14 February 2017

A.I. detecting early-warning signals …in the complexity of Digital Society and Economy

The Digital Society and Economy are literally becoming complex systems. All sub-systems, at the different levels, are hyper-connected with non linear relationships. Sudden regime/phase transition can occur radically changing the scenarios
Can we early detect tipping points of such sudden regime/phase transition ?

Predicting such tipping points before they are reached is quite difficult, but it might have a huge impact in several fields, from medicine to business, from biology to meteorology to social networking, from management to business and to cyber-security.

There are some nice research papers providing some guidelines. This is one of them “Early-warning signals for critical transitions”. In this case, the paper is suggesting the analysis of generic early-warning signals indicating, for a wide class of complex systems, the approaching of a critical threshold, where small forces can cause major changes in the state. Examples of such transitions might include the collapse of over-harvested ecosystems, climatic changes, or stocks markets dynamics.

For example one symptom is the critical slowing down: when the system approaches a critical transition, it becomes increasingly slow in recovering from small perturbations (which is translated mathematically into an increase in the autocorrelation and variance of the fluctuations). Another signal that can be seen in the vicinity of a catastrophic transition point is flickering. Stochastically, the system moves back and forth between the basins of attraction of two alternative attractors (bistable region). Spatial patterns is a third example: an ecosystem may show a predictable sequence of self-organized spatial patterns as it approach a critical transition (e.g. a semi-arid vegetation to increasing dryness of the climate).

Another recommended reading is this one:

Big Data analysis by A.I. systems could make a breakthrough in this promising area of research and innovation, also on the path towards a sustainable 5G.
The potential gains of investing in these studies are formidable.

24 January 2017

If there will be a 6G...it will be Quantum !

Today 5G is under the spot worldwide. The more we look at it the more we realise that the 5G infrastructure be a radical evolution of 4G/LTE and fixed networks. In fact, current trends are showing that 5G will not be just an increase of radio bandwidth, better performance and improved reliability: 5G will deeply integrate processing, storage and (fixed-mobile) network capabilities in highly flexible and programmable architectures, almost fully "automated".

As a matter of fact technology advances and the costs reductions are bringing these capabilities pervasively into the daily reality, around us, impacting deeply any segment of Society and Economy. Not only humans, but also machines, robots, drones, pieces of software processes will become the future Users of 5G in a newly developed Digital Society and the Digital Economy. 

In this sense, 5G is expression of digital transformation, starting to materialise from 2020, and maybe, one of the major issues still open is understanding the new value-chain making all of that sustainable !

But beyond that, "what's next" ?  My take is that if there will be a 6G, then it will be Quantum !

There are several evidences of increasing efforts and investments in R&D and Innovation of Quantum systems. Some notable example are: Microsoft, IBM, HP, Toshiba, Google, NASA, Intel, Alibaba, BT and other several Centres of Excellence. 

Take a look at these links:

It's true that Quantum technologies and approaches are showing different levels of maturity, but it is already widely believed that first Quantum Systems will be available within five-ten years: as a matter of fact advanced prototypes for quantum computing and communications are already available.

There is also already a Quantum Manifesto calling upon Member States and the European Commission to launch a €1 billion Flagship-scale Initiative in Quantum Technology, preparing for a start in 2018 within the European H2020 research and innovation framework programme

A future breakthrough in the development of quantum systems at affordable prices will have systemic and far reaching impacts, e.g.,
  • the exploitation of the Quantum Internet capable of exchanging information through fully optical networks and processing it, optically, in the form of encoded photons;

  • the development of disruptive applications in the areas of cryptography, cyber-security and anti-counterfeit transactions with “quantum money”, finance, but also in bioinformatics, quantum machine learning and artificial intelligence;

  • radical implications in other sectors and industries, such as new faster ways of processing genetic big data, quantum biology and medicine or developing of new nano-tech smart materials.
Would you bet on Quantum ?

10 January 2017

Softwarization for a Hyper-connected World: en route to 5G

The IEEE Institute ranked the white paper “Towards 5G Software-Defined Ecosystems” among the 10 Most Popular Articles of 2016 (ranked #5, along with articles on Shannon Centennial and Marie Curie’s involvement in WWI).


Let's meet in Bologna, at IEEE NetSoft 2017 to move the next steps.

Software-Defined Networks (SDN), Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and Cloud-Edge-Fog Computing are key ingredients of an overall techno-economic transformation trend, which is impacting deeply Telecom and ICT industries. This trend, often called “Softwarization”, will bring costs optimizations and new service paradigms.

In particular, SDN, NFV and network programmability are going to become the main enablers of the 5th Generation (5G) of infrastructures, which will span from high data rate fixed-mobile services to the Internet of Things.

This timely flagship conference of IEEE SDN will shed light on the fundamental technology components and systems for SDN-NFV infrastructures, clouds-edges and any sort of network services in order to fully exploit its potential for the efficiently handling of heterogeneous resources across wire and wireless networks and datacenter domains and for easy and fast deployment of new ICT services. 

The IEEE NetSoft will bring together academia and industry to jointly review and ponder maturing developments related to all aspects of Softwarization, and its first exploitation with the 5G.

Don't miss the opportunity of joining us in Bologna, and "influencing" the way towards 5G.
There is still time to registers you papers and demos !

for questions and further information: antonio.manzalini@telecomitalia.it

11 December 2016

Infrastructure-agnostic orchestration space

A number of well-known drivers are paving the way towards an end-to-end X-as-a-Service world, a truly Digital Transformation of Society and Economy:
  • pervasive diffusion of ultra-broadband (fixed and mobile);
  • increase of performance of H/W at lowering costs;
  • growing availability of Open Source S/W;
  • availability of “actionable” Big Data;
  • advances on Artificial Intelligence;
  • more and more powerful terminals and smart things.

We realize that Softwarization of Telecommunications – and several other Industries - will be the natural next step of this Digital Transformation. Automating Operations will be the key factor of success, in a growing complexity and heterogeneity. On the other hand, we are witnessing a rather high level of fragmentation, in international forum, bodies, projects and initiatives developing systems, platforms for management, control and orchestration…even more when looking at 5G infrastructures.

Moreover, it is not predictable today which of said platform(s) will be widely accepted and deployed, and how they will evolve.  Impossible to predict today which one will be “the winner takes all”. My take is that to cope with this, there is a need of developing an “infrastructure-agnostic orchestration space” capable of decoupling from currently available (and future) control and orchestrations platform (e.g., ONOS, ODL, OpenStack, MANO, etc) … but at the same time “hooking” all of them (for end-to-end services) by using a standard set of abstractions.

Scalability, security, and accounting will represent some of the major challenges towards this fully automated, agile, multi-domain, end-to-end X-as-a-Service world.

06 October 2016

Towards Artificially Intelligent Networks

Yesterday I've made my keynote at the IEEE Conference CloudNet2017, by the way very interesting event with high quality publications and presentations. 

Here it is the abstract of my talk:


The increasing levels of flexibility and programmability provided by the exploitation of enabling technologies such as SDN-NFV-Edge/Fog, leading to the Network Softwarization, will determine in turn higher levels of management and control “complexity”: in fact, rather than operating sets of closed physical nodes and systems, it will be necessary allocating and orchestrating a dramatically higher number of software processes, logically intertwined and dynamically moving in the Telecom infrastructures. Central Offices will become like Data Centers.

In the X-as-a-Service era the business sustainability passes through ways for increasing QoE, reducing Time To Market and guaranteeing cyber-security

This “complexity”, outstripping human control and operations ability, could be tamed only by exploiting, in the real-time Operating Platforms, leveraging on Applied mathematics, Artificial Intelligence methods and systems capable of making “actionable” the infrastructure Big Data (e.g., logs, alarms, and other data). 

In fact, it is easy to predict that key question of the ongoing Digital Business Transformation is automating the Operations processes (today's OSS-BSS), from the management to the control to the orchestration of physical and logical resources 

...but this is paving the way towards Artificially Intelligent Networks, where SDN-NFV-Cloud-Edge-Fog Computing will converge with A.I. systems and methods.

Happy that the keynote has been well received with several questions!
Who is interested in the presentation, please drop me an email, please to share it.

Very proud to show the appreciation.
Thanks to the General Chair (Prof. Stefano Giordano) and to the Organizing Commettee !

04 October 2016

Quest for Real-time Operating Platforms

Digital Business Transformation mean a number of objectives for Network Operators and Service Providers: saving Operational costs, reducing Time to Market, improving de-commissioning procedures, improving the “quality of service” but also becoming ready for providing new ICT services, even those which are still unpredictable today. In a sentence, Telecommunications infrastructures should become “good enough” to be economically sustainable in highly dynamic and changing scenarios.

We know that SDN-NFV are considered today two of the most promising enabling technologies to achieve these goals. However, the target of increasing the levels of flexibility and programmability will determine, in turn (reverse side of the coin), higher and higher levels of management “complexity”: in fact, rather than managing sets of closed physical nodes and systems, it will be necessary allocating and orchestrating a huge number of software tasks, logically intertwined and dynamically moving.

There is also an overall consensus that 5G production (and beyond) environment will look like distributed clouds of IT systems, interconnected through ultra-low latency (radio and wired) connections, capable of executing software processes and applications, dynamically meeting Customers’ needs. As a matter of fact, already today we’re witnessing the interweaving of technologies such as Edge and Fog Computing with SDN and NFV.  And “Softwarization” will allow decomposing the network and service functions into chains of software tasks. End-to-end service provisioning will require that this functional decomposition will be followed by an optimal allocation and orchestration of the virtualized functionalities across User Equipment, RAN, Mobile Edge and Core resources. Eventually, this will bring a unified service modeling whereby SDN services (e.g., controllers), NFV services (e.g., Virtual Network  Functions), and Cloud services are seen as “application” executed on virtualized resources.

TOSCA (Topology and Orchestration Specification for Cloud Applications) will be a natural candidate for the Northbound interfaces of the Real-time Operating Platforms. TOSCA  is a standard from OASIS that targets interoperable deployment and lifecycle management of cloud services. In fact, TOSCA uses the concept of service templates to describe cloud workloads as a topology template. The topology template describes the structure of a service as a set of node templates and relationship templates modeling the relations as a directed graph. Node templates and relationship templates (linking different nodes) in fact specify properties and operations (via interfaces) to manipulate the service components. Moreover, it is likely that the YANG declarative data modeling language will be used both to describe deployable instances of a service (e.g., a VNF) and to configure a network device/element at run time.

Eventually, TOSCA and NetConf /YANG could be considered as complementary instruments: deployment templates may trigger the  NetConf /YANG configurations during the instantiation of a service, whist in the Operations the Real Time Operating Platforms can take over configurations at run time. On the Southbound interface a number of well-known configuration protocols and programming language are getting momentum: OpenFlow, NetConf, P4, etc.

At the same time we’re witnessing a growing diffusion of Internet of Things and Machine to Machine communications are creating also a new generation of non-human Customers’, such as Robots, Avatars and any sort of Artificial Intelligence applications.  This “complexity”, outstripping human control and operations ability, will be tamed only by exploiting real-time Operating Platforms, based on Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) methods and systems, integrating management, control and orchestration functions. It will be necessary collecting, filtering and elaborating the infrastructure Big Data, thus “closing the loop” and making the them truly “actionable” for Operations and provisioning of services.

Real-time Operating Platforms should provide an abstraction layer for switching/networking (e.g., Switch, Ports, Links) and compute, storage resources (e.g., CPU, RAM, Disk, Ports, etc.). This allows applications and developers to request connectivity, storages and arbitrary units of compute power without one having to worry about how this translates to bare-metal, Containers or Virtual Machines.  Eventually this evolution will impact deeply the current value chain: in fact, Telecommunications infrastructures, governed by real-time Operating Platforms, will become a single converged industrial structures covering voice, Internet access and other services a la OTT.

In this big leap towards Artificially Intelligent Networks, a new Community will have to be developed capable of integrating Experts in Computer Science, Telecommunications-ICT, A.I. and Applied Mathematics.

Dynamical Systems Internet based on Feynman Machines

I wish celebrating my 100th post on this blog with a short piece about this amazing paper:

Feynman Machine: The Universal Dynamical Systems Computer

Paper proposes a simple but very innovative model which draws on recent findings in Neuroscience and the Applied Mathematics of  Dynamical Systems. One of my dreams, using the advances on Neuroscience and  Applied Mathematics to re-define the way we see the networks.

as mentioned by the paper, the Feynman Machine is a Universal Computer for Dynamical Systems, analogous to the Turing Machine for symbolic computing, but with several important differences capable of bringing to radically new architectures for machine intelligence.

Unlike the Turing Machine (or any digital computer), the Feynman Machine is not “programmed” in the traditional sense we are used to. The structure of the network, the choice and configuration of regions, and connections to its external world together dictate the functionality and capability of the machine, and the actual performance is achieved by online learning of the structure in the world. Like for the nervous system of living being.

Now imagine extending this paradigm by interconnecting each other Feynman Machines (not digital computer as we have today in Internet) and you'll get a sort of Dynamical Systems Internet based on Feynman Machines. A radically new ways of looking at the Network.

As a matter of fact, the combination of SDN and NFV are creating new "complexity" dimensions that, in principle, could allow this leap, thus potentially opening new frontier for Artificially Intelligent Networks.

This will be part of my talk at IEEE CloudNet on 5th October in Pisa.