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]

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

16]. 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. Optional private cloud solutions increase security against access by third parties. There are different possibilities. The next chapters present solutions for the most relevant challenges in the cloud environment. This approach is suitable if the system load is nearly constant or easy predictable. As a consequence. KMcloud uses a SQL server at the moment. for backups a second provider should be used. System Architecture & Communication Paths Now it is possible to add more computing resources with just adding a new cluster node to the system. Here. Therefore a JDBC driver is currently developed in KnowledgeCloud to create an interface between Hibernate and a NoSQL cloud database (see Figure 3).3. customers use their own KM service and do not share any resources with any other client. KMcloud cannot use solutions of the cloud providers for scalability and load balancing. But we expect that many concurrent requests will show a better relative performance. Therefore it is important for the success of a SaaS provider to fulfill the demand for adequate security. users access the application with an Internet web browser. 5. Here.2 Data Security Security of their data and documents is perhaps the most important requirement of users in the cloud [9]. It can be summarized in the following activities and concepts: • • • Encrypted connections prevent the interception of data. KMcloud uses the Hibernate framework which understands many different SQL Dialects but no cloud database dialects.g.2 Database in the Cloud Some cloud providers offer simple NoSQL databases [10]. After the contract ends. Every customer has its own community and does not see any data of other communities. at weekends) from the cluster.3. the focus of a SaaS provider regarding data security and safety is on the application itself. Figure 3. all data of a customer has to be deleted from the KMcloud database. storage. As cloud databases are not optimized for this type of usage. Both.3 File Storage in the Cloud Another service used for KMcloud is a file based cloud storage.g. Instead it has to realize this on its own by clustering application servers which could run on many instances in parallel. Therefore. And there are still several challenges [6. because even in the improbable case something could fail.g. A community concept ensures confidentiality of data. On the other hand money can be saved by turning off unused nodes. Manual node management: A node is added (or removed) "by hand" to the system. For all data outside of the KMcloud service (e. there are limited possibilities for KMcloud to enforce data security.1 Overview Basis of every KMcloud instance is a typical J2EE application with four layers. Regular backups in defined periods and processes achieve safety of the service against data loss. first results show that single database requests are much slower than in a relational database. Figure 4. For this. On server side.3. • • • 5. Regarding infrastructure and operating system.g. attached files) and as a backup service for all user and system data. 5. These databases are extremely fast. backups) strong encryption methods have to be used. the user session has to be distributed all the time over the whole cluster like it is shown in Figure 4. b. This has many disadvantages like lower scalability. Unfortunately they are not compliant with the SQL standard so it is not possible to use them with existing applications. in the morning) or removed (e. when higher load is expected nodes are added (e. which requires a specific application server. Database Architecture 5.3. there is on the lowest layer a database. . etc. On client side. scalable and cheap even with huge datasets. The business logic is implemented in Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) and the creation of web pages is realized in Java Servlet Pages (JSP). The development is based on the described functionalities (chapter 2) and the requirements of the application scenario above (chapter 4). Due to this. EJBs and JSPs are running in the context of an application server. DBs. 5.In KnowledgeCloud concepts for scalable integration of external IT resources (computing.4 Availability KMcloud is based on the existing KMmaster® platform. Of course. each with their own advantages and disadvantages: a. the service provider can only configure the basis software in a secure way and install updates regularly. Semi-automatic node management: At fixed points in time. which is the container of the entire application. Such storage is optimized for scalability and safety against data loss. KMcloud uses such cloud storage directly as data vault for big data sets (e.3 Architecture and Availability 5. This ensures confidentiality and integrity of data.) from a cloud are in the foreground.

Langenberg. Therefore it scales flexible and can be used for a single client or for hundreds of VOs. a pilot environment with basic functionalities is developed. 2009. H. 2010. www.. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The presented results with respect to the KM service KMcloud have partly been developed during the project KnowledgeCloud.. Klovning. . 184-175.kmcloud. 55-57. F. IEEE Network 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.. H. [10] Leavitt. CONCLUSIONS With the SaaS-System KMcloud project partners are able to share their relevant knowledge across organizational boundaries easily. REALIZED SYSTEM The development in the project KnowledgeCloud is accomplished in two main phases. A Scientific Foundation of Collaborative Engineering. [11] Lu. and Tuecke. L. and Langenberg. Open Journal of Knowledge Management 3. S. 2008. E. 2007.D. 8. R. 2011.3.. 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