Thursday, 5 February 2009

New approaches to relevant and realistic on-demand services

Cloud Augmentation

The investigation of on-demand paradigm highlighted a number of interesting competitive advantage and competitive leadership potentials in agent based technology.

It is possible to use agent technology to define a new approach to intelligent services.  A new kind of definition has been developed of human and system interactions that are either automated or semi automated in action and response. The concept of augmentation, is as it is described in the word, an extension to the services and real world through augmented services that automated added value actions and activities.  For example:

·         A user can search for a catalogue item and the intelligent search comes back this a range of alternatives together with the service provider parties, pricing and recommendations. The user can  then select from this and investigate further or accept the recommendations

o   The business benefits are in the maximizing of resources and available solutions that would otherwise have been unaware or not pursued by the user.

·         A business process that involves a number of events and/or workflow steps could be automated such that the searching, identification and negotiation of provisioning of the resources, products and services can be semi- automated or in part fully automated dynamically. The System (Agent) can go and search for appropriate solutions and specifications from a catalogue and asset style register and come back based on rules and preferences of the user possible alternatives and recommendations.

o   The business benefits are in the coordination and negotiation of resources and sources such that an optimal service arrangement and options can be presented to the user. He resulting user experience is enhanced as the system provided augmented services to execute and add additional value for the user experience. 

What  are agents?

Agents are a type of Software application that attempt to semi-automate decision makings in complex environments.
     There are many types of agents from technical network monitoring robots to self learning agents to agent advisor avatars.

How might agents work in the cloud ?

Application objects can be "modelled" in a virtual world, parallel to the physical world. There are agents in this virtual world who can question & negotiate with these objects to provide answers to questions posed by the user. If appropriate, the user can then implement the recommended actions in the real world.



The following characteristics where elaborated:

·         As a precursor, the assets and components in a real world system are defined using service oriented principles described in Service Contracts (black box public facing definition) and meta description (internal white box definition of the service encapsulation).  This is then augmented further but adding additional Semantic and real world physics meta data descriptions to that service component

o   For example,  a Web Server will be described by its technical characteristics + its physical location, physical geometry and world map location + is actual real time use and performance characteristics.  Another example,  a Application function or specific Person can be described by its technical and logic characteristics + its physical location (n the case of a Human their GPS or other location based defined, physical geometry (in the case of a application function its actual code location and states), skills (in the case of a Human the personal skills, its availability and current performance characteristics. (In the can of a human asset it may be notional rather that actual individuals named, but in principle either is possible)

o   So a Virtual world representation of the real world physics is rendered dynamically as possible.

·         Agents are used to define the rules and intelligent operating conditions they operate under. Agents can read the service level meta-description of components in the Service oriented Virtual World.  Agents live in the virtual world description space and can act on the service components based on the rules and policies defined.

o   Security can be defined by placing constraints and security options on agents it what they can and can not do.

·         The User via an UI can interact with one or more Service agents that facilitate the user through the service request and response life cycle. 

o   The interaction of service is not static and based on a fixed catalogue and configuration activity. Agents look at user preferences and available options and resources and advise the user on options and recommendations

·          The provision of service can be automated via the system (agents)  dynamically managing the provisioning and construction of a workflow to connect the resources to the consumer.

o   The System (agents) can automatically construct alternative worklflows and suggest these to the User as options based on QoS optimizations. On selection, the system (agent) can then build the workflow to connect and execute the transaction dynamically.

o   Service aggregator and service broker activities are linked together with the system (agent) technology such that provisioning of the service optimizes the brokering (sourcing and coordination of service components) and composing and delivering the services (aggregation of the service experience for the user)   

·         The system (agents) manages the on-demand service dynamically and for different types of XaaS service types to achieve QoS optimization.

o   The request and response can work for PaaS selection of infrastructure performance and service capacity provision

o   The request and response can work for software on demand SaaS provision and configuration

o   The request and response service can support on demand business processes and information as a service.  The agents provide specific business process workflows and functionality to respond to real-time business request and events


 A new way of looking at Business Processes  (BPaaS, InfoaaS)

The development of Business Processes and Information as a Service is a move in the direction of more realistic and real world services.
  The following features summarise the key differences:

·         Business processes are part of a holistic environment that can be dynamically changing

·         Users behavior in events acting upon the activities and resources can in themselves change the outcomes of activities and resource choices made

·         Business performance are interlinked with a number of participants, activities and resources which in themselves can create different combinations of supply chain and value activities. These many evolve over time as different resources and relationships are sourced and provisioned changing the shape of the supply chain and value propositions

·         The meaning of Information, its semantics, is crucial to defining what the business processes, activities, asset and knowledge are worth. By being able to describe what the asset, component, service and relationship characteristics  the business is able to be more effective in utilizing and acting with knowledge and improved understanding of capabilities

What this means in Business Processes and Information in business terms is a new way of looking at  how activities and events affect each other and the workflows connecting  these actions with resources and users (providers and consumers).

How can Agents help in the real world?

·         Craftsman world => Agents could help clean up "legacy" estates and prepare to on-ramp new services

·         Industrialized world => Agents could help weigh up internal and external factors to balance our capacity across our global service delivery centres

·         Business Process on Demand world => Agents could help pull together a "best of breed" business process, based on requirements of KPIs, Enabling technologies. Resource types, etc........ from the Marketplace.



In short it is describing an alternative next generation view of Business process management that is no longer a declarative, stoichastic, static perspective of operations and outcomes but a vibrant and flexible combination of participants and interactions.  

·         Individual business processes or collections of sub processes are in-fact part of a wider holistic environment that affects or is affected by the relationships between these processes and the individual inputs and outcomes of these processes.

o   What business workflows need to represent is the interrelated conditions and relationships between the process providers and process consumers and how they are impacted on other related processes.  By intelligently defining these it is possible to improve the way business processes individually work and are best optimized between business processes  

·         The digitization of resources, products and services and their assets are enabling a rich source of potential solutions and knowledge that through appropriate cataloguing and intelligent description of their worth and capability can be harvested and optimized.

o   Business process as a service as through automation seek out and describe the outcomes as parameters and the system services (agents) can then go forth based on rules and preferences seek out optimal solutions and a range of alternatives and associated content and resources for achieving a goal or set of goals.  For example,  a user requests a purchase for a product or service and the system (agent) can seek out and search alternative marketplaces, catalogues, the skills, available solutions in their region or elsewhere that are related. The system can search distributed content and services and auto-discover other sources or systems (agents) and trigger their events.

·         A distributed service framework could be used to describe an evolving and unfolding dynamic use of a service catalogue or business process service.   This could be used to mitigate and migrate the service in a way that exploited the elastic properties of the service framework by targeting it towards where the demand is.

o   Business and IT services on demand would be optimized through targeting the services on demand as they arise from specific demand and exploiting the assets and services enabling them.  Specifically, the system (agents) would seek to maximizing the service resources for a user dynamically, promoting and allocating content and resources to the end point of user of a user.

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