The service-oriented architecture is a promising means to support outsourcing amongst real-time enterprises. In this context, SLAs (Service Level Agreements) are essential because they grant guarantees about how a service must be provided or consumed. We define service trading as the process of locating, selecting, negotiating, and creating SLAs. Although automating the service trading process is a key characteristic of a real-time enterprise, to the best of our knowledge it has not been completely addressed yet.
In this article, we propose a conceptual framework for automated service trading. Therefore, our goal is not to implement a concrete architecture but to develop a framework that can be used to define, compare and analyse the interoperability of different service trading architectures. The novel contributions of this paper are threefold: we identify the roles and interactions that are necessary to carry out this automated service trading, we motivate and introduce the idea of trading protocols, and we define the elements that are necessary to support an automated decision-making in service trading.