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]

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

It can be summarized in the following activities and concepts: • • • Encrypted connections prevent the interception of data. A community concept ensures confidentiality of data. Both. For all data outside of the KMcloud service (e.g.3.3. Unfortunately they are not compliant with the SQL standard so it is not possible to use them with existing applications. the focus of a SaaS provider regarding data security and safety is on the application itself. attached files) and as a backup service for all user and system data. first results show that single database requests are much slower than in a relational database. 5. These databases are extremely fast.3.4 Availability KMcloud is based on the existing KMmaster® platform. Semi-automatic node management: At fixed points in time. there is on the lowest layer a database. users access the application with an Internet web browser. And there are still several challenges [6. This ensures confidentiality and integrity of data. The development is based on the described functionalities (chapter 2) and the requirements of the application scenario above (chapter 4).1 Overview Basis of every KMcloud instance is a typical J2EE application with four layers. at weekends) from the cluster.3. each with their own advantages and disadvantages: a. there are limited possibilities for KMcloud to enforce data security. This approach is suitable if the system load is nearly constant or easy predictable. As cloud databases are not optimized for this type of usage. Instead it has to realize this on its own by clustering application servers which could run on many instances in parallel. customers use their own KM service and do not share any resources with any other client. 5. 5. Due to this. Such storage is optimized for scalability and safety against data loss. which requires a specific application server. Of course. But we expect that many concurrent requests will show a better relative performance.2 Database in the Cloud Some cloud providers offer simple NoSQL databases [10]. scalable and cheap even with huge datasets. Therefore it is important for the success of a SaaS provider to fulfill the demand for adequate security. the user session has to be distributed all the time over the whole cluster like it is shown in Figure 4. Figure 4.2 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. in the morning) or removed (e.g. which is the container of the entire application. Every customer has its own community and does not see any data of other communities. storage. Regular backups in defined periods and processes achieve safety of the service against data loss.) from a cloud are in the foreground. On client side. KMcloud uses such cloud storage directly as data vault for big data sets (e. backups) strong encryption methods have to be used.3 Architecture and Availability 5. Figure 3. DBs. For this. There are different possibilities. for backups a second provider should be used. all data of a customer has to be deleted from the KMcloud database.3 File Storage in the Cloud Another service used for KMcloud is a file based cloud storage.16]. because even in the improbable case something could fail. Therefore a JDBC driver is currently developed in KnowledgeCloud to create an interface between Hibernate and a NoSQL cloud database (see Figure 3). This has many disadvantages like lower scalability. the service provider can only configure the basis software in a secure way and install updates regularly. etc.In KnowledgeCloud concepts for scalable integration of external IT resources (computing. The business logic is implemented in Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) and the creation of web pages is realized in Java Servlet Pages (JSP). Here. As a consequence. • • • 5.g. when higher load is expected nodes are added (e. Here. On server side. Database Architecture 5. Optional private cloud solutions increase security against access by third parties. .g. On the other hand money can be saved by turning off unused nodes. Regarding infrastructure and operating system. The next chapters present solutions for the most relevant challenges in the cloud environment. Manual node management: A node is added (or removed) "by hand" to the system. Therefore. KMcloud uses the Hibernate framework which understands many different SQL Dialects but no cloud database dialects. EJBs and JSPs are running in the context of an application server. KMcloud uses a SQL server at the moment. After the contract ends. System Architecture & Communication Paths Now it is possible to add more computing resources with just adding a new cluster node to the system. KMcloud cannot use solutions of the cloud providers for scalability and load balancing. b.

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