Platform services play an increasingly important role in cloud infrastructures. They enable application operators to quickly stick together the dependencies they need to run their applications. For example, when deploying your application and you need a database, you just request a service instance for the database of your choice and connect it to your application. Done.
Specifications like the Open Service Broker API provide a standard interface to provide backing services such as databases or analytics to applications. However, the nature of a service offered by someone else to your application is not always that clearly defined and therefore you should pay attention to the exact contract the service offers.
At meshcloud we work with customers to integrate Open Service Broker API compatible services into a private multi-cloud marketplace. Based on that experience, we provide a compact check matrix for clear communication and understanding what type of service you receive when requesting a service instance. The following abstract scheme might not necessarily be complete (please comment if you have anything to add), but it gives a first idea which questions to ask and to ensure there is no misunderstanding between service owner and service consumer.
Service Model classification matrix
The gold standard and typical understanding of a platform service is certainly: Managed Blackbox. However, there are cases when the other service models make sense, e.g. for highly customizable systems – let's say a Kubernetes cluster. Providing a K8s cluster as unmanaged whitebox service would mean you get a fully provisioned K8s cluster and take over from there in further configuration and maintenance. You still save the time to setup and provision a cluster on your own, but don't have to bear the costs of a fully managed K8s cluster.
In any case, there should be no misunderstanding between service vendor and consumer as to what the level of support really is. Especially, when procuring services becomes fast and easy and happens with a few clicks, simply assuming the vendor will take care of everything might create unpleasant surprises. Be sure to be aware of the exact service conditions, which are hopefully communicated transparently and easy to access.