An ecosystem is a collection of related services. This collection, as a whole, provides a set of services in a specific domain. Using the example discussed earlier, a Travel Industry ecosystem would cater to the traveling needs of a certain set of customers, and a Medical ecosystem would provide services related to medicineincluding services such as medical advice, sales of prescription and nonprescription drugs, and archives of medical history.
But an ecosystem is not just a collection of services. As the name implies, it is an orderly group. Just like a biological ecosystem, an ecosystem of services can have a hierarchy among its citizens, and it provides a set of rules and regulations that every member must abide by. This hierarchy, unlike the one in a food chain, is with the notion of higher- and lower-level services. In the Travel Industry ecosystem, for example, the airlines, cab services, and hotels can be thought of as lower-level member services in that ecosystem. A higher-level service aggregates these services to create a tour package that consists of traveling by a certain airline, going to points of interest using a specific cab service, and staying at a specific hotel. The tour package service can either have static relationships with certain entities, or it can put together a package unique to the set of requirements provided.
The regulatory aspect of the ecosystem is essential for smoother interoperability between the members of the ecosystem. In that respect, an ecosystem can be thought of as having two separate classes of services:
Regulatory class services. These are services that ensure interoperability among the members of the ecosystem and enforce standards and regulations required for that purpose. Some examples of this are standards-setting services, service-rating services, and monitoring and dispute-settlement services.
Member class services. These are the services that use the standards and rules set by the regulatory class services to offer a certain service that is within the domain of the ecosystem. Together, these two layers of services provide a complete ecosystem that can sustain itself and provide useful services to its users. Among these classes, there are several roles that different entities will play to make an ecosystem successful.