The INPUT Project aims to contribute to the evolution of the Internet “brain” beyond current limitations due to obsolete IP network paradigms, by moving cloud services much closer to end-users and smart-devices. This evolution will be accomplished by introducing intelligence and flexibility (“in-network” programmability) into network edge devices, and by enabling them to host cloud applications (Service_Apps) capable of cooperating with and of offloading corresponding applications residing in the users’ smart objects (User_Apps) and in datacenters (DC_Apps), to realize innovative personal cloud services. The conceptual approach of the INPUT Project, including the Service_Apps operating at the edge network level, is shown in the figure below.
The presence of such Service_Apps will allow user requests to be manipulated before crossing the network and arriving at datacenters in ways that enhance performance. Such manipulations can include pre-processing, decomposition and proxying. Moreover, the Service_Apps will take advantage of a vertical integration in the network environment, where applications can benefit from network-cognitive capabilities to intercept traffic or to directly deal with network setup configurations and parameters. The integration of Service_Apps at the network edge level is a fundamental aspect, since this level is the one where the Telecom Operator terminates the user network access, and a direct trusting/control on user accounts and services is performed. Therefore, this level is the best candidate to host personal Service_Apps, and to provide novel network-integrated capabilities to the cloud environment in a secure and trusted fashion. To achieve this purpose, the INPUT Project will also focus on the evolution of network devices acting at this level beyond the latest state-of-the-art Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) technologies, and on how to interface them with the “in-network” programmability. This approach will reduce the reaction times of cloud applications, by exploiting the ability to directly access network primitives, and by providing improved scalability in the interactions of the network with users and datacenters.
The INPUT Project will design a multi-layered framework that will allow, on the one hand, multiple Personal Cloud Providers to request IT (e.g., in terms of computing, storage, caching, etc.) and network resources of the Telecom Infrastructure Provider via an extended Service Layer Agreement. On the other hand, in order to minimize the OPEX and increase the sustainability of its programmable network infrastructure, the Telecom Infrastructure Provider will make use of advanced Consolidation criteria that will allow Service_Apps to be dynamically allocated and seamlessly migrated/split/joined on a subset of the available hardware resources. The unused hardware components will enter low-power standby states. The presence of these power management criteria and schemes is a key aspect for maximizing the return of investment of the INPUT technology to Telecom Infrastructure Providers.
The INPUT architecture will also provide additional degrees of freedom and ground-breaking capabilities to design innovative personal cloud services, which can be substituted for (and/or can integrate the hardware capabilities of) smart objects usually placed in users’ homes (e.g., set-top-boxes, network-attached storage servers, etc.). This will be achieved using “virtual images” of these objects, making them always and everywhere available to users through a virtual personal network. These virtual images will obviously contribute in providing services to end-users in a cheaper way, avoiding the costs of buying physical smart objects and enabling continuous evolution of object performance and capabilities. On the other hand, the presence of the virtual personal network will give users the perception of a familiar personal environment with well-known legacy network and application protocol interfaces (e.g., Samba folder sharing and DLNA– Digital Living Network Alliance – streaming from a NAS server) usually applied in the home Local Area Networks (LANs). In this respect, Personal Networks have to provide the same perceived levels of security, privacy and trust as in today’s home networks, and have to expose these primitives to overlying cloud services.
In order to achieve the aforementioned architecture and overlaying proof-of-concept services, the INPUT Research & Innovation approach will be organized along three complementary research axis, namely “Smart Network Programmability Support”, “Network and Service Abstraction and Virtualization Interfaces”, and “Smart Personal Cloud Services.”