Friday, October 19, 2012

A VISION for cloud storage at eChallenges

Lately we have been hearing a lot about EC projects focused on clouds for compute. Helix-Nebula brings together commercial suppliers with the academic demand side, working on applications in space science, life sciences and high energy physics. The European Grid Infrastructure has launched its federated cloud task force to provide a federated institutional clouds, as featured in International Science Grid This Week.

However, we shouldn’t forget about data storage as well as compute. Unstructured data is 90% of the digital universe according to the Digital Universe Study of April 2011 and up to 30% of this could be medical images. In fact, fixed content is the fastest growing content type, for example object storage of email attachments, medical images, videos and so on. However, when you ask businesses about their plans to store their essential data on the cloud using paid for rather than free services, 86% are either not interested or are interested but have no immediate plans to implement it.

Some of the problems behind this apparent inertia have been around for up to a decade – concerns about security and privacy, nervousness about offshore storage, local data compliance and vendor lock in. These seem to either be tricky problems to solve, or it is tough to persuade customers to move beyond their perceptions of the issues.

The VISION Cloud project provides a virtualised storage services foundation for the future internet. It is innovating in areas such as metadata, where it is storing rich metadata with the content ie describing both the handling of the object and its content. VISION also provides a single view of storage, by using a layer that gives unified access to data across storage clouds as well as federation of data objects.

Frederik Solsvik  of Telenor ASA presented a use case from the telecommunications industry. He asked what does a telco demand from a cloud service?  Some of the requirements include storage for content and big data, smart networks, service management, a shared infrastructure, flexible billing and an optimised customer experience. Telenor has been experimenting with consumer services using VISION, including a video management service, a content management system and a slideshow service. They have added a billing and authentication layer to the VISION cloud. The user uploads a video, then “storlets” prepare html 5 versions that can be fed out to different devices. If they upload images, these are clustered together based on their geographical location metadata.

For Telenor, like most companies in our straitened economic times, they are seeing problem areas such as revenue decline, convergence of services and competition from other cloud providers. They foresee new areas for innovation in the market, for example in taking on the cloud broker role. This will bring them into the area of identity management, consolidated billing, SLA management, and finding ways to move data and services between providers. In the area of cloud connectivity, they are looking for smart networks that adapt to network conditions, in the context of the much higher traffic they are seeing, for example related to video content.

From VISION, they have found that data can be stored in a single architecture and that providing multiple services for a single data set enhances the experience for users. They can extend their network APIs with storage APIs to provide these bundled services, extending the VISION cloud architecture. Ultimately the customer benefits – more choice, more services and more flexibiity.

No comments: