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Microsoft Cloud Authors: Elizabeth White, Adine Deford, the Editor, Michael Krems, Xenia von Wedel

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Building Digital Marketplace Alpha – Harnessing Cloud SOA and Ecosystem Architecture

The UK government is starting to plan the evolution of their G-Cloud (Government Cloud) initiative.

In essence the current implementation is basically an ‘e-commerce store for Government Cloud IT services’. The Cloud Store is just that, the logical first step of a single ordering point for Cloud services that can be ‘approved once, used many’ and so it provides the catalogue and ordering methods for this.

However as you can imagine in technological innovation terms this is only scratching the surface of the tip of the iceberg above the water. As we start to explore deeper so we can see the future evolution direction.

What could drive this evolution is introduced in this post from the G-Cloud team, on how they are beginning the consultation process for re-design of the portal, and to start a journey towards a ‘Digital Marketplace’.

This is a much stronger vision and will see the initiative really start to gather some heavyweight steam, as it begins to embrace and address what have been previously intractable issues in key areas like application integration and modernization, through new techniques like smart agent computing.

 

The Platformation of Public Services

There is no doubt there is a huge sea change underway, in terms of how IT is designed and delivered, and one way of describing this architectural is the idea of ‘Platformation’ of Public Services.

Like Healthcare.gov government IT is notorious in its inability to deliver complex systems, much to do with their fundamental mental models. The Cloud is bringing new ideas, especially those that combine with the ‘API Economy’ to make existing systems more of a platform, than a legacy burden.

This concept is described in this TIM Review white paper - Platformation: Cloud Computing Tools at the Service of Social Change, where they describe how better information sharing models will empower huge productivity boosts in key social need areas. These same benefits would naturally be hugely beneficial to all public sector activities.

Then there is also the PaaS’ aspect of this statement, as in the Cloud computing definition standing for Platform as a Service.

The technical make up of this is important of course, but really the key message is the delegation of authority – Empowering citizens and other developers outside of the corporate firewall to make direct use of your systems via Read/Write APIs.

For sectors like government this can seem like Information Security suicide and so there are the usual two opposing forces of innovation and change resistance, however ultimately security concerns will be assured and considerable progress will be made as organizations begin to adopt this metaphor.

Digital Health Ecosystem

In enterprise architect purist terms we describe this as ‘Cloud SOA‘, referring to the evolution of the design principle known as the Service Oriented Architecture, for the Cloud era.

With inputs from experts like Rackspace we introduced Cloud SOA by describing its application in the Canadian eHealth sector, in this edition of our TRANSFORM e-magazine.

One critical aspect to the Cloud SOA approach is to begin adopting what is more of an ‘Ecosystem Architecture’, meaning that you design for a community of partners, rather than a ‘hard-coded’ supply chain approach.

Even the words ‘supply chain’ encapsulate how traditional enterprise IT has been hampered for generations by this rigid mental model for managing activities like procurement, when instead e-markets and others embrace the dynamism of the real-world.

Reflecting this therefore in application design terms is therefore equally powerful, indeed tremendously enabling, and we are seeing early emergence of approaches like this.

An example is this blueprint from Napier University in Edinburgh, a Next Generation Cloud-Based Healthcare Platform.

They describe an ecosystem model, comprising:

  • A reference architecture, describing Naming Systems, Encryption, Federation Models and more…
  • A menu list of common services, such as the IMS – Identity Mapping Service
  • An modular XaaS approach for plugging in the processes of other departments, such as X-Rays
  • Access Control Policy Service, that regulates information access around Patient Identifiers
  • An intelligent agent centric approach for bridging information between secure domains
  • Use of ‘Personal Cloud’ services like Microsoft Healthvault, among others
  • Federated Identity Providers and Trusted Identity-based models

All of these features will be achievable through a ‘PaaS catalogue’ of component parts, and so developers can be empowered to create a higher order application that builds atop each of them. I.e. It creates a platform from the existing IT resources.

So in short you can think of the PaaS layer as also being the design framework for a broader supplier ecosystem, including keystone elements like federating identity.

For the broader transformation of the Healthcare sector this presentation from the same team is also very enlightening.

The post Building Digital Marketplace Alpha – Harnessing Cloud SOA and Ecosystem Architecture appeared first on Cloud Computing Best Practices.

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