Matching Customer Intent with Provider Capabilities

Matching Customer Intent with Provider Capabilities — Part 1

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Catalysts for Scaling the Intelligent Edge

Combining 5G connectivity with intelligent devices at the edge of the network is creating a framework for building immersive and impactful business solutions. These solutions will transform all types of industries, from agriculture and energy to cities and airports.

For the intelligent edge to reach its full potential, solution providers will need to deliver AI, IoT, computer vision, robots, and connectivity services—at scale. To serve the needs of all businesses, from SMB to enterprise, these solutions must be tailored to specific customer requirements and desired outcomes—by matching customer intent with provider capabilities. This requires a paradigm shift in the way we compose and deliver solutions to adapt to business needs rather than business adapting to “one-size-fits-all” packaged applications—allowing businesses to control their digital future.

Gartner Business Takes Charge of Its Digital Future

This year at TM Forum, innovative Catalyst projects are collectively reshaping how technology providers offer value to customers.  As an ecosystem enabler, CloudBlue is helping to guide the evolution of a unifying architecture to support everything-as-a-service (XaaS) marketplaces, offering interoperable, intelligent edge-to-cloud services that incorporate information, capability, and intent models adopted by TM Forum.

Taming Complexity through Interoperable Services

A key challenge to digital transformation is the ability to enable end-to-end interoperability across different industries, each having its own environments and interdependent use cases. The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) defines interoperability as the ability to provide services to and accept services from other systems, and to use the services exchanged to enable them to operate effectively together.

At the core, these services must provide seamless information exchange between systems and enable them to work effectively together. Yet today’s IoT and business systems incorporate disparate, domain-specific semantic models and data communication protocols that limit their extensibility and flexibility across domains, resulting in complex and costly system integrations.

A unifying interoperability standard is critical to minimize the risk, cost, and time involved with  implementing these complex systems and to accelerate global adoption of intelligent edge-to-cloud services. This standard needs to be simple, universally adopted, and sustainable. Adopting a unifying model for interoperability will enable intelligent services to form a system of smart systems that deliver high-value outcomes, adding significant economic value.

A 2015 McKinsey report estimates that interoperability between IoT systems is critically important to capturing maximum value, with 40 percent or $4 trillion in value potential requiring interoperability.

Similarly, a 2010 report from IBM estimated that $4 trillion of wasted global GDP is preventable by eliminating the inefficiencies among interdependent systems. The challenges we face today cannot be solved by continuing to optimize at the enterprise or domain level—they will only be solved by incentivizing data sharing across an entire solution provider ecosystem able to deliver smart systems that seamlessly interoperate within and across domains.

Interoperability between IoT systems McKinsey Global

Evolving a Universal Metamodel for System Interoperability

A standard, universal way to manage system connections, distribute state changes, and orchestrate services can enable a natively digital world, bridging the continuum from cloud to sensor and eliminating the need for costly and complex custom system integrations.

When all systems share a common metamodel for encapsulating service behaviors, capabilities, and purpose, they become inherently interoperable. Yet trying to define a universal metamodel for interoperability that can be simply applied to all system models has its challenges. Namely, it requires a high degree of abstract thinking.

While it is likely impossible to anticipate every concept that may be represented within all systems, a top-level ontology (TLO) can define a standardized set of “primitive” concepts applicable to all systems. Each concept (or class) can represent a category of like things or objects (e.g., asset) which can be uniquely identified. A hierarchy of subclasses (e.g., physical asset) can create any of the more specific concepts that may be needed for any given industry or environment. A class or subclass is defined to reflect the attributes, restrictions, and relationships unique to its objects (or instances).

Promising work on a unifying TLO is evolving from collaborating members of multiple industry consortia, including the Digital Twin Consortium, Industry IoT Consortium, TM Forum, and Airport Council International. The TLO describes the relationship between several metamodel concepts, starting with the core concepts of “class” and “attribute.” It also describes the relationship between several top-level classes (e.g., asset, party and place) that are intended to support cross-industry commercial ecosystems composed of dynamic “systems of systems.”

Metamodel Concepts, Top-Level Classes, Top-Level Actions


Transitioning from Features and Technologies to Capabilities

The concept of capability can be defined as “the ability to do something.” Although simple, it is a powerful concept, as it can be used to provide an abstract, high-level view of a product, system, or organization, offering new ways of dealing with complexity. It has been widely adopted in many areas, including in system engineering, where capabilities are seen as a core concept. The concept is considered particularly relevant for the engineering of complex systems-of-systems, which relies on the combination of different systems for achieving a particular emergent capability.

A capability can be defined by associating an action (e.g., sense or sensing) to a concept (e.g., temperature). Beyond a set of top-level actions, a class hierarchy can create any of the more specific actions that may be needed for any given industry or environment.

A sensing capability (provided by a sensor) offers the ability to sense an aspect of the physical world in the form of measurement data. Information from sensor observations may be provided to other systems via an information transfer capability, allowing other systems to use their capabilities to manage and analyze the information. An actuation capability, provided by an actuator, offers the ability to actuate a change in the physical world as directed by a control capability.

Capability Action to Concept

Rather than implementing technologies like IoT and 5G as costly and long-term projects, technologies can be incorporated into standardized capabilities and delivered efficiently as multi-vendor, intelligent edge-to-cloud services. As defined in the OASIS Reference Model, a service can be considered an access mechanism to a capability, but a service can also be “described” based on its capability.

As a type of class, each action comprises a unique set of attributes (aligning to the Action concept of Schema.org). For example, a sense action can comprise a value range (minimum, maximum) and precision (step). A capability (e.g., sense temperature) inherits the attributes of its action. A service can be described by applying specific values to the inherited attributes of its capability. For example, a temperature sensing service may have a sensing range from -10 to 60 degrees Celsius, with a precision of 0.5 degrees.  These “features” and limitations can be described using a “model” for a sensing capability.

Schema.org Classes

When these capabilities are defined and modeled by a standards organization, every service based on these standard capabilities become inherently interoperable and interchangeable. Capabilities can be standardized for managing the state of any type of entity, including physical assets such as tractors and farms, as well as digital commerce entities such as orders, subscriptions, and usage. The TM Forum, for example, has defined a standard open API for managing each entity type related to commerce as part of its Open Digital Architecture.

These standardized capabilities can be offered as services by multiple providers and allow an end-customer to compose an interoperable system of systems comprising services tailored to its specific requirements. Gartner predicts that these types of granular capabilities will be instrumental in how multi-vendor solutions are composed. They will enable end-customers to select the best vendor for each required capability, rather than a single vendor for all capabilities.

To evolve this solution delivery paradigm shift, SDOs and consortia must adopt models for foundational capabilities supporting the TLO, including management of the metamodel concepts and top-level classes (e.g., class management, capability management).

System of Systems Approach to Composing Complex Solutions

A system can comprise multiple capabilities, and each capability can be offered as a service to other systems in exchange for some value. In ArchiMate, a service is defined as a unit of functionality (capability) that a system exposes to its environment, while hiding internal operations, which provides a certain value.

In a natively digital world, systems will dynamically connect and interact in real-time, forming and re-forming interdependent and interoperable systems of systems. Each “constituent” system is “independently operable” but can be dynamically connected when needed to achieve a certain higher goal. Complex systems-of-systems rely on the combination of different systems for achieving an emergent capability.

These systems need the ability to connect based on current context and understanding of their own capabilities

Complex systems-of-systems

This requires a “matchmaking” mechanism enabling both information and value exchange that  does not rely on prior knowledge. By using a universal metamodel for system interoperability, all capability-based services can be described through a system’s metadata, which can be shared and understood by other systems. These services can include primary capabilities (e.g., temperature sensing) as well as supporting capabilities (e.g., data communication and money transfer), enabling both information and value exchange.

Metamodel for system interoperability

Complementary to the concept of capability is the concept of intent which specifies what a system, or the party it represents, wants to achieve. Intent allows a system to express requirements to other systems that may be capable of fulfilling those requirements. For example, a building management system (System Y) may have a requirement for a temperature sensing capability offered as a service by another system. 

System Y can express its requirement as an intent, which includes the values and value ranges of the primary and supporting capabilities it requires. A matchmaking (or composition) service can identify a participating system (System X) within a network (or marketplace) with capabilities that best match the requirements.

Systems must be able to express requirements in a way that recognizes capabilities but does not involve details on how those capabilities are realized, enabling constituent systems to understand and act on them. It must allow dynamic changes in the requirements and separate the required capabilities from their realization.

When a matchmaking service initiates a connection between two systems, metadata from each system, including service attributes, can be shared to define a contract. The contract between the connected systems, and their responsible parties, specifies the rights and obligations associated with services of each system and establishes parameters for interaction.

Marketplace Network

A multi-level system of systems, based on this universal metamodel for interoperability, can enable frictionless and dynamic interactions and information sharing for optimal decision-making and actions that drive high-value outcomes for end customers.

An agile, intelligent business, like a smart airport, can be composed from a marketplace of multi-vendor capabilities (e.g., sense, control and actuate) that are offered and delivered as services. These services can be intelligently selected based on the specific characteristics of their capabilities to drive high-value, sustainable outcomes. When delivered, these multi-vendor services can compose value streams that can span edge to cloud systems.

Multi-vendor capabilities


Real-time Insights and Reactions through Event Sharing

Given the massive amounts of data from IoT and the requirements for real-time communication flows, it’s clear that client-server, request-response architecture can no longer keep up with the necessary volume, latency, reliability, and security challenges.

Instead, systems can be composed of event-driven services that allow for real-time communication, enabling information to be exchanged in the form of events. These events reflect object state changes that can be synchronized between systems.

Today, event data from smart products and automation systems is currently stored and communicated in many different formats and lacks semantic information to provide adequate context. Without context, a time-consuming normalization effort is required before that data can be utilized by advanced systems to effectively generate value.

To be universally understood, contextual events should be coupled to a clearly defined, standardized, and federated ontology for distributed systems. A universal event format can provide a “lowest common denominator” for distribution of system and object state changes. 

Each event within a universal event format can represent a state change of a single attribute, which enables one event format to be utilized across any ontology class. The schema can include traditional time series elements (time and value) and metadata identifiers for ontology elements (attribute, class, and object) as shown below.

Universal Event Format and Schema Metadata

A universal event format coupled to a common ontology can effectively support the semantic heterogeneity of events in large and open implementations such as supply chains, airports, and cities. It provides event consumers with the minimal information necessary to react to any state change occurrence. This design pattern can support an overall architecture that is simple, scalable, and sustainable.

Digital Twins and Simulations for Optimizing Outcomes

In the evolution of the industrial metaverse, the virtual and physical worlds will seamlessly interact to optimize business operations and deliver immersive customer experiences.

Together with digital twins, all contextualized event data can be aggregated and expanded to enable total simulation of the system of systems that represent an entire virtual environment. This allows end customers to visualize and test how individual parts of complex systems work together and can eliminate risks prior to physical system implementations.  Businesses will greatly benefit from a holistic visual representation to effectively manage day-to-day operations as well as envision future scenarios to optimize processes.

As an executable virtual representation of the physical system, the digital twin system consumes learnings and experiences from real-world processes to update the digital twin model, intelligently connecting it to the cyber-physical system in real time. Properly abstracted, a universal TLO and common event-driven services can support real-time information exchange between interoperable digital twin systems in a virtual world, cyber-physical systems in the real world, and distributed edge-to-cloud systems bridging both worlds.

Digital Twin System vs Cyber-Physical System

This approach to solution design will enable smart product OEMs and solution providers to differentiate through intelligent services built on a foundational layer of semantic interoperability. When integrated with intelligent services, these interoperating systems have the potential to create optimized outcomes for businesses and society.

Part 2 will apply this approach to compose a smart airport from a service marketplace enabling immersive traveler experiences and precision operations.

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Mike Jennett, Director of CloudBlue Platform Strategy, is an accomplished business and technology executive. With a deep focus on product development and go-to-market strategy, he plays a pivotal role driving strategic growth and market expansion. Mike’s career is characterized by his adeptness in driving technological advancements and his commitment to leading digital transformations with experience including IDC where he was VP of the Mobility and Digital Transformation IEP practices, and HP where he held numerous leadership roles. Mike’s expertise is also reflected in his published works and contributions to multiple tech publications. Mike holds a B.A. from California Polytechnic University.
Having previously to strategic product management, agile transformations, and user experience in CloudBlue, Taylor Giddens heads the Services & Solutions team where he ensures smooth delivery, operations and solution growth for our partners and customers.

The team includes technical account management, managed services, support, custom solution development, and customer enablement.

Prior to CloudBlue, his resume boasts leadership of some of the world’s largest companies during their digital transformations and marketplace launches. Taylor is a practitioner of servitude leadership when it comes to enabling his team to drive positive outcomes on the road to operational excellence.
Laurens van Alphen, a visionary entrepreneur with over 29 years of internet technology expertise, serves as Director of Technical Managed Services at CloudBlue, responsible for Operations and Delivery of CloudBlue SaaS.

As a Dutch racing champion and car enthusiast, he brings the same drive to the tech realm, steering Keenondots from a managed hosting firm to a global cloud enablement leader. Laurens is celebrated for his outcome-driven leadership, deep industry insight, and passion for balancing business innovation with client engagement.
Lincoln Lincoln is CloudBlue’s Head of Global Sales; having been with the company since November 2017. Leading CloudBlue’s global go-to-market organization, he’s responsible for driving accelerated and sustained mutual growth with CloudBlue’s customers and partners, as well as forming new customer partnerships across the Vendor and Provider ecosystem. As part of CloudBlue’s leadership team he is responsible the organisation’s revenue and continued market leadership by delivering and supporting products, services and solutions to organizations in established and new markets around the world.

Before joining CloudBlue, Lincoln was AppDirect’s Regional Director, Asia Pacific & Japan, responsible for forming, building and leading AppDirect’s business and operations across the APJ geography. He built and led AppDirect’s fastest growing and highest performing region globally within 3yrs.

Before joining AppDirect, Lincoln was EMC’s Practice Manager, Cloud Service Providers, APJ, working with the leading Service Providers to maximise their Cloud Business presence & market success. Lincoln joined EMC in 2007, and has over 20 years’ experience in the IT industry, having been based out of Singapore, Australia and the UK. Prior to EMC, he was in range of sales and channel positions at Symantec and VERITAS.

Lincoln has an Honours degree in Business Administration from Kingston University in the United Kingdom.
Brent Clooney is the Executive Director and Associate General Counsel for Ingram Micro Inc., and lead counsel for CloudBlue.

Brent is a Canadian based corporate lawyer with more than 20 years of experience as a strategic legal advisor both in private practice and as in-house counsel to large multi-national companies. Prior to joining Ingram Micro in 2008, he worked at a well-respected corporate law firm in Toronto, Canada and later served as general counsel for Toshiba Canada. During his 15-year tenure at Ingram Micro, he has held positions of increasing complexity and responsibility, and since being promoted to his current role in 2022, Brent is the legal lead for both Ingram Micro’s Canadian and global cloud businesses, as well as CloudBlue.

Brent holds a law degree (LL.B.) from Queen’s University, a Psychology degree (B.A. Honours) from Lakehead University, and has been admitted to the bar in Ontario, Canada since 2002.
Anurag serves as the Head of Product Management for CloudBlue and is responsible for product direction and driving innovation. His leadership has been marked by a keen focus on customer needs, growing the ISV ecosystem, and ensuring the continual evolution of CloudBlue’s product portfolio.

Anurag joined Ingram Micro in 2017 and has been instrumental in, positioning CloudBlue as an industry leading monetization platform for MSP’s, Telco’s and Distributors. Previously Anurag worked at Oracle and Microsoft where he managed many technology projects and programs.
As VP of Engineering of CloudBlue, Rony oversees the development and engineering efforts of the company. He is a recognized leader with more than 25 years of experience in Technology and Product.

Prior to joining CloudBlue Rony lead the R&D efforts at Tripwire acquired by Thoma Bravo, and Cedexis acquired by Citrix. Rony is a leader with extensive experience in transforming both complex technology problems into products that customers love and disjointed organizations into agile high performing teams.
Coen is a distinguished leader and entrepreneur in the realm of cloud technology. Currently serving as CEO of Keenondots and the Global Director of CloudBlue SaaS. He is passionate about driving innovation, fostering collaboration, and leading high-performing teams to achieve transformative results.

With a background as Managing Director of INTO Cloud and a pivotal role as Director of Products of KPN, he brings a wealth of experience in steering organizations through the complexities of the digital landscape.

Beyond the boardroom, Coen is a marathon enthusiast, demonstrating endurance and discipline in pursuit of both professional and personal goals.
Alyson has over twenty years of experience in demand generation, marketing automation and data management. She is responsible for leading the strategy and direction of the company’s brand, performance, and digital marketing.

Prior to CloudBlue, Alyson served as Ingram Micro’s Director of Global Business Intelligence Marketing Automation driving channel partner campaigns. Her tenure in marketing leadership at prestigious companies such as Western Digital, Ocean Institute celebrates redefining marketing campaigns and building top performing teams based on trust, experimentation, and results.

Alyson resides with her husband and three children in Orange County and is an active volunteer and donor within her children’s sports and education programs.

Darek Tasak is leading Customer Success & Value Creation for CloudBlue. In his role, he looks after CloudBlue customers globally during the entire lifecycle of our relationship: from the initial on-boarding, through in-life account management, always ensuring they build successful businesses leveraging our technology. Additionally, he is also in charge of Partnership & Alliances, as well as Pricing Management for everything we commercialize.


Before CloudBlue, Darek managed Ingram Micro’s Services division for hi-tech customers in Europe & APAC. His prior experiences include also launching and leading pan-European services business for TDSynnex, as well as strategy consulting with Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

As President of CloudBlue, Uddhav Gupta is a distinguished leader and visionary with nearly two decades of platform-building experience. He is an industry leader in digital commerce, the subscription economy, and monetization platforms.

Notably, at SAP, he spearheaded the transformation of their platform business into a multi-cloud platform-as-a-service, offering enterprise and developer-friendly subscription models. At Pure Storage, he championed the efforts to successfully disrupt the storage industry by creating revolutionary Storage-as-a-service, AIOps-as-a-service, and Disaster Recovery-as-a-service offerings with cutting-edge features and establishing a sophisticated subscription commerce infrastructure that is channel-friendly.

At CloudBlue, Gupta guides and empowers businesses to rethink their monetization strategies by unlocking the power of digital ecosystems and marketplaces. CloudBlue provides enterprises with a mature multi-tier, multi-channel marketplace and monetization platform that enables usage-based subscription models and global delivery of Anything-as-a-Service solutions. Gupta has played a pivotal role in shaping the future of the subscription economy through his innovative thinking and impactful contributions.

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