IBM, 15 European partners to develop 'smart' cloud

The European Union is funding the smart cloud initiative

IBM today announced that it is leading a joint research initiative with 15 European partners that include standards bodies and companies in the telecommunications, healthcare and media industries to develop an object-based, standardized "smart cloud" storage architecture.

IBM said 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 $21.4 million.

IBM said 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 said 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 using the video might, for example, find a slight anomaly and he could then tag the scan accordingly. That tagging would trigger a search in a medical repository, which might find that the anomaly is probably an allergy medication.

The IT partners in the initiative include business software and service providers such as SAP AG, Siemens Corporate Technology, Engineering and ITRicity. The telecommunications companies involved include Telefónica Investigación 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, the National Technical University of Athens, Umea University, the Swedish Institute of Computer Science and the University of Messina.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at  @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

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