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IAAS / PAAS

Subscription Management & Billing for IaaS / PaaS Service Providers

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) refers to computing infrastructure comprising of networking, hardware, virtualized operating systems and software servers offered as a service which is a new consumption model for the use of IT resources. Companies’ reasons for choosing an IaaS environment differ. Cost is often the primary reason. For Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) IaaS helps the company move away from the capital requirement to an operational expense that tracks with the growth of the business. Even among large enterprises, infrastructure costs are a driving force for considering IaaS.

Technically Service Oriented Architecture is a paradigm for organizing and utilizing distributed capabilities that may be under the control of different ownership domains. Users always want transparency of consumption and billings. IaaS’ other key benefits include improved cash flow, accommodation of widely inaccurate provision planning, and exceptional transparency in utilization and costs.

As Cloud services and infrastructure scale up, billing management complexity increases and efficient billing management techniques are required. There occurs large variability in the cost of various infrastructures provided by different IaaS providers and hence it is very important that a robust and dynamic solution to adapt to the dynamic requirements is available. Traditional billing systems are not able to meet the requirements of Cloud providers. The basic idea, around which a traditional billing system is built, is the reason they are not able to cope up with the highly dynamic IaaS / cloud industry requirements.

SURE! IaaS is an end-to-end customer and partner care (consumer and other parties involved in giving the service) module along with billing system designed to handle customer management, charging and billing aspects associated with the dynamic needs of the IaaS/Cloud industry. Key features include

  • Full-featured business rule-driven solution that includes end to end management and maintenance of the customers as well as making sure that best services are offered so as to retain the customers and deliver delight
  • End to end partner management modules which makes sure that other stake holders as part of service delivery are properly managed and serviced
  • Support for multiple level of hierarchies within the corporates
  • Support for flexible Product Catalogue where multiple products and services can be defined, rates can be captured and can be rolled out immediately
  • High-performance and scalable billing engine that can generate invoices to multiple corporates
  • GUI-driven configuration and rule-based data processing that enables service providers to adapt business processes to changing local market rules, regulatory requirements
  • SOA based technology platform that allows easy integration into an existing system landscape
  • Solution proven with respect to high availability and scalability

Solution Architecture

IAAS PAAS Solution Architecture

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Customer and Order Management

One of the fundamental characteristics of IaaS providers is their ability to offer services on demand. Enabling services on demand means a well-articulated self-service customer management, order management and provisioning facility is required. Customer acquisition, contract management, account management and relationship management using flexible order templates and management work flows are a feature within the SURE system.

System is SOA compliant, and exposes business functions across SOAP & REST based web services to help integration with third party customer facing channels and cloud management portals to collect customer and order information.

Customer Management

  • Standard user portals along with self-registration to capture customer information.
  • API option in case external cloud management systems are used to manage new customer contracts and SURE! is only used for rating and billing.
  • Prospect and sales automation management to manage opportunities and prospects.
  • Trial subscriptions and self-registration as medium for capturing prospects details and creating leads.
  • Managing contracts and account information against different services and instances subscribed by the customers on board.

Order Management

IaaS providers requires order management and service management requests to be automatically orchestrated starting from the point which customer register the requests in self-service portal till the provision happens at back end cloud management platform. SURE! using its event based work flow management and order decomposition framework helps datacenters to achieve this scale and velocity requirements. Following features are supported

  • Server and other infrastructure/ application templates specially made available for IaaS business enables end customer to directly create and manage compute and non-compute related services.
  • Customer could initiate placing of orders based on pre-configured templates viz. Server and other related services. Server template wizard provision also exposed so that user is free to build a new instance based on pre available and configured compute resources.
  • Provision to choose number of instances as per the customer requirement based on the instance selected. Based on the input, onetime costs applied at plan, instance, template level will be computed which need to be paid by customer so that a contract will get activated.
  • Each instances of same service type (compute, application storage, and network) will be created as separate accounts under respective contract with in the system.
  • Provision to request adds on resources during ordering main service and will get applied to all instances of main service ordered
  • Non-core services like SLA and server management programs can defined as add on services and provision to define business rule restricting and allowing the order for an add on service based on main services
  • Compute and other cloud related services can be subscribed on a monthly basis or on demand basis. On demand models are more of a prepaid service delivery whereas monthly or frequency billing is postpaid service model.
  • Option to subscribe or sought additional resources against the corresponding main service/ selected. E.g.: If a server instance is ordered, relevant add on services if any defined viz.. CPU, memory, storage will get displayed which customer can order for.
  • Removal or dismissal of a contract /server instance or specific add on resources

Customer and Order Management

Product and Service Catalogue

Flexible product and service catalog option is available in SURE! using which IaaS providers could easily manage lifecycle of services and resources. System provides provision to bundle services against different bundles using standard and easy configurable templates. The major artifacts of this business function are listed below:

  • Provision to define and manage offerings against following main services.
    • Compute : Typically computing servers of physical or virtual configurations
    • Storage : Explicit storage services for organizations like Financial institutions
    • Application : SaaS , PaaS applications with option to differentiate application, module and feature
    • Network : Explicit network services offered like load balance between two server facility
    • Co-location :Providing space and infra for hosting customers own server
    • Managed services Providing explicit server , network and storage facility dedicated to each individual customer
    • Value added service: Advance Server management services and premium SLAs
  • Provision to define and build product service hierarchy
    • Resources –CPU, Memory, Media File, Storage
    • Operating Systems –OS Type and family
    • Server Templates
    • Product Templates against non-compute services
    • Bundles & Plans
  • Location wise definitions of resources, services, templates and Plans
  • Features and price associated with templates can be varied based on the location, OS
  • On-demand, usage-based (Pay-as-you go),Reservation, Free Trials, promotion offers
  • API to synchronize the product service catalog with external head end and back end systems like cloud management systems

Product and Service Catalogue

Mediation and Rating

Mediation

SURE provides standard and customizable mediation adapters to capture usage events against IaaS, and other cloud related services. Usage related information against a service or VM instance are generated at various levels and can include reads related to CPU, memory and storage. SURE mediation module support capture both raw and correlated usage data to perform necessary validation, correlation, enrichment and transformation of usage record thus enable rating and billing modules to identify the billing determinants and compute the charges.

  • Data or Event collection: Collect and decode event information from multiple sources (cloud management system and EMS applications) against different cloud and non-cloud services – network, compute, and storage.
  • Data correlation: Provides inbuilt and customizable business rules for grouping events into meaningful entities and forwards the information that can be used for rating and billing/charging.
  • Data Enrichment: Enrich raw data using user definable enriching algorithms which could help billing and rating system in guiding or identification of specific account and rating plan required for rating

Rating

SURE Rating engine support multiservice price calculations based on various characteristics of complex service schemes and customer contracts. Different type of charge types and rating models which can be supported with SURE system is given below.

  • Compute – RC, Setup and Usage (CPU Cycles per hour, RAM hours)
  • Storage – Storage in GB , data transferred in , data transferred out, No of Put, copy, list requests and Get requests
  • Network: No of elastic IP (RC charges), Elastic IP attached time, Data transfer in, data transfer out etc.
  • Load balance : Total data processed at all LB (in GB)
  • Consolidated volume used (Storage used , No of inputs and Outputs, No of CPU cycle , No of users accessed , no of installs, events/user/month etc)
  • Time based (Computing charges for servers and VM… by factoring the total CPU Hours, RAM Hours etc)

Mediation and Rating

Billing

As mentioned above, SURE supports both subscription and usage based billing. System is compliant to complex parent child customer hierarchy and can generate single bill across different contracts. The system support different billing models and charges:

  • On-demand, usage-based (Pay-as-you go),
  • Reservation
  • Free trials
  • Promotions
  • Subscription (i.e. minimum monthly fee)
  • Non-recurring charge (i.e. one-time setup fee)
  • Discounting (i.e. flat, percent, volume)

Other key billing and payment features include:

  • Standard Invoicing features
  • Payment channel support with PCI compliant gateway
  • Multi-currency & Taxation support
  • Flexible collection follow up module
  • Interface with financial management systems as part of GL process.

Billing

Provisioning

SURE! leverages its agile work flow management and adapter framework to offer comprehensive provisioning capabilities to IaaS providers. SURE have already interfaces with a handful of cloud management platforms and orchestration systems to provision resources and instances. Datacenter service requests require set of resources to be coordinated and activated across multiple platforms and systems. For example, a VM instance, if required to be scaled up may require several additional resources such as CPU, memory, underlying Operating systems, DB to be allocated, and configured across VM management platforms. SURE work flow capability allows automation of provisioning activity by coordinating between different pre-configured and customizable events, job agents and adapter components.

  • Define and manage inventory of cloud management and network management systems
  • Synchronous and asynchronous web service based adapters to activate and deactivate services and resources.
  • Support both SOAP and REST based web services to interface with the platform management systems/PaaS/SaaS platforms.
  • Provisioning of compute , network, application and storage resources across cloud and non-cloud platforms against standard and proprietary protocols

Provisioning

Partner Settlement

Partner Management module makes sure that all stake holders involved as part of service delivery is properly maintained and agreements are followed as per the terms and conditions. Defining the revenue share associated with each service and releasing the amounts to the partners is hence quite important from partner settlement point of view. Also if there is a dispute, there should be an option to perform the reconciliation and comparison and close the dispute at the earliest possible.

Major features supported are

  • Capturing the details of the partner. This includes the names, contact details etc.
  • Agreement details like the term of contract, the charges to be paid and the catalogue based on which revenue share is decided etc.
  • Definition of partner share. The share could be defined against a product or a service or against the total invoice amount for a month
  • Pricing which will compute the revenue share for the partners in real time or batch based on the requirement
  • Invoicing of the partners based on the amount mentioned as part of the agreement as well as the revenue share amount calculated as part of the service usage by the corporates
  • Ability to reconcile the invoice from the partner as well as with the service provider in case there is a dispute
  • Settlement of the disputes as credit notes or ad-hoc credits

Partner Settlement