Design Infrastructures: The Fruit Lost in the Nuts

posted 20 May 2011, 15:21 by Michael Boniface
Immediately after the FIA Budapest was an intriguing industry conference all about dried nuts and fruit. What more could be said about a product that has been consumed by society for many thousands of years? The same is often said about Cloud computing but the debate rolls on and in the final FIA session the topic was “Research Needs for Cloud Computing" which closely followed “Cloud Computing: The network lost in the cloud?”

The title of the latter says much about the concerns of network operators. Will Google create an Internet where people access hosted services and where networking is concerned with only access and not externally provisioned transit between data centres?

The answer is probably yes but only for some classes of application. The cloud is such a general-purpose paradigm, it is impossible to consider “the cloud” as a single set of business models with a single set of security, privacy and trust issues. To some extent, issues with cloud computing are necessarily related to the application purpose(s). As a platform for distributed computing, it is the purpose of use that will dictate the structure and viability of different cloud offerings.

Clouds will organise themselves in ways that make economic sense, that’s what the technology is designed to do, and it is attitudes to property rights that will largely dictate the structure.  If Google, Amazon, Facebook and Telefonica want to provide market services fuelled by personal data that allow consumers to share holiday streams, play games, and buy an endless supply of increasingly personalised digital and real world goods then they will, if society lets them. This is only one form of distributed computing. AsJohn Day put it in the FI Cluster meeting”This is not the sort of Internet I signed up for!” and it is unlikely that industry will do likewise. With the launch of Facebook Credits in July and the potential for ½ billion people to start trading in a new online currency, the focus is still on the consumer. Certainly the banks are watching closely and there will be continued pressure on the high street with 30% of all transactions going to Facebook. However, the continued focus enthusiasm for consumers in the cloud debate could be dampened considering that consumer spending growth is under pressure across Europe. (Visa Europe: EU Consumer Spending Barometer Q4 2010).

BlueVia's Head of Product, Ruben Mellado

Obviously, trust has a major part to play in the acceptance of clouds in industry. The technology to increase trustworthiness was the focus of many of the comments during the session and much has already been said in recent European reports “The Future of Cloud Computing – Opportunities for European Cloud Computing Beyond 2010” and “Security & Resilience in Governmental Clouds". European providers may be trusted in ways that current major Internet players cannot and companies such as Thales and Telefonica are launching offers in the cloud space. Thales's offer is focused on secure cloud computing and the application of clouds to critical information systems. On the other hand Telefonica continues to innovate in the consumer space through its recently launched the BlueVia platform. BlueVia offers a cloud and mobile service development platform through partnership with Microsoft Windows Azure. Mobile application developers access restful APIs to real-time, programmable voice and data communications that can connect applications to social-networking capabilities. Develoment is free, open and revenues are shared directly from consumers.

Whether BlueVia will compete with iOS and Android, and recapture the consumer market remains to be seen. But it the increasing trend for communication to happen within, rather than across data centres is part of everyones consumer strategy. As highlighted earlier there will be many types of Clouds and the consumer strategy may just highlight the need for more than “one Internet”. Is this so different from today? High performance networks and services supporting industry such as ENX in the automotive sector and SohoNet in the media industry. Are we right or wrong to think that one Internet fits all in Future Internet developments?

The future of cloud computing must focus on enabling new forms of design infrastructures that promote value creation and allow industry to manufacture products and offer services that can be sold globally.  Driven by intellectual property rights, the processes for knowledge creation and requirements for data access and storage in such environments are distinctly different from those needed for consumer interaction in online communities. Data does not and cannot just disappear into the cloud. Guarantees are needed on long-term access and retention, sometimes for product lifecycles in excess of 50 years. It is unlikely that Amazon will deliver a cloud-enabled design infrastructures for data intensive supply chains (e.g. aerospace, pharmaceuticals, etc.) considering the diversity of data (e.g. raw data, simulations, models, tests, reports, logs), the diversity of applications needed to read the data, and the distribution of design processes across multiple organisations.

Value should not be seen as only what European’s consume but focus should shift to what Europeans can create. Europe can become a major cloud player using concepts from commercial clouds and combining them with Future Internet technology that addresses barriers to adoption in key economically important sectors. Such infrastructures will include significant networking, communication and collaboration technologies and importantly with customers that have the means to pay.  These design infrastructures must  provide economic frameworks that support business growth lifecycles of evolutionary organisations operating in an Internet of Services. “Service Ventures” must be established that are supported by service economy experts specialising in critical aspects of corporate governance and the dynamic processes necessary for self-development. These ventures will exploit crowd sourcing, prosumers, SMEs and the Enterprise to tackle growth stages efficiently, to exploit services-based assets with shorter windows of opportunity and to realise commercial value for stakeholders whilst maintaining the balance power between different interests. In a small part of Challenge 1, the Future Internet Enterprise Systems (FInES) is discussing such issues through their recent position paper.

Initiatives such as the FI Public Private Partnership (FI-PPP) can help but not directly as the focus is almost entirely on improving the efficiency in existing economic processes. Of course there will be positive side effects from the FI-PPP. The substitution of human activities with those supported by ICT will allow people to focus on more qualitative endeavours and the focus on deployment in highly regulated industries has the potential to deliver trust, security and dependability capabilities that can be applied within the enterprise. However, a clear strategy for value creation is needed in the programme with a greater emphasis on how Europe can become a world leader in Urban Design and Management rather than the FI-PPP being a vehicle for a new Internet. The FI-PPP impact study FI3P will hopefully soon give us some deeper insight into these issues and we await their reports.

So it seems that the network is not entirely lost in the cloud but European network operators will need to find a strategy for value creation, let’s hope their efforts bear fruit.