01 November 2015

A Global Operating System «from the Things to the Clouds»

We know that in computing, the adoption of an Operating System facilitated applications developments and diffusion by providing controlled access to high-level abstractions for computing hardware resources (e.g., memory, storage, communication) and information (e.g., files, directories). Similarly, in Telecommunications infrastructures – currently being subjected to Softwarization - a distributed Operating Systems would ease and “boom” a new development of services (X-as-a-Service) providing high-level abstractions for all resources of  Telecommunications and ICT infrastructures. This is the vision and concept of a Global Operating System, spanning from the “Things to the Clouds”.

Telecommunications and ICT infrastructures are becoming indeed a giant decentralized super-computer with a wide area networking fabric: a sort of flexible, highly adaptable and pervasive virtual environment of logical resources, from the cloud up to the terminals and the smart things.

So, in the same way (metaphorically) a computer have Operating System  —  dictating the way it works and provides services as a foundation upon which all applications are built – also this Wide Area decentralized super-computer will have to have a Global Operating System on top of which any network and service functions (including control and management) will be run as “applications”.

This is the vision that I presented, last week, at the “EAI International Conference on Software Defined Wireless Networks and Cognitive Technologies for IoT”. Presentation can be downloaded from the http://sdn.ieee.org/. But it’s more than a vision: believe it or not, we are about developing it, by leveraging on the available open source software.

The Global Operating System would not manage the infrastructure itself, but it would a real time software environment equipped with APIs for supporting a broad spectrum of control and management applications (performing  the OSS/BSS tasks), and ICT services.

Practically, Softwarization will make Telecommunications and ICT disappearing into the reality, whilst the Global Operating System will be its “nervous system”. And it will have “nerve endings” up to the things and the “future smart-terminals” (e.g., autonomous machines, robots, drones, etc).
In fact, all the infrastructure “elements” will be abstracted with the same formalism, in terms of a common data model (e.g.  by using YANG). This is be a huge unification and simplification. Services will be run in “virtual slices” made of combinations of computing-storage logical resources (e.g., Containers) interconnected by set of Virtual Networks (VN). Configurations: see OpenConfig http://www.openconfig.net/.

This is not Science Fiction. X-OS (OpenStack, ONOS) are already there, a reality for the Central Offices, as we learn from ONLab. We want to make a step forward: this (open source) Global Operating System will have to reach also the “Things”, becoming, as such, capable of “activating and booming” new developments and growth in several ecosystems, with far reaching positive impacts from the socio-economic viewpoint.