The INPUT Project aims at designing a novel infrastructure and paradigm to support Future Internet personal cloud services in a more scalable and sustainable way and with innovative added-value capabilities. The INPUT technologies will enable next-generation cloud applications to go beyond classical service models (i.e., IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS), and even to replace physical Smart Devices (SD), usually placed in users’ homes (e.g., network-attached storage servers, set-top-boxes, video recorders, home automation control units, etc.) or deployed around for monitoring purposes (e.g., sensors), with their “virtual images,” providing them to users “as a Service” (SD as a Service – SDaaS). The INPUT Project defines a virtual image to be a software instance that dematerializes a physical network-connected device, and that provides its virtual presence in the network and all its functionalities. Virtual images are meant to realize smarter, always and everywhere accessible, performance-unlimited virtual devices into the cloud. Virtual images can be applied both to fully dematerialized physical devices and provide all their functionalities by the cloud, and to add potentially infinite smartness and capacity to devices with performance- and functionality-constrained hardware platforms.
Virtual and physical SDs will be made available to users at any time and at any place by means of virtual cloud-powered Personal Networks, which will constitute an underlying secure and trusted service model (Personal Network as a Service – PNaaS). These Personal Networks will provide users with the perception of always being in their home Local Area Network with their own (virtual and physical) SDs, independently from their location.
To achieve these ultimate objectives, the INPUT Project will overcome current limitations on the cloud service design due to the underlying obsolete network paradigms and technologies, by:
- introducing computing and storage capabilities to edge network devices (i.e. the “in-network” programmability) in order to allow users/telecom operators to create/manage private clouds “in the network”;
- moving cloud services closer to end-users and smart devices, in order both to avoid pointless network infrastructure and datacenter overloading, and to provide lower latency reactiveness to services;
- enabling personal and federated cloud services to natively and directly integrate themselves with the networking technologies close to end-user SDs in order to provide new service models (e.g., Personal Networks).
- assessing the validity of the proposed in-network cloud computing model through appropriately designed use cases and related proof-of-concept implementations.
The INPUT Project will foster future-proof Internet infrastructures that will be “smarter,” fully virtualized, power vs. performance optimised, and vertically integrated with cloud computing, with a clear impact on Operating and Capital Expenses (OPEX and CAPEX) of Telecoms, of service providers, and of end-users. In this respect, the INPUT Project will extend the programmability of network devices to make them able to host cloud service applications, which will cooperate with those in users’ terminals and datacenters to realize the aforementioned cloud services. Moreover, the INPUT infrastructure and approach will contribute to the top line growth of European Telecom Operators by increasing the revenue opportunities, thanks to new service offers and shifting their role in a higher position in the value chain.
The customizable “in-network” intelligence will bring a number of key advantages, such as:
- the possibility of overcoming well-known scalability problems of current network technologies;
- (ii) the possibility of directing traffic and caching information where needed (close to end-users), reducing the number of hops and related workload in the network;
- (iii) the possibility of exploiting highly efficient network hardware to off-load applications (e.g., by providing storage, caching, security and trusting primitives) otherwise running on general purpose IT hardware.
A further chance of increasing the effectiveness of the in-network programmability comes from recent trends in network devices and architectures, which are rapidly turning to Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) paradigms opening new possibilities in application-driven integration and configuration of network infrastructures. INPUT will seize this opportunity to extend SDN/NFV paradigms, which are still under heavy design/revision, in order to pave the way for personal cloud services and functionalities.
A key objective of the INPUT Project will be the sustainability and the energy efficiency of the proposed architecture. This feature will assure an important reduction of the carbon footprint of the ICT sector.
Replacing physical end-user’s devices with their virtual images will certainly help to significantly decrease the GHG emission estimate in Figure 1.1. For example, in 2011 and only in USA, set-top-boxes were costing Americans 3 billion dollars in electricity charges each year, a figure equivalent to nine power plants and to GHG emissions equivalent to 15 MtCO2e per year. Moreover, since the global carbon footprint of set-top-boxes is accounted to spring for approximately 85% from their use, and the remaining part from their embodied carbon footprint, their impact on USA GHG turns out to be more than 17.5 MtCO2e per year. Similar figures can also be extended to Europe. In this respect, the INPUT technologies will have a key role since they will allow the complete dematerialization of set-top-boxes and similar end-user devices (zeroing their embodied carbon footprint), and they will allow to host the virtual image of these devices on much more energy-efficient network infrastructures.
INPUT will also enable Telecom Operators to offer their infrastructure in support of novel value-added personal cloud services with reduced investments (CAPEX) and operative expenses (OPEX). To this purpose, “in-network” programmable network devices will be designed on top of state-of-the-art off-the-shelf hardware with advanced power management capabilities, and suitable consolidation and orchestration mechanisms will be developed to optimize energy consumption and performance perceived by the users (QoE).