IBM, European partners to develop 'smart' cloud

Object-based cloud storage architecture planned

IBM has announced that it is leading a joint research initiative with 15 European partners that include telcos, healthcare and media companies and standards bodies to develop an object-based, standardised "smart cloud" storage architecture.

IBM says the goal of the collaboration is to improve delivery of rich data and storage services across national boundaries and a variety of vendors. The research project, being led by IBM's research arm in Haifa, Israel, will tackle the major challenges facing modern storage clouds, including: cost-effectiveness, data mobility across cloud providers, security guarantees and the massive computing power demands that affect quality of service.

The initiative, called "VISION Cloud -- Virtualized Storage Services for the Future Internet" is being funded through a European Union grant worth US$21.4 million.

IBM says that data contained in the cloud architecture will be represented by smart objects that include rich information describing the content and how the object should be handled, replicated or backed up.

The VISION Cloud combines several concepts, notably a rich object data model, execution of computations close to the stored content, content-centric access and full data interoperability.

"Users now require capabilities that are far richer than simple raw bits and basic storage," Hillel Kolodner, an IBM Haifa researcher and lead architect for VISION Cloud, said in a statement. "To satisfy this need, the focus must shift to the data, where the collections of bits are semantically meaningful and have associated metadata. With VISION Cloud, our aim is develop the infrastructure to support this prominence of data and data-intensive services."

Just as an object-based storage system does today, the data will be searchable through a central metadata database.

IBM says that with VISION Cloud, a future provider of storage services could offer a "digital safe" service, where consumers could store photos, videos, health records and financial records securely in the cloud.

"Then, for example, when an expecting mother undergoes a 3D ultrasound of her fetus, the image is automatically uploaded and stored in her digital safe. She can then decide to give access to family members and to an online video editing service, through which she produces the first video of her baby, which she shares with her friends and family," IBM said.

Friends and family could then be given permission to download the video and view it on their own personal device, each with its own screen size and supported video formats. Meanwhile, a radiologist could use the video to, for example, find a slight anomaly and could tag the scan accordingly. That tagging would trigger a search in a medical repository, which could find that the the anomaly is probably an allergy medication.

The partners in the initiative include IT technology, business software, and service providers, such as SAP, Siemens and ITRicity. Telco providers include Telefnica Investigacin y Desarrollo, Orange Labs and Telenor. Media service providers include RAI and Deutche Welle. Also included in the coalition are the Storage Networking Industry Association of Europe standards organization; the National Technical University of Athens; Umea University; the Swedish Institute of Computer Science and the University of Messina.

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