11 August 2016

5G: a three ingredients receipe

Please find attached at this link a white paper that IEEE SDN initiative has recently delivered.

It's about a systemic vision on 5G, where SDN, NFV but also Cloud Computing, and its evolution towards Edge and Fog Computing are "technical" pieces of same puzzle (the Softwarization of Telecommunications Systems).

The socio-economic impact of the ongoing transformation will be profound, and 5G is likely to be the first expression. It will address not only ICTE but also several other industries with are "going digital" to be more efficient and optimise costs.

However, this complex transformation can be summarised into three major points:    

  1. "Softwarization" is radically lowering the "threshold" for new Infrastructure Providers to enter the IaaS market. The solutions offered by Standard Hardware Providers will offer the possibility to deploy very low costs infrastructures, as a commodity. It is likely that regional/local Infrastructure Providers (not only Telcos, but also Municipalities, Communities, contiguous markets Service Providers) will proliferate;
  2. At the same time, there will be a "boom" of application and services (both network-cloud services and Users' applications will share the same paradigm) to be run on the Infrastructures. In fact, Infrastructures will assume the form of extended and distributed "execution" environments: from the Fog Computing resources (up to the terminals) to the Edge-Cloud Computing (Network PoPs, small and medium Data Centers) across converged fixed-radio connectivity. It is likely that Application and Service Developers, Systems Integrator (even of small medium sizes) will proliferate;
  3. The missing (and most strategic) link will be the "Operating Platforms" allowing the services to be run on the Infrastructures, metaphorically like an OS is allowing an app to be run on a PC. The "Operating Platforms" will ensure the automation of the Infrastructures' operations processes and the service provisioning in such dynamic and complex future scenarios. It is likely that there will be only a very limited number of  Providers of "Operating Platforms". It will be at this level where the game local-vs-global will be played.
My take is that the access to these "Operating Platforms" (through IaaS Providers) will be "gate" to a world of services (for production and consumption), and it won't necessarily coincide with the access to the Internet...

05 August 2016

5G: where we are and where we go

There are clear evidences of a growing interest of Operators and Service Providers (both Telecoms and OTTs) on the exploitation of SDN, NFV and the evolution of Cloud towards Edge-Fog Computing for their "digital business transformation" towards the 5G Era.

This is a global move world-wide, which is accelerating with a tremendous effort in R&D and Innovation and with a common medium-long term target, which is 5G.

Some examples.

In the following press release Verizon is claiming that its next-generation network based on network functions virtualization and software-defined networking is rapidly taking shape.

In this link, AT&T elaborates how ECOMP is expected to get rapidly on-board new services (created by AT&T or third parties) requested by customers. ECOMP provides a framework for real-time, policy-driven software automation of network management functions

Moreover this press points out how Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (A:I.) will be part of the story: A.I. will handle more that 80% of the operation processes of network management and service provisioning (it’s about actionable big data).

...but I would even add that A.I. will be the game changer also for "cyber-security".

It worth also mentioning the amazing Telecom Infra Project (TIP) which is including OTTs, Telecom operators, infrastructure providers, system integrators, and other technology companies joining together to innovate approaches to building and deploying future telecom network infrastructure based on open hw and open sw paradigms

…and the very recent press release from ON.Lab and The Linux Foundation announcing the formation of the Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center (CORD) initiative as a new, independent open source project. In addition, Google, Radisys and Samsung Electronics Co. are joining CORD and ONOS Projects as new partners.

In Europe we have also the 5GPPP, i.e., the 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership initiated by the EU Commission and industry manufacturers, telecommunications operators, service providers, SMEs and researchers.  The 5G PPP aims at delivering solutions, architectures, technologies and standards for the ubiquitous next generation communication infrastructures of the coming decade.

…and this is a very interesting white paper from NTT on 5G

…impossible mentioning all the related ongoing activities on Standardization Bodies (as in IETF, ETSI, ITU, ONF... 3GPP, IEEE etc, etc), but it is pretty clear the overall convergence towards an industrial infrastructure integrating fixed and mobile, network and IT resources and functionalities, deployable up to the edge and fog, even in the terminals. It is also pretty clear the key role of ML and A.I. both for managing the infrastructure "complexity" by automating the Operations and for hooking the new killers apps. A cocktail of SDN, NFV, Cloud-Edge-Fog Computing and A.I.

One may ask: out of this tremendous effort worldwide, can we see and abstract a global systemic vision and new strategic biz models for the future sustainability of Telecommunications and ICT ?

I believe so: follow my next posts and join us!

17 July 2016

"Post K": will Supercomputers become the future Telecoms infrastructures ?

Post K is an amazing project from the Japan government aimed at developing an even more powerful supercomputer (than the current K) for providing several applications and services to government, academia and industry... 

It looks like paving the way towards a medium-long term objective of creating an ecosystem around super-computing facilities: have  a look at this clip: http://www.aics.riken.jp/fs2020p/en/

Imaging now extending/distributing these super-computing facilities from a centralised Data Centre to multiple sites on a wide area (e.g. a Country), through low latency WAN links (e.g., 5G).

Keeping in mind that AT&T is arguing that they will transform the Central Offices (4-5 k) in Data Centres, then a distributed country-wide super-computer is likely to become the next Telecommunication infrastructure.

Eventually this super-Telecommunication infrastructure will be able to execute any sort of A.I. and Machine Learning services and applications ("game changer"), not only for the creating new services but also for its automated operations.

Back to  Project KFujitsu said that it will use ARM-based processors to build it...and Japan's SoftBank to buy the technology company ARM for $32 billion (24.11 billion pounds) in cash! 


14 July 2016

Towards 5G Software-Defined Ecosystems

IEEE SDN has just released a second white paper entitled "Towards 5G Software-Defined Ecosystems".

Abstract — Techno-economic drivers are creating the conditions for a radical change of paradigm in the design and operation of future telecommunications infrastructures. In fact, SDN, NFV, Cloud and Edge-Fog Computing are converging together into a single systemic transformation termed “Softwarization” that will find concrete exploitations in 5G systems. The IEEE SDN Initiative1 has elaborated a vision, an evolutionary path and some techno-economic scenarios of this transformation: specifically, the major technical challenges, business sustainability and policy issues have been investigated. This white paper presents: 1) an overview on the main techno-economic drivers steering the “Softwarization” of telecommunications; 2) an introduction to the Open Mobile Edge Cloud vision (covered in a companion white paper); 3) the main technical challenges in terms of operations, security and policy; 4) an analysis of the potential role of open source software; 5) some use case proposals for proof-of-concepts; and 6) a short description of the main socio-economic impacts being produced by “Softwarization”. Along these directions, IEEE SDN is also developing of an open catalogue of software platforms, toolkits, and functionalities aiming at a step-by-step development and aggregation of test-beds/field-trials on SDNNFV-5G. This will prepare the ground for developing new ICT ecosystems, thereby improving the quality of life and facilitating the development of the new digital economy.

Please download it from the IEEE SDN portal

Comments and contributions are most welcome !

04 July 2016

The Manifesto fo the Knowledge-based Economy

An economic epoch is defined by three factors,

The production systems and the tools these systems are employing
The means of communication and the means for information creation
The type of energy (power) systems engaged.

In each epoch there is a certain relationship and interdependence between these three factors. So far in human history, each of these factors was built over a certain technology and there was no relation between the technologies these three factors were exploiting. In striking contrast, the characteristic of the knowledge-based economy we have entered, as a clearly identifiable new economic epoch, is the dominant role of information and communications systems which are emerging as the common technological base  all these three factors. have This presupposes the digitization and the standardization of all human activities and of all processes in their lives. As the matter of fact, the digitization and standardization allow the convergence of the three factors into an entirely novel framework. Moreover, digitization allows biotechnology to emerge, for the first time, as the fourth factor in the definition of an economic epoch.

The distinctive feature of the knowledge-based economic activity is that it provides a new framework for planning, organizing and coordinating resources (human or material) to an unprecedented scale, while removing all barriers associated with location, distance and skills: we are entering the era where all technology-related restrictions which confine humans to implement their social functions at certain locations only, are being removed. This opens up the opportunity to select, mobilize and utilize the most diverse parameters and assets needed to complete a particular task regardless of their actual physical location and regardless of the nature of these tasks. In this way, social functions, like the deployment of new production tool systems in an industrial complex, the handling of agricultural robots in the fields, the employment of integrated health-care systems, the operation and control of distributed and renewable energy systems, scientific research, education, recreation and cultural development, etc will be rooted back to the same standardized processes.

We acknowledge that the knowledge capital, which knows no geographical boundaries, is an indestructible entity in striking contrast with its first or second industrial-wave counterparts that were often subjected to dissipation. Moreover, unlike physical resources, the knowledge capital is not exhaustible; it can be almost instantly transferred anywhere and can be employed or used simultaneously from an unrestricted number of human users or machines. In parallel, this new era brings its own challenges: the coordination of diverse and complex operations becomes an extremely challenging and critical task. The knowledge-based economy is ushering a revolutionary wealth system but it also includes many unchartered directions, the implications of which are not fully understood and accounted for in all respects at this moment, while we are not fully prepared for the many alternative outcomes.

We have passed the point where national economies are integrated to regional ones transforming the previously isolated markets into vast market clusters. Today, regions within a single nation, countries, unions and even whole continents are immensely and inextricably linked creating new opportunities while the economic interests are shifted to new directions. In this framework, global economy is characterized from interdependency and cooperation on one hand and from competition on the other.

This evolution has created global reach enterprises that may leverage the features of the knowledge-based economy to become completely location-independent, capitalizing on an automated connectivity to and between any process, person or thing; moreover, they are designated from their ability to scale to meet any demand. This ability, to scale to worldwide demand but still be able to provide for the delivery of services or goods locally, is something that requires a certain organizational and technological framework. On the organizational front, global alliances or consortia are formed to establish global reach with ubiquitous local access in each geographic market. Each of these alliances will likely be anchored to one or more large global industry leaders or service providers. In such a dynamic world, the enterprises with the most automated operations and the alliances with optimized global-local reach operations are those that will benefit the most and will be able to leverage their dynamic agility to win in the marketplace.

However, the organizational framework alone is not sufficient to safeguard better, lower-cost, value-added digitalization and service creation. A common, standardized operating platform, overcoming the current picture of a plethora of over-fragmented and single-purpose technologies, is a necessity that will bring into life the potential of a knowledge-based economy matching the ability of the over-the-top enterprises to coordinate on both “global” and “local” scale.

This is the point where the next generation infrastructures is expected to play a central role.

by Alexandros Stavdas

29 June 2016

Will A.I. operate future Internet ? Let's train it !

If today "software is eating the world", quoting Marc Andressen, tomorrow A.I. will bring to the end of code. See what it argued here

Well, even today we are going to have more and more smart terminals, wearable, machines capable of translating our actions, thoughts, words and maybe even emotions into enormous sets of big data.
Then these data are are filtered, processed to detect patterns, to infer actions (i.e., making the data “actionable”). It's the Digital Society and Economy.

As a matter of fact, this coupling of TLC (fixed-mobile low latency connectivity) and IT (processing and storage) are already pervasively exploiting (through sensors and actuators) “cognition loops” nested into the reality, These “cognition loops” are used to optimise any process or activity, engaging even humans in the loop ! I've argued that several times: it's a sort of artificial "nervous system" for the Digital Society and Economy. 

Advances on machine learning are impressive! The enormous processing power available at low costs and the more and more advanced A.I. techniques being developed, will allow us moving deeper inside "softwarization": I won't be that surprised if sooner that we expect programmers won’t code anymore!

Eventually, humans will set-up and train deep neural networks, hyper-connected and executed on highly distributed execution environment. Indeed this is mimicking a multilayered connections of neurons, just like a nervous system, in charge of "automated" operations. See my last posts.

Understanding better and better SDN, we are now starting talking about A.I. Defined Networks.

This is the essence of my talk today at EuCNC2016, in Athens.

24 June 2016

The Telco Operating System and the Commoditization

Today Telecommunications infrastructures are going to face a major transformation: from networks of interconnected “closed” equipment (e.g., IT systems and nodes e.g., switches, routers, middle-boxes, etc.) to a “continuum” of virtual resources (e.g., virtual machines, containers) executing millions of intertwined software processes.

If it is true that this transformation will increase the levels of pervasivity, flexibility, programmability and robustness, it is also true that it will increase also the degree of complexity.
Human made control and management will not be able to cope such higher degree of complexity especially in highly dynamic environments, so my take is that Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) will be more and more adopted in Control, Management and Orchestration processes.

A sort of “Operating System” (OS) will integrate these Operations processes for Telecommunications infrastructures, being ONOS and X-OS initial expressions of this target. Interestingly, the characteristics of this OS, and its potential extension up to the terminals of the future (e.g., smart thing, robots, machines, wearable, AI interfaces), will reflect the strategic role and business of the Service Provider or Network Operator exploiting it. 

So, it’s a questions – as J. Doyle argued (see picture below) – to define and exploit those required "constraints to deconstrain" what is on top of it. Abstractions, Northbound (e.g., Intent, TOSCA, YANG, etc) Southbound (e.g., OpenFlow, NetConf, ..., P4, etc.) interfaces being notably examples of these constraints. And the kernel OS should be protocol-independent.

At the end of the day, we'll see - with this OS - any application/service (X-as-a-Service) will run on any hardware (possibly standard and low cost) of Telecommunications infrastructures (e.g., distributed Cloud-Edge-Fog computing resources interconnected by ultra-low latency link). Simple like that. This is Universality: any car running on any road across the world.

This is how Commoditization of Telecommunications will open a major techno-economic transformation of the Digital Society and Economy...today, only at the very beginning.

Let's join efforts to design and develop this A.I. Operating System with humans in the loop, it will be the nervous system of the future internet.