The patent's assignee is
News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Cloud-based computing has enabled the rapid and scalable deployment of applications and services for use by third parties. A cloud-based architecture is typically made up of a set of physical resources such as processors, storage space, operating systems, software and other components that can be configured to instantiate a virtual machine, which behaves to the end user like a real machine. However, unlike a real machine the virtual hardware component, such as amount of RAM etc. are configurable. An example of a virtual machine is
"A reseller or service vendor of an application or service may wish to buy an instantiation of a provisioned virtual machine, or set of machines from a service provider. This virtual machine incorporates specific resources from a central system to perform intended tasks or run specific services or applications. For example, a service vendor may wish to resell well-known software such as Microsoft Office. The service vendor can lease or subscribe to a set of cloud resources from a service provider needed to run the instantiated virtual machine(s) and provide the necessary functions to resell the software. The instantiated machine appears to the end user as if it were a real computer or server.
"Deployment of the software to resell to a third party requires many steps. First the service vendor must provision the cloud infrastructure. They must create a virtual machine or machines with boundary conditions that cover the use of I/O (Input/Output), storage, MIPS (Million Instructions Per Second) and choose the OS (Operating System) for the machine to run.
"Next the service vendor has to log onto the system load and configure the application or service and decide which machine(s) it runs on.
"The third step is to configure and build the OSS/BSS (Operating Support System/Business Support System). OSS is software applications that support back-office activities that provision and maintain customer services. Software applications that support customer-facing activities like billing, order management, and credit card processing, are all examples of BSS applications. Configuring and building these systems for a service vendor allows a third party (an ISV (Independent Software Vendor), reseller or end user) to have access to the application or service.
"These systems use existing applications that the service vendor must choose and link together manually. They also have to do their own branding for the offered application or service, for example, to create the web page serving as a storefront. This is a time consuming and costly step. Unless specifically configured, the hardware that the application or service runs on is not dedicated, and the service vendor has no completely guaranteed SLA (Service Level Agreement).
"Finally, the system is brought online and the third party is given access under the OSS/BSS constraints programmed by the service vendor.
"A major concern for service vendors is how to price the service or application that they are offering. Costs come from many areas: amount of I/O, amount of storage, number of MIPS, application or service license cost, software used for OSS and BSS and corresponding license fees, time and understanding how to configure the system, time and understanding of mapping the OSS/BSS services to the application or service, and support and maintenance of the application or service and environment. Once the service vendor has the BOM (Bill of Materials) and knows the final price for all of the above, they need to add a sales margin.
"One of the challenges for the growing number of Infrastructure Service (IAAS) providers is to differentiate from their competition. At its roots the base offer of IAAS is price competition, meaning their offer is 'commodity' that the customer can source on demand and freely move between IAAS Providers with low costs and few barriers. In order to compete IAAS will move up the solution stack with differentiated service offerings. To do so the IAAS provider will require a solution set that has the following characteristics: 1. Be flexible to allow mixing of infrastructure such as computing power, storage and bandwidth (input/output) to be bundled with third party application software that solves a single business problem. 2. The resultant bundles when combined offer a complete Stack of Business to the IAAS channel and end customers (for example solve all of the back office requirements for security, reliability, storage, virus protection and usability for email communications). 3. The IAAS will need flexibility on how to price the bundles as a single point solution or complete stack of business including the ability to, in real time, model the cost associated with delivery of the solution and apply a consistent margin throughout their supply chain to the end consumer (e.g. distributor, reseller client/user). 4. The IAAS offering will require integration with existing billing and support systems to automate provisioning, procurement and Service Level Agreements driving customer support through the supply value chain (e.g. distributor, reseller client/user).
"Currently a customer who sells real products or services to the public via a website using physical devices will purchase these from a hardware vendor. If a customer wishes to change the capacity of a server, the customer would have to approach the hardware vendor and order a replacement machine or upgrade hardware. Virtual servers allow for a customer to change the 'size' of the machine without having to throw the old one away. While service providers have the resources available to create these virtual servers, they do not have the channel to market that hardware vendors do. It would be desirable for hardware vendor with whom the customer currently deals to have the ability to offer the virtual server as well. It is much easier for the customer to buy from them."
As a supplement to the background information on this patent application, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventor's summary information for this patent application: "Embodiments of the invention help to connect the service providers to the end customers (known as clients) through a chain of service vendors (known as partners or distribution partners), while providing the necessary tools to facilitate the management and billing for these virtual resources up the supply chain. Customers offering goods and services to the public can obtain the virtual server that they need from the distribution partners, who can offer a range of virtual products and services including billing and branding options to the customers. The customers in turn can present a storefront to the public offering their wares, which may be real goods and services, using the virtual facilities they have purchased.
"According to the present invention there is provided a virtualized distribution system for offering virtual products or services to clients over a distributed network, comprising:
"physical resources managed by a service provider; and
"an orchestration server having access to the physical resources and being configured to run cloud management software to: (i) maintain a service provider portal to permit the service provider to manage the physical resources and accounts for partners, (ii) maintain a partner portal to permit the partners to create virtual products or services using the available physical resources and establish a virtual presence on said distributed network, and (iii) maintain a client portal for offering to clients the virtual products or services created by the distribution partners through their virtual presence
"The physical resources, which may be distributed over the network, may include storage devices, processors, physical servers etc.
"The distribution partners may have accounts with the service provider that are created through the service provider portal. In the alternative it is possible to set up the partner portal so that aspiring partners may set up new accounts in much the same way as a customer might today set up a new account on a website.
"Embodiments of the invention thus let service vendors who have virtual resources that they want to sell at the top level create a distribution channel in one or more tiers to make this easier for the service provider. Each tier is a sales channel. This lets the service provider offload the management of the channel, as each tier is responsible for the one above it (the service provider being at the bottom). For example, they can create a distributor tier, allocate virtual resources to them, and then they in turn can create many service vendors, which take the virtual resources and bundle them. The service vendor then creates and manages clients who consume the bundled resources.
"The invention is similar to a distribution chain in the physical world. For example, whereas currently a retailer (client) might purchase hardware from a manufacturer or distributor and sell it through a website running on a physical server owned by the retailer, in the virtual world envisaged, the manufacturer is replaced by the service provider who owns or manages physical hardware out of which virtual resources can be created.
"When the distribution partner wishes to create an account with the service vendor, it contacts the service provider (or more senior partner in the case of a tiered distribution chain) who sets up an account giving the partner access to the system through the partner portal. The partner can then create virtual products or services it wishes to offer through the partner portal. The virtual products may be, for example, virtual machines running on the physical resources managed by the service provider. For example, the distribution partner might offer a virtual server with a particular memory configuration etc.
"The partner may also use the partner portal to create a branded storefront that appears to clients as a customized storefront through the client portal offering the virtual goods and services created by the partner and running on the physical resources managed by the service provider.
"Clients of the distribution partner may then purchase the virtual goods or services through the client portal. A client entering the URL associated with a particular distribution partner will be taken to the common client portal, where it will be presented with the customized web page associated with the distribution partner and given the option to log on to an account or potentially also open a new one.
"Once logged on to its account through the client portal the client may purchase virtual goods or services, such as virtual servers from a range of options created by the distribution partner through the partner portal. The client may then use the purchased goods or services to run its own software to offer real goods or services to the public in much the same way as if it had purchased the hardware from the distribution partner. The invention is not concerned with how the clients may ultimately use of the virtual goods or services purchased from the partners.
"The virtual presence, which may be in the form of a web page, appears to the client as if it is running on a conventional server owned by the distribution partner although in practice it is a common portal shared with many other partners each having their own web page. Multiple addresses corresponding to different clients will point to the same client portal, but will display the web page associated with the entered address.
"The partners may be organized in hierarchical tiers, whereby senior partners can create portals for junior partners and ultimately the clients in the hierarchy. The senior partners can set the environment for the more junior partners.
"The available resources may be implemented as instantiations of virtual machines within the network. Embodiments of the invention thus allow a potential partner to subscribe to the service and set up a customized presence on the client portal simply by entering appropriate data through the partner's portal.
"In periods of high demand, a customer may log on to its account and reconfigure its virtual server to increase capacity on payment of an additional premium. For example, the customer may choose to add more memory or otherwise increase the power of the server as if he were upgrading physical equipment. In periods of reduced demand, the same process can be used to reduce the power of the server, with a consequential reduction in costs.
"Embodiments of the invention offer the ability to set virtual resources through a web-interface and tailor them to specific downstream (junior partner or client) needs. The user can simply login to a website to configure a server, for example, both in terms of its physical (albeit virtualized) structure, and the software it runs, taking advantage of commercial modules, such as payment systems and the like already available on the web.
"The invention is very flexible and eliminates much of the manual configuration required in the prior art. The software is capable of automatically handling the pricing of the services offered to the partners based on the requested configuration.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
"The invention will now be described in more detail, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:
"FIG. 1a shows the tiers of the system.
"FIG. 1b shows a possible arrangement of servers connected via the LAN or WAN running software to manage the system or provide services to the system;
"FIG. 2 shows the cloud management software in more detail;
"FIG. 3 illustrates the job/task management software in more detail;
"FIG. 4 illustrates the notification management software in more detail;
"FIG. 5 illustrates the billing management software in more detail;
"FIG. 6 illustrates the web application software in more detail;
"FIGS. 7 to 34 show a sequence of possible user interfaces that show the process of creating a new partner, allowing them access to the system, and then having them create a new client, and some of the screens associated with managing the new client."
For additional information on this patent application, see: Vautour, Joshua. Virtualized Distribution System Offering Virtual Products Or Services. Filed
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