Cloud service brokering revitalizes e-business
By Leo Yeung, Hong Kong Computer Society 28-Jun-2012
Cloud computing is gaining momentum in Hong Kong. According to a recent survey conducted by Hong Kong Productivity Council on companies in Hong Kong, over 30% of the respondents said they are using cloud-based application. Today, cloud computing is developing in three directions:
Firstly, new data centers have been built and there are more to come. IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service) seems to be the low hanging fruit in cloud computing.
Secondly, many organizations, including the government, have started to research on and formulate their "cloud strategies." Many of them are trying to identify the applications or services that can be migrated to the cloud, whether it is public or private, and the associated costs and benefits.
Thirdly, there is initial consensus in the market that security in the cloud remains a concern. The adoption of cloud computing should start with SMBs (Small-Medium Size Businesses) instead of organizations that face stringent security controls like financial institutions.
Cloud service brokering
"Service brokering works like 'glue' that sticks different pieces of clouds together."
-- Leo Yeung, vice president, Cloud Computing Special Interest Group, Hong Kong Computer Society
To understand cloud computing based on the simple classification of IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service), PaaS (platform-as-a-service) and SaaS (software-as-a-service) is perhaps just tipping the iceberg. There are far more opportunities inside a cloud, or between clouds.
The beauty of cloud computing is that there is not only one cloud or one form of cloud. There are in fact many clouds that operate in different forms. Organizations are advised to learn about the opportunities in cloud computing, and how different clouds can co-exist, co-operate and collaborate.
According to Gartner, three services types can be derived from cloud computing:
- Service collaboration -- comprises hybrid models including service plus process, service plus software and service plus devices;
- Service brokering -- includes service cooperation, service dispatching, and service aggregation; and
- Service governance -- comprises service provision, service monitoring and service assurance.
Service collaboration is a delivery model combining a cloud-based service and another solution component(s). This is mainly to compensate each other's weaknesses and achieve the synergy of an end-to-end solution. For instance, a bundle of cloud-based service and in-premise software will process services with security or performance requirements locally and leaves the rest to be processed on the cloud.
"Service plus process" is an interesting model if it can be integrated into industry-specific public processes, such as order management process for the high-tech industries, and replenishment process for auto manufacturing.
Service brokering works like "glue" that sticks different pieces of clouds together. However, few people touch on a concrete business model of service brokering because the standards to ensure the interoperability between clouds have not been clearly defined. If the interoperability between clouds can be ironed out, service brokering will give a second chance for some previous unsuccessful e-business models to reborn.
Figure 1. Three forms of service brokering
CCS to re-born
One example is a concept called CCS (Cargo Community Service) in the transport and logistics sector as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Cargo community services
The characteristic of information exchanges in the transport and logistics sector is the involvement of multiple stakeholders including shippers, consignees, freight forwarders, carriers, customs brokers, warehouse operators, terminals and truckers. Streamlining information exchanges between these stakeholders is a key role of a CCS. Usually a CCS receives messages from one stakeholder, performs the necessary processing include translations and transactions, and then routes to other stakeholders. Typical examples of CCS in Hong Kong were CargoNet back in the 90's, and DTTN in the 00's.