16 February 2015

Will “Softwarization” create new risks of global Cyber-wars ?

Recently, we’ve been asked what are the potential military applications of SDN and NFV.

Well, the first simple example in my mind concerns remote control and program of (swarms of) drones and robots. In fact, it has been argued several time that “Softwarization” will transform terminals, tablets, machines, smart thing, drones, robots… into “meta-node” of SD-Infrastructures (SDI). In general, it’s easy to predict that the availability of huge amounts of cloud processing and storage, interconnected by highly flexible and fast SDI, will create a pervasive “machine intelligence” able to morph space-time physical dimensions, and, in general, the direct physical presence of humans will be required less and less to perform certain jobs or tasks.

In the future, technology will offer increasing capabilities and performance at lower and lower costs, and it will be more easily accessible. SDIs are likely to become  the nervous systems of future Digital Society and Economy. This will create opportunities and risks: software is vulnerable by definition.

Future SDI will be by definition a vulnerable infrastructure that needs to be secured against attacks and made resilient. Security should be part of the smartness (i.e., we always talk about smart grids, smart cities, smart objects…etc). Possible scenarios? It’s just a matter of “imagination”. Nevertheless, I guess it’s much more important concentrating on how to contain the threats, or predict, tame the risks posed by some uses of Softwarization.

Security-by-design should be, in my opinion, one of the key top-priority avenues concerning SDN and NFV. And, new techniques should be identified to complement the current approaches adopted in legacy infrastructures.

Softwarization, for example, could bring the ability for security policies to follow logically specific network functions (in logical containers, VMs).  More in general, cyberspace is definitely becoming a Complex Adaptive System: in this sense both local self-organization/emergent behaviours (with simple rules) and global Big Data analysis (making use of methods and algorithms for detecting suspicious data patters, anonymously) could contribute protecting SDI (e.g., through adopting 'honeypot' approaches to detect and block SDI attacks).

13 February 2015

Softwarization: open field-trials of field-trials are welcome !

In this book “Software Take Command”, the Author Lev Manovich (2008) is arguing that “What electricity and the combustion engine were to the early 20th century, software is to the early 21st  century”.

Electricity and the combustion engine created a new development by changing legacy rules, opening Blue ocean scenarios. A new wave of innovation crossed the Planet.

The terms Red and Blue oceans refers to two opposite scenarios. Red oceans concerns known market spaces, where roles boundaries are clearly defined and accepted, and the competitive rules of the game are known. As the market spaces are becoming more and more crowded, profits and growth are going to be reduced. Products and Services will become commodities, and the competition turns the ocean bloody. Blue oceans, in contrast, refer to enabling new market space, creating new demands, and the context for a new growth. In blue oceans, competition is less relevant. New Service paradigms will be created and new ecosystems will emerge.

So Softwarization and Machine Intelligence will open new Blue ocean scenarios like electricity and the combustion engine in the early 20th century. Industries, Academia, Funding Agencies, Research-Innovation Communities, Open Source Communities will have to face such important and global transformation, a new wave of innovation crossing Society and Economy.

In this direction, my take is that large-scale experimental platforms (e.g., a “field-trial of field-trials”), properly integrated, federated and operated would create the ideal open environment where to support a global innovation efforts in developing and testing pre-industrial solutions. And this will pave the way towards a fast and trusted adoption in Blue markets.

This approach should also reflect the way in which “innovation” is being developed and exploited. In fact, the past top-down “waterfall” model of making innovation is going to vanish: that model was moving from research activities to standardization, from systems development by Technology Providers to Service Providers deployments up to services provisioning to Consumers. Already today (and more and more tomorrow) innovation is likely working the other way round: innovation should start bottom-up from the needs of the Digital Society, from the massive Consumers, Users and from the challenging requirements of the new Digital Society and Economy.

So, though many efforts have been made in Europe, in US, in Asia in the past years to create SDN-NFV test-beds and experimental facilities with the purpose of serving industry, academia and scientific community, the result is a large number of fragmented and isolated platforms, duplicating work, often missing exchanges of results and information. Above all creating no impact. This is jeopardizing and delaying the innovation power of Softwarization, as a powerful enabler to new developments in the Digital Society and Economy.

The challenge will be looking for concrete exploitations driven by common Blue oceans goals, developing new socio-economic opportunities and ecosystems (e.g., in the sectors from industrial and agricultural mobile robotics, to new service paradigms such as “anything as a service”, from “full immersive experience and communications” to “Cognition-as-a-Service”).

Global “field-trials of field-trials” are needed where pursuing joint open efforts boosting Softwarization impacts. And these efforts have to look at the future, going beyond the local Red Oceans competitions.  Join our Community. 

08 February 2015

Softwarization and Machine Intelligence: A Blue Creative Destruction ?

In this very interesting interview A. McAfee is pointing out that certain “advancement of technologies falls in like with an economic phenomenon called creative destruction, a theory of economic innovation developed by Austrian-American economist Joseph Schumpeter during the 1940s. A basic summary of creative destruction is as follows: as innovation occurs and revolutionary new technologies are introduced, former industrial structures will be dismantled with new ones constructed to take their place”.

My take is that’s exactly what’s likely to happen with the combination of Softwarization and Machine Intelligence. The “creative destruction” of these two intertwined trends will open new Blue Ocean scenarios changing the rules of the game, and impacting the value chain of several Industries.  

“Softwarization” of Telco infrastructures will allow (most, if not all) network and service functions to be virtualised and dynamically allocated onto an underneath physical infrastructure, fully decoupled from the virtual platforms. It will be like having a borderless “continuum” of logical resources spanning from terminals, machines, smart things, crossing the Network up the Cloud.

For sure, technology has still to face some key challenges (security, interoperability, multiple domains orchestration, etc.) but this vision – in my opinion – it is feasible in the short-medium term. In fact, this time we’re witnessing a tremendous critical mass of “brains” working on these challenges. This is still a big fragmentation worldwide, but almost any Organization and Body in the Telecom business is realizing that “Softwarization” is the way to the future of Telecom and ICT.

Coherency is important as Industries, Academia, Research-Innovation Communities, Open Source Communities should be prepared to face such an important and global transformation of Telecom and ICT ecosystems (and not only), which will be brought by "Softwarization": on one side there is the need to tame the socio-economic risks brought by this transformation, and, on the other side there is the urgent requirement of acting fast so to capture all the socio-economic opportunities that it will bring in several sectors. There is general consensus that this transition will not just a technology issue, but also an economic sustainability question, implying also proper regulation rules. So a coherent global effort is required.

This is a global transformation towards Digital Society and Digital Economy which is requiring global coherent efforts worldwide (for example, just to start, in developing and validating Open Source Hardware and Software solutions capable of getting trusted consensus from early Adopters) in order to accelerating the impact creating new socio-economic developments.

My take is the need starting thinking, globally, in terms of “field-trials of field-trials for SDN-NFV”.

I’ll elaborate on that in my next post: join us !

05 February 2015

“Constraints that Deconstrain” SDN-NFV

We are witnessing very large but fragmented efforts worldwide in defining SDN and NFV. Very large as almost anybody is realizing that this is not just a new technology (like SDH or IP) but it is "tipping point" for Telcommunications and ICT ecosystems. It's software, it's OPEX-based models. It's much less investments to deploy a new infrastructure (virtualised from L2 to L7 and executed with Pay-as-you-go biz models). It's about many more Players entering the arena. It's changing the value chain, dramatically. So it's highly fragmented by different interests. Waterfall innovation and CAPEX-based models belong to the past.  

All Standardization Bodies, Fora, Projects and Initiatives dealing with SDN and NFV are debating more or less about the same well-known issues and questions, very often with different languages and background (from IT and From Telecom). And everybody seems looking for the winner-take-all SDN-NFV architecture, but in most cases discussions are dealing with conservative perspectives, slow-moving standards, in front of this global "game changer". This is risky, as in this context, "diversity" is accelerating.

My take is that it's unlikely that one of these Body will found winner-take-all solutions, and that standardization will reach fast agreements on certain "strategic" interfaces. One more thing, is that today, there is no formal theory nor systematic design principle for such a network architecture even more when this is more and more appearing as a “borderless continuum” of logical resources (e.g., containers) dynamically allocated on an underneath physical infrastructure.

Rather - quoting Prof. John Doyle - we need focussing on those "constraints that deconstrain" in this case SDN-NFV (i.e., defined by John as that minimum set of constraints that free up design choices everywhere else): but that’s indeed the Operating System, we need to make SDN-NFV to fly.

And to achieve that seriously, we need also following an approach with in line with the times: waterfall innovation model is failing today. That model was moving from research activities to standardization, from systems development by Technology Providers to Network/Service Providers deployments up to the provisioning communication services to Consumers. This is the past.

Winning innovation tomorrow is likely working the other way round: it will start bottom-up, from the real needs and requirements of the Digital Economy and Society, from the behaviour and dynamics of massive Consumers and Producers, from Communities and Social Networks etc. Network architectures are disappearing into the reality as they are become their nervous system of the reality. 

So let's start from concrete use-cases posing real development problems. And real market will decide, adopting also standards-de-facto, if the case

Brittle and fragmented activities adopting a slow waterfall innovation model will not find the way; what’s needed, in my opinion, is a massive joint effort for a new Operating System for Softwarization with a minimum set of constraints required to free up Virtual Functions (i.e., applications) on one side and the physical Hardware on the other one.

So let's start from available test-beds and field-trial aggregating effort towards a coherent global goal. Join our technical community ! Banner on top right of http://sdn.ieee.org/