Knowledge Management in Cloud Environments

Dirk Langenberg
Pumacy Technologies AG Bartningallee 27 Berlin, Germany +49 30 2216128-0

Christian Kind
Pumacy Technologies AG Bartningallee 27 Berlin, Germany +49 30 2216128-0

Martin Dames
Pumacy Technologies AG Bartningallee 27 Berlin, Germany +49 30 2216128-0

Communication and sharing of knowledge are important challenges for virtual organizations (VO) in the globalized economy. There are various tools available to virtually reduce geographical distances and to support collaboration. Also for the management of knowledge appropriate solutions are available. But VOs typically have limited time to setup the entire ITinfrastructure for their collaboration. Therefore the trend to buy ready-to-use products exists. This paper characterizes requests of VOs for SaaS products, proposes functionalities to support team work and describes challenges with their solutions in the cloud.

Categories and Subject Descriptors
H.3.5 [Information Storage and Retrieval]: On-line Information Services – Commercial services, Data sharing, Web-based services C.2.4 [Distributed Systems]: Distributed applications – Cloud Computing

Today, various collaboration platforms are established for VOs [5], which provide file management typically. For knowledgeintensive works this is not enough. In VOs the members require more capabilities to collect, manage and provide knowledge for its reuse in the joint projects [14]. Sharing of experiences in VOs is mostly done by direct communication without any KM system. Preferred solutions to exchange files are project servers. However, even here are some remaining challenges: Firstly, project servers have to be accessible by all project members via the Internet. In many companies security policies hinder operation of such services. Secondly, project servers require hardware and software investments, administration and support. Often these costs cannot be specified for each project partner. Thirdly, the whereabouts of data and the possible access by end of project must be regulated. Additionally, VOs have limited time to setup and to operate an adequate infrastructure. Therefore a ready-to-use solution of a specialized provider is required, which can be bought and used instantly. The announcements of the arising cloud computing providers sound promising. This paper proposes a solution for a collaborative KM platform based on the new cloud technologies.

General Terms

Collaborative KM software has to meet several challenges to support VOs [8]. At first, communication between project members has to be facilitated to overcome geographical and cultural distances. After that, simplified and effective sharing of knowledge has to be enabled. Last but not least, management of the collaboration environment has to be simplified. Figure 1 shows the main functionalities to support VOs.

knowledge management, virtual organizations, cloud computing, software as a service.

In industry, virtual organizations (VO) are a common strategy to organize the development, production and maintenance of products. Most companies concentrate on their core competences and draw additional services from subcontractors. VOs are temporary consortiums of companies that work together with a common goal [2]. Therefore cross company collaborations are inevitable [11], but knowledge management (KM) stops at organizational borders, today. It is almost impossible to achieve sharing of knowledge between various parties in these VOs. Reasons for this are geographic distances, affiliation to different organizations and often the resulting formal flow of information. Also security policies hinder direct access to knowledge.

Figure 1. Functionalities for support of VOs [8]

CLOUD COMPUTING AS SOLUTION Currently arising cloud computing technologies are a new form of virtualization in computing platforms. there are other ways to assist interaction between VO members with further collaboration functionalities. a neutral service provider can often make arrangements easier. Beginning in the early stages. because they store important contributions to the intellectual property of companies. They can buy the required IT-solution including (virtualized) hardware. we see at first current Web 2. technical barriers have to be solved. In cloud environments. for example semistructured wikis or management systems for structured knowledge articles. Platform (hardware and basic software) as a Service (PaaS) or Software as a Service (SaaS). One approach for more interaction inside of VOs in the context of collaborative KM is to deploy workflows. However. With such KM service all involved disciplines share their knowledge throughout the entire product lifecycle process. multi-institutional virtual organizations. Independent of the chosen approach. the costs are borne by the partners. These tools reduce the distance between the partners virtually and enable more discussions. KNOWLEDGECLOUD 5. At the same time. all members of a project and respectively of a VO are interested in the project specific topics – and not in running an information technology infrastructure. COLLABORATIVE KM AS A SERVICE The proposed solution is to provide a project-based KM and collaboration service in the Cloud. until the usage and disposal phase. project partners will participate fairly in the costs. The usage of a common KM service by all partners simplifies capturing and retrieving of knowledge. The KM service KMcloud by Pumacy Technologies is such a SaaS solution for collaboration-oriented KM. Especially the current trend to provide SaaS on a pay-per-use basis is interesting for VOs. A comfortable search function has to make this knowledge reusable for other people. the product and process knowledge is documented in the cloud. Just a few years ago. outsourcing of applications with confidential information was not made because of security reasons.1 Description of the KM-Service KMcloud As shown above the current trend providing SaaS is interesting for VOs and medium sized companies. For example. Therefore a ready-to-use solution of a specialized provider is required. KM systems were installed only in the company. KMcloud is a solution with a new architecture based on cloud technologies (Figure 2) and on the platform KMmaster® [12]. software has to support collection. There are explicit links to describe connections between knowledge items. “traditional” communication tools like email are still required. or meta information like creation time express correlations about the background of an article. Project partners have to trust in the service provider in equal measure. For example.When we take a look at the communication aspects. Yellow Pages and ideas are typical knowledge articles. So they have to be implemented adequate to the behavior in the VO. But security requirements remain. Of course. Based on the demand-oriented settlement. 3. On the other side. workflows formalize the KM process. As long as the data is provided. FAQs. Then the entire group can focus their efforts on the joint project. To improve the management of VOs. common calendars and task management support the planning. They can buy required IT functionalities including setup. The knowledge base can be extended by new articles comfortably and work processes of each project team member can be assisted by deploying existing knowledge.” [3] Grid solutions are mainly used to provide computing power and storage capacity for calculation and simulation tasks [7] [15]. Cloud computing shares the same vision [4]. With these new solutions. which is currently developed in the research project KnowledgeCloud [13]. blogs and RSS). 5. operation and maintenance. users purchase IT-infrastructure for a freely defined time period. Of course. KM as a service on basis of Cloud technologies [8] . One advantage is that anyone can use the service without disciplinespecific knowhow. It is a further development of grid computing. Especially the internet-based VOs ask for integration of these tools into their collaboration environment. Usage of a common platform avoids media breaks and ensures the location and system-independent information delivery. Typically. the data is deleted. The demand to outsource IT-solutions forces the realization of cloud-based services. which are set by authors. There are different approaches for KM. However. involve more people in the creation process and ensure a higher quality level of documented knowledge. cross links between all knowledge items are important.0 communication technologies (Twitter. They might enforce reviews for knowledge articles before publication. setup. operation and maintenance (backups and security patches). the availability is much higher than most companies would typically achieve hosting the system locally. Figure 2. tools for surveys and voting assist to form opinions. Regarding faith in secure access to data during and after the project. Regarding KM. the challenges here lie more in the legal situation regarding intellectual property rights to be respected. tags. 4. Lessons Learned. they rent virtualized Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). there are various implicit links: Categories. It can be used worldwide by all project partners. any company can create its IT-environment. Thereby VOs can establish an own KM environment for the duration of cooperation without having to invest into and maintain an own technical infrastructure. This is neither limited to specific companies nor with respect to time. If the service is no longer needed. structuring and provision of knowledge. when requirements and their effects on the product are defined. which FOSTER defined as: “Grid Computing is concerned with coordinated resource sharing and problem solving in dynamic.

the focus of a SaaS provider regarding data security and safety is on the application itself.g. Regarding infrastructure and operating system. Instead it has to realize this on its own by clustering application servers which could run on many instances in parallel. Here. KMcloud uses a SQL server at the moment. Therefore it is important for the success of a SaaS provider to fulfill the demand for adequate security. The business logic is implemented in Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) and the creation of web pages is realized in Java Servlet Pages (JSP). On the other hand money can be saved by turning off unused nodes.3. The development is based on the described functionalities (chapter 2) and the requirements of the application scenario above (chapter 4). there are limited possibilities for KMcloud to enforce data security. the user session has to be distributed all the time over the whole cluster like it is shown in Figure 4. Semi-automatic node management: At fixed points in time. in the morning) or removed (e.3. After the contract ends. Here. which is the container of the entire application. Figure 3. at weekends) from the cluster. etc. 5. 5. all data of a customer has to be deleted from the KMcloud database. 5. As a consequence. Therefore a JDBC driver is currently developed in KnowledgeCloud to create an interface between Hibernate and a NoSQL cloud database (see Figure 3).g.2 Database in the Cloud Some cloud providers offer simple NoSQL databases [10].3 File Storage in the Cloud Another service used for KMcloud is a file based cloud storage.In KnowledgeCloud concepts for scalable integration of external IT resources (computing. EJBs and JSPs are running in the context of an application server. . On client side. Therefore. when higher load is expected nodes are added (e. which requires a specific application server.2 Data Security Security of their data and documents is perhaps the most important requirement of users in the cloud [9]. To have a high availability system it must be possible that if one cluster node crashes another node is able to serve client requests immediately. KMcloud cannot use solutions of the cloud providers for scalability and load balancing.4 Availability KMcloud is based on the existing KMmaster® platform. Manual node management: A node is added (or removed) "by hand" to the system. There are different possibilities. b. KMcloud uses the Hibernate framework which understands many different SQL Dialects but no cloud database dialects. A community concept ensures confidentiality of data. customers use their own KM service and do not share any resources with any other client. Figure 4. Optional private cloud solutions increase security against access by third parties. On server side. because even in the improbable case something could fail.3.3 Architecture and Availability 5. These databases are extremely fast. users access the application with an Internet web browser. System Architecture & Communication Paths Now it is possible to add more computing resources with just adding a new cluster node to the system. Database Architecture 5.) from a cloud are in the foreground. there is on the lowest layer a database. Unfortunately they are not compliant with the SQL standard so it is not possible to use them with existing applications. The next chapters present solutions for the most relevant challenges in the cloud environment. KMcloud uses such cloud storage directly as data vault for big data sets (e. For all data outside of the KMcloud service (e. attached files) and as a backup service for all user and system data. • • • 5. This has many disadvantages like lower scalability. for backups a second provider should be used. Such storage is optimized for scalability and safety against data loss. Regular backups in defined periods and processes achieve safety of the service against data loss. Every customer has its own community and does not see any data of other communities.16]. For this. As cloud databases are not optimized for this type of usage. Due to this.1 Overview Basis of every KMcloud instance is a typical J2EE application with four layers. This ensures confidentiality and integrity of data. each with their own advantages and disadvantages: a.g. And there are still several challenges [6. But we expect that many concurrent requests will show a better relative performance. DBs. This approach is suitable if the system load is nearly constant or easy predictable. backups) strong encryption methods have to be used. It can be summarized in the following activities and concepts: • • • Encrypted connections prevent the interception of data. first results show that single database requests are much slower than in a relational database.3. the service provider can only configure the basis software in a secure way and install updates regularly. storage. scalable and cheap even with huge datasets. Both.g. Of course.

de) will be in the near future with the following key functionalities:      KMcloud service is operating in a cloud environment and is accessible from the Internet. I. several enhancements will be added until the end of the project. R. To avoid that the load balancer is a single point of failure it's started on every node but only one is used.. and Kure. EP101090) and supervised by EuroNorm GmbH. 184-175. C. L. 2001. 3. Is Cloud Computing Really Ready for Prime Time? Computer 42. 13-19.. Schuh. Langenberg. E. International Journal of High Performance Computing Applications 15. a pilot environment with basic functionalities is developed. 9. S. 2010.Manufacturing Technology 56.c. ZWF Zeitschrift für wirtschaftlichen Fabrikbetrieb 105. 2011. the staffs can focus their work on high quality results of the collaborative project. 2011. A comparison of load balancing techniques for scalable Web servers. C. nodes for fallbacks can be started in additional locations of other IaaS providers. Zhao. J. Website about KMmaster. Joshi. H.. The service needs almost no set-up time and can be used as long as the collaboration in the VO continues. CIRP Journal of Manufacturing Science and Technology 3.. M. 2(February 2010). KMcloud provides functionalities to collect. D. www. Gärtner.-J. H. So session replication appears as little as possible. [4] Foster.D.. 8. The whole system except the database is redundant that any component of it could drop out and nearly no impact on the whole service is noticeable. [15] Stark. [5] Hayka. R. H. D. [10] Leavitt. Löh. H. [2] Dryndos.. New potentials for virtual product creation by utilizing grid technology.C. managed and provided for the use by the whole project team. 2010. Y. S. Hayka. 2004. Configuration of knowledge templates is available for every customer. I. Application nodes and data storage are allocated dynamically based on the requests.B. 7-8. 2011. 24-31. Service providers like Pumacy Technologies benefit from the new cloud technologies. H. REALIZED SYSTEM The development in the project KnowledgeCloud is accomplished in two main phases. R. Kazi. Will NoSQL Databases Live Up to Their Promise? Computer 43.. manage and provide knowledge. 200-222. Therefore it scales flexible and can be used for a single client or for hundreds of VOs. A. F.... the KMcloud service makes use of various cloud resources.. N. and Langenberg. [12] Pumacy Technologies AG. Automatic node management: The cluster decides internally if nodes are added or removed. 2007.S. 9. They change into complete solution providers (software + service) and reach new markets around the world. The rollout of KMcloud (www.. CIRP Annals . ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The presented results with respect to the KM service KMcloud have partly been developed during the project KnowledgeCloud.kmmaster. [7] Krause.. [8] Langenberg. 2010. Klovning. The necessary knowledge is structured.. www. After that. 4. Thus. A Scientific Foundation of Collaborative Engineering. 4. Elmaraghy.. 605-634. 2008. . R.kmcloud. 55-57. The service core scales flexible. [11] Lu. It is also very high 2008. S. 1. H.. 2009. H. 693699. N. To lower the inner cluster communication the load balancer keeps track of sessions so a subsequent request will be sent to the node which already has the affected session data. Kind. F. Krause.-L. 143-146. 2009. Security and Privacy Challenges in Cloud Computing Environments. Each node receives its requests from a load balancer. [13] Pumacy Technologies AG..M. and Ahn. 6. The anatomy of the grid: Enabling scalable virtual organizations. 12-14. 58-64. 507–514. To enhance the availability of the system further. 5. [3] Foster.-L. In case the active load balancer drops out it can easily be replaced by a load balancer on another node. There are various optimization approaches available to optimize load balancing [1]. et al. I. R. Website about KMcloud. [6] Kaufman. [16] Takabi. D. In Proceedings of 14th International Conference on Concurrent Enterprising (ICE).. [9] Leavitt.3. Can Public-Cloud Security Meet Its Unique Challenges? IEEE Security & Privacy Magazine 8. 15-21. [14] Stark. 1-10. and Tuecke. and Lu. 7.. 1 (January 2009). 2000. The service core supports multi-tenancy. ZWF Zeitschrift für wirtschaftlichen Fabrikbetrieb 99. and Stark. 2. structure.. 500–504. Kooperationsplattformen für virtuelle Unternehmen. Because a load balancer for a few nodes is fairly easy to setup there is no need to use a billed service for that. In IEEE Grid Computing Environments Workshop 2008. 3. Potenziale der Grid-Technologie in der Produktentwicklung. Knowledge management in virtual communities. 2010.5 Load Balancing To distribute the user request between the several KMcloud instances a load balancer is needed. W. O. CIRP Annals .. This approach is very complex because many parameters have to be taken into account. Open Journal of Knowledge Management 3. IEEE Network 14. and Stark.-Y.. D. CONCLUSIONS With the SaaS-System KMcloud project partners are able to share their relevant knowledge across organizational boundaries easily. From the view of the provider.Manufacturing Technology 58. and Welker..kmcloud. Cloud Computing and Grid Computing 360-Degree Compared.. and Langenberg. In the first phase. J. G. Langenberg. This project is co-funded by the German Government (BMWi. Collaborative Virtual Engineering for SMEs: Technical Architecture. IEEE Security & Privacy Magazine 8. D. REFERENCES [1] Bryhni. Competing in engineering design -The role of Virtual Product Creation. 2010. Raicu. 6. Hayka. G. It could be booked as a cloud service but this will result in further charges. and Wilhelm.

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