6.3_2 or later) that the message was sent
  • The processing status of the message
  • The data center that processed the message

With event information, Global Mailbox administrators can monitor each individual message transfer in the Global Mailbox system. If one or more events are unsuccessfully processed, a Global Mailbox administrator can resend the events for processing from the Global Mailbox management tool.

An event rule is a specific action, or set of actions, that is performed by an application when a message is added to a Global Mailbox that the event rule applies to. Global Mailbox administrators can create event rules to automate event processing when messages are added to specified mailboxes. When a message is added to a Global Mailbox, all event rules that apply to the mailbox are automatically evaluated.

When an event is evaluated, this means that the event is sent to be processed by the application that it is configured to be processed by. An event rule ensures that the event is automatically evaluated at least once.

Global Mailbox administrators can specify the following parameters for an event rule:
  • The event rule name
  • The mailboxes that the event rule applies to
  • The processing application
  • The Message Name Filter
  • Any additional properties that are supported by the processing application
With the Message Name Filter, Global Mailbox administrators can specify when an event rule applies to a message. Global Mailbox administrators can specify regular expressions, or string patterns, for event rules, which are used to filter messages based on any part of the message that matches the regular expression. When a message matches the Message Name Filter regular expression, an event is generated for the mailboxes that are specified in the event rule.

Event rules can be temporarily enabled or disabled from the Mailbox Explorer or Event Explorer pages.

Availability, performance, consistency, and durability of Global Mailbox are achieved by the replication feature.

Global Mailbox is, in essence, a distributed file system (DFS). Mailboxes correspond to directories in a DFS, and messages correspond to files within DFS directories. Files, much like messages, store two kinds of information:

  • Metadata about the file. For example, file size and file name.
  • The actual content of the file, the payload.

In Global Mailbox, replication consists of two subsystems:

Metadata replication
Apache Cassandra is used to store and maintain message metadata.
Payload replication
If the payload size is less than a set threshold, Cassandra is used to manage and replicate the payload. If the payload size is more than the set threshold, the replication server is used to manage and replicate the payload. Using Cassandra improves performance for small files due to less overhead from eliminating the replication server and the shared disk from the replication flow.

Unlike traditional Sterling B2B Integrator mailboxing, Global Mailbox can automatically replicate both the metadata and payloads associated with messages to remote data centers, thereby providing an increased degree of fault tolerance.

Restriction: Only mailbox data is replicated. Other information that is stored in Sterling File Gateway, such as business processes, business process history, user information, and arrived file history, is not replicated.

It is expected of a distributed system like Global Mailbox to be available most of the times, to perform at the best, to maintain data consistency, and to be durable. However, there are various trade-offs that must be considered by you, based on your business requirements, before configuring each functionality.

Availability

Availability refers to the proportion of time during which a particular service or a system in Global Mailbox is operating at functional capacity. For instance, we consider the payload replication service available only when users can successfully upload new payloads to Global Mailbox. The metadata replication service, on the other hand, is available only when sufficient number of Cassandra instances are online to service read and write requests.

Performance

Two primary concepts are involved in performance:

  • The response time of individual operations executed
  • The aggregate throughput of operations executed at some level of granularity. For example, within a user session, all concurrent sessions within a data center, or all concurrent global sessions.

Minimizing response time and maximizing throughput are both desirable performance goals. In general, it is possible that some operations might have high response times but scale well across concurrent sessions, that is, be high-throughput. Similarly, low-throughput operations might complete quickly in the context of an individual session.

Consistency

Consistency defines the congruency of visible states within a computer system. A distributed system, comprised of different nodes can provide strong consistency only if every component can observe the same state in the same order. Weak consistency, on the other hand, does not provide this guarantee. Apache Cassandra supports a consistency model known as eventual consistency. There are chances, that an eventually consistent system might provide an outdated answer to a query. However, after a sufficient period of time passes, during which no component failures occur, all components in an eventually consistency system respond to a query with the same answer.

Though an eventually consistent system has potential benefits to performance and availability, it is suggested not to configure eventual consistency in Cassandra due to data integrity related issues in Global Mailbox.

Durability

Durability is the guarantee that any operation that completed successfully is not lost, rolled back, or changed due to a component failure. Durability is often compromised in distributed systems to improve performance and availability.

Configuration options

Payload replication and metadata replication provide different levels of availability, performance, consistency, and durability functionality. Availability, performance, consistency, and durability can be configured for payload replication. However for metadata replication, only availability, performance, and durability can be configured. You must retain the default consistency level for metadata replication.

In the Global Mailbox system, storage (file system) implementation is based on the concept of storage buckets. The buckets are containers (logical groups) in the file system, which are configured according to business requirements based on security and retention.

The storage system includes buckets, which store blobs. Buckets include variants, which are versions of the buckets. Blobs are stored in the variants. You must configure at least one bucket and variant for storage to operate.

A variant can have a different configuration (for example, encryption settings). Each variant within a bucket is identified by a unique variant identifier (0 - 63). Variants can be marked as retired after which a variant becomes read only. The data in blobs is distributed among the active variants of the bucket. During a READ or GET operation, the blob is retrieved from the variant it exists in.

File transfer process flow

Following is a high-level list of the file transfer process flow:
  1. Global Mailbox enabled protocol server adapter calls the storage client to read or write a file.
  2. The storage client looks up for the specified file or variant.
  3. The storage client transfers the file to or from the file system.

Storage configuration

You can configure storage by using the Storage Configurator, which is a command line tool. The data input is validated and an XML file is generated based on the input. Storage configuration is stored in Cassandra. You can configure the following information for the storage component:
  • Bucket variants
  • File system base path
  • Security (hash value, encryption)
  • Maximum lifespan of blobs
  • Buffer size for storage
  • Input and output threads
  • Storage of blob metadata

When you install the initial Global Mailbox node, storage buckets (1st_provisioned and global_mbx) and the first variant (0) are created. By default, Global Mailbox uses the global_mbx bucket to store message payload. When installing the initial Global Mailbox node, you must also specify the shared storage path for all other data centers. The configuration information (1st_provisioned and global_mbx buckets, global.properties and installinfo.properties files), is copied to the shared storage path specified for other data centers after installing the initial Global Mailbox node.

When you configure your storage system, you must decide how you want to use buckets and variants to store the different kinds of information that flow through the Global Mailbox.

Pause and resume

If resumption is configured for a file that is uploaded, the file is broken into segments.

If a file is broken into four segments, a total of five files, one for each segment, and a stub file, are created and stored on the disk. The stub file contains metadata with information to reassemble the segments.

One of the following statuses can be seen when writing a file to storage:
New
A new blob is created
Writing
Writing the blob
Paused
Writing of the blob is paused
Complete
Writing the blob is completed

If the upload is interrupted (either by pause or loss of network connection) in the middle of uploading a segment, the whole segment is removed, and upload is resumed when the error is corrected.

A scheduled job is a regularly performed task on the Global Mailbox system to automate routine operations and to maintain optimal system performance. You can modify the configuration of scheduled jobs with the schedulerConfigUtility script to meet your system requirements.

Scheduled jobs perform regular operations to maintain optimal Global Mailbox system performance. For example, the PayloadPurgeJob routinely identifies and removes orphaned payloads from the Global Mailbox system by deleting the orphan payload data from Cassandra. An orphaned payload is a message payload that is no longer referenced by a message.

You can use the following list of scheduled jobs to maintain your Global Mailbox system:
MessagePurgeJob
Deletes incomplete messages.
ResendFilteredEventsJob
Re-sends all events for processing, which apply to specific event filter criteria.
ReEvaluateEventRuleJob
Reevaluates an event rule by resending all events that apply to the event rule for processing.
PayloadPurgeJob
Deletes orphaned payloads, or payloads that are no longer referenced by a message, from the local data center.
UserPurgeJob
Deletes users from the Global Mailbox system that are removed from an application.
UnprocessedEventPurgeJob
Deletes all events that are in the UNPROCESSED status from all applications.
ProcessingEventPurgeJob
Deletes all events that are in the PROCESSING status from all applications.
CompletedEventPurgeJob
Deletes all events that are in the COMPLETE status from all applications.
FailedEventPurgeJob
Deletes all events that are in the FAILED status from all applications.
You can view a list of scheduled jobs, view the configuration of the scheduled jobs, and update the configuration of the scheduled jobs and job triggers with the schedulerConfigUtility script:
listJobs
Displays a list of the scheduled jobs.
showJobConfig
Displays a list of the parameters, and the configuration of each parameter, for a scheduled job.
updateJobConfig
Updates the configuration of a scheduled job with the parameter values that you specify.
updateTriggerConfig
Updates the trigger configuration for a scheduled job with the parameter values that you specify.

You can set the frequency and schedule for jobs to meet your business requirements, with different schedules and frequencies for different jobs depending on your data patterns. A job can be scheduled for a specific time of day, such as 2 AM, with a frequency between daily and every several months.

You can convert Sterling File Gateway partners and mailboxes to use Global Mailbox. You can create new accounts in Global Mailbox for Sterling B2B Integrator users and mailboxes and use adapters that are enabled for Global Mailbox. You cannot migrate users and mailboxes from one Global Mailbox system to another.

After Global Mailbox is installed and configured, Sterling File Gateway partners can be converted to enable Global Mailbox functionality. After a partner is converted in one data center, export the related resources and import them to the other data centers to take advantage of the features and architecture of Global Mailbox.

To use the features and advantages of Global Mailbox, you can convert the existing Sterling File Gateway partners (producer and consumer) to use Global Mailbox. You can only convert a single partner at a time. A Sterling File Gateway route provisioner, administrator, architect, or operator can convert a partner to use Global Mailbox. The conversion is irreversible. If for any reason you no longer want to use Global Mailbox, you must re-create the partner and routes in Sterling File Gateway.

When you convert the partners to use Global Mailbox, mailboxes that are equivalent to the existing traditional mailboxes are created in the Global Mailbox realm for the partner. User permissions and virtual roots are also created in the Global Mailbox realm. The user accounts associated with a Sterling File Gateway partner remain in Sterling B2B Integrator when the partner is converted to use Global Mailbox. Permissions for the user on certain mailboxes are granted within the Global Mailbox system, but the user account remains within Sterling B2B Integrator.

Traditional mailboxes continue to exist, but are no longer used. You can move the messages in traditional mailboxes to Global Mailbox at the time you convert the partner. After a partner is converted to use Global Mailbox, new messages for that partner are written to the mailboxes in Global Mailbox.

By creating your mailboxes and virtual roots in Global Mailbox, you can gain Global Mailbox advantages while continuing to use your existing Sterling B2B Integrator business processes. If you want to limit partner-facing impact, you may want to re-direct your load balancers to new Global Mailbox enabled adapters. Some downtime would be required while you adjust your adapters, but by re-using the externally facing ports, you may not need to have partners make additional adjustments.

With file transfer resumptions, active file transfers that are interrupted, disrupted, or stopped can be resumed because the Global Mailbox saves data prior to the occurrence of errors.

If an active file transfer is interrupted due to a network error, the protocol adapter getting disrupted or stopped, or the Sterling B2B Integrator node going down, the Global Mailbox saves the data that was uploaded before the error occurred.

To support transfer resumption, the server adapters in Sterling B2B Integrator store the incomplete files in a temporary document staging area. This allows FTP and SFTP clients to resume a transfer. File transfer is resumed on another server in the same data center.

With Load balancer, if an FTP server adapter from a specific data center goes down, an error occurs. When you resume the file transfer, a connection is established to the existing data center if the data center is not down and the file upload is successfully resumed.

However, if the data center is down, and a connection to the other data center is attempted, then resume fails. In this case, file resumption is possible only in the data center in which the file was initially uploaded.

The Global Mailbox implementation supports REST services to view and consume some resources in the Sterling B2B Integrator and Sterling File Gateway.

The REST services are hosted in an instance of HTTP Server adapter, which is named, Global Mailbox REST Services adapter. The Global Mailbox REST Services adapter is preconfigured (by default) on a dedicated port and uses basic authentication (over SSL) to confirm that only users with appropriate permissions are allowed to access the resources on Sterling B2B Integrator. By default, a user who is named, gmbx_user is shipped with permissions (Global Mailbox User Lookup REST API and Global Mailbox Event Property REST API permission) to the supported REST services. Each supported REST service is in its own servlet and shares a .WAR file with the other services.
 
Important: By default the REST services are configured in the Application Server Independent (ASI) node (Sterling B2B Integrator Java™ Virtual Machine). If the Sterling B2B Integrator REST services are not configured in the ASI node, you cannot find users in the Global Mailbox Management Tool, create event rules or view the Global Mailbox users on the Global Mailbox management tool. Therefore, it is suggested that you change the default settings of the REST services to point to the adapter container.

To establish a connection to the Global Mailbox system, Sterling B2B Integrator is registered with Global Mailbox by using the appConfigUtility during the installation. When registering Sterling B2B Integrator, the REST services are also registered with Global Mailbox. The registration is automated and does not require any manual intervention. However, if you need to change any parameters for user lookup or event data lookup, then you can run the following commands after installing Global Mailbox and Sterling B2B Integrator:

The following example illustrates appConfigUtility invocation for user lookup:
./appConfigUtility.sh setUserLookup --appID=<appID> --dcName=<datacenter name> --baseURL=https://si.myco.com:9876/api/V1 --authUser=gmbx_user --authPassword=password --removeURL=<URL>
appConfigUtility.bat setUserLookup --appID=<appID> --dcName=<datacenter name> --baseURL=https://si.myco.com:9876/api/V1 --authUser=gmbx_user --authPassword=password --removeURL=<URL>
 
The following example illustrates appConfigUtility invocation for event data lookup:
./appConfigUtility.sh setEventDataLookup --appID=<appID> --dcName=<datacenter name> --baseURL=https://si.myco.com:9876/api/V1 --authUser=gmbx_user --authPassword=password -removeURL=<URL>
appConfigUtility.bat setEventDataLookup --appID=<appID> --dcName=<datacenter name> --baseURL=https://si.myco.com:9876/api/V1 --authUser=gmbx_user --authPassword=password -removeURL=<URL>

To connect to Sterling B2B Integrator, and access the required resources through Global Mailbox REST Service adapter (of type HTTP Server adapter), Global Mailbox must have the following information. The installer configures the REST parameters during the installation.

Element
Description
Example
Request methodThe REST request method. Only GET is supported.GET
Host nameThe host where the Global Mailbox REST Services adapter instance (HTTP Server adapter type) is running. It is a Sterling B2B Integrator host.si.myco.com
PortThe listening port of the Global Mailbox REST Services adapter. An appropriate port is configured by the Sterling B2B Integrator administrator.9876
Resource pathThe REST resource path. It must start with /api/V1/api/V1/users

/api/V1/event_properties/

User nameUser name for basic authentication. A new Sterling B2B Integrator user is supported. Any other user with permission corresponding to the specific REST API can also be used.
The gmbx_user user is granted the following permissions to execute the rest services:
  • Global Mailbox User Lookup REST API
  • Global Mailbox Event Property REST API
gmbx_user
PasswordPassword for basic authentication. The password is configured by the Sterling B2B Integrator administrator.password
Server certificateSSL certificate that represents the host Sterling B2B Integrator identity. Might be self-signed or signed by a certifying authority. The client (Global Mailbox) must be configured to trust this certificate as representing the server (Sterling B2B Integrator).Certificate file that is downloaded from Sterling B2B Integrator and associated with HTTPS Server adapter.
Important: The Global Mailbox REST Services adapter is preconfigured with appropriate resource path (.WAR file), URL, and a default port. If required, the Sterling B2B Integrator administrator can modify the following values:
  • Optionally change the port to a different value.
  • Change the certificate that is used for server authentication (default certificate is a self-signed certificate that is created during Sterling B2B Integrator installation. The default certificate is different for each Sterling B2B Integrator node.)
  • Enable the Global Mailbox REST Service adapter instance, as it is disabled by default.
The administrator must not modify the URL or the resource path.
The following Global Mailbox REST Services are currently supported:
  • User Lookup REST Service
  • Event Property REST Service

Note: If the auth password is modified using the command line in the setUserLookup utility, ensure you update the same in the setEventDataLookup utility.

For example:

./appConfigUtility.sh setUserLookup --authPassword="newpc4us" --appName="B2Bi" --adminUser="admin" --adminPassword="password" ./appConfigUtility.sh setEventDataLookup --authPassword="newpc4us" --appName="B2Bi" --adminUser="admin" --adminPassword="password"

User Lookup REST Service

The User Lookup REST Service is hosted in the Global Mailbox REST Services adapter, and can be accessed from the URI /api/V1/users/. After successfully authenticating the user, the request returns a list of users who are in the Active state in Sterling B2B Integrator. If required, a Global Mailbox administrator can optionally choose to view Sterling B2B Integrator administrator users also.

Event Properties REST Service

The Event Properties REST Service is hosted in the Global Mailbox REST Services adapter, and can be accessed from the URI /api/V1/event_properties/. After successfully authenticating the user, the request returns a list of Sterling B2B Integrator supported event properties, such as, business process name, contract name, and user. By default, the service returns information on mandatory and invalid event property combinations. If required, the Global Mailbox administrator can initiate a second call to view the allowed values, for example, /api/V1/event_properties/BPNAME/allowed_values.

 

The performance of your IBM® Global High Availability Mailbox system depends upon the interaction of the components, the communication paths between components, and the configuration settings. By monitoring your performance and tuning your system, you can balance file transfer speed with availability and protection from data loss. Your business requirements must be a consideration in designing and tuning performance.

Several key areas affect performance:
  • Number of data centers
  • Geographical distribution of data centers
  • Number of Cassandra nodes in the cluster and consistency settings for replication
  • Number of ZooKeeper nodes in the ensemble
  • Number of files transferred
  • Size of payloads
  • GPFS tuning (or other file system tuning)
  • Storage tuning (for example, adjusting concurrent access lease parameters)
  • Security settings, such as encryption for data during transfer and data at rest in storage

Security for your Global Mailbox system must be planned and implemented as an integrated aspect of your deployment, and carefully monitored and administered to continue evolving to meet new risks as they form. By taking appropriate steps, your organization can minimize and mitigate threats.

Implementing a secure system involves the following key elements:
  • Trusted connections
  • Authentication of components
  • Authorization of users
  • Access control to data
  • Permissions
  • Audit-ability of events, including authentication events and access control changes
  • Configured firewalls

Global Mailbox relies on the connecting applications, such as Sterling B2B Integrator and Sterling File Gateway to authorize end users. Multiple applications can access the same mailboxes, depending on permissions. Careful management of users in all applications is necessary to ensure security.

Administrators are authenticated with a user ID and password. Certain parts of the Global Mailbox management tool can only be accessed by administrators. Because of the extensive privileges granted to administrators, the user ID and password must be carefully controlled, changed frequently, and adhere to strict rules for complexity. Delete the default administrator after you have created a unique one for your system.

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