Cloud Infrastructure

Commercialising the current innovations in Network technology.

Virtualisation is a key strategic direction for Network Operators and their suppliers. From SDN to NFV, 5G to IoT, every conversation is dominated by this topic.

In this maelstrom of technical activity one thing that is being under-discussed is the commercial and operating models that will exist once this network virtualisation revolution has turned a few cycles. As operators have more discussions with technology providers about widgets and wonders of whatever there is a sense that the network owners preferred end game is not clearly in focus.

Meanwhile the compute world had their revolution and we now call the result of that revolution “Cloud”.

The Configured Things perspective

Without the automation of federation in Networks that we already see with cloud providers, we can see that a virtualised or sliced  network will be just as costly to consume as its non-virtualised/non-sliced cousin.

To enable the automation of a federated application/compute/network “slice”, Configured Things addresses the fractal nature of co-operation within and across organsational boundaries, of mixed applications sharing common resource, compute, network and sensor (IoT) infrastructure.

Cloud Infrastructure will be the extension of the existing cloud compute business model that will underpin 5G, Smart Cities, IoT and more.

Network Slicing extending the revolution.

For Configured Things the emergence of cloud computing as an accepted business model is proof that diverse organisations can and will co-operate on infrastructure. An Enterprise will blithely consume virtualised resource from any number of infrastructure providers seemlesly alongside assets that they physically own. In turn the cloud provider will have thousands perhaps millions of clients controlling aspects of the cloud provider’s infrastructure, under polices that are both technical and commercial in aspect.

It is outside of the Data centre of course that the revolution is now focused. Technology companies and standards bodies in the networking space are making great progress defining the required functions. For Configured Things we see these beginnings as analagous to server virtualisation technology; it may reduce network costs but it needs something else to create a new market paradigm.

Cloud infrastructure

Fully realising Cloud Infrastructure.

Consider an Access Network provider delivering service to a Mobile Network Operator. Analagous to cloud, the Access Network should be consumed autonomously by the Mobile Operator. This automation will be regulated by a commercial and technical framework that is defined by all concerned parties within the Access Network providers organisation. Multiply this number of relationships by n and you have a model of the Smart City complexities.

Configured Things fully addresses the fractal nature of this cooperating model. By enabling the creation of trusted, diaggregated systems that react real-time to changes in state or policy we provide market scale across organisational and functional silos.

What is so smart about “Smart”?

What is so smart about “smart”?

In the fast evolving technology world, ”Smart” has come to mean many things, we have smart phones, fridges, washing machines and even cars. Yet smart, even across this spectrum of devices, has a very ambiguous application. There is a danger that smart becomes just another label to be ignored by technologists and over-used by marketing folks.

The Configured Things view of smart

So, what does smart infrastructure really look like, how do smart stadia and other smart spaces or services function differently from their non-smart cousins? To Configured Things, smart means cyber-physical systems that sense and react to their situation across all domains, social, physical, virtual and IT with respect to a policy defined by their collective owners.

In the Configured Things world, spaces and business applications and services would self-optimise their IT consumption, only provisioning the services as and when they are needed, from digital signage and service-side on-demand IPTV to IoT-data acquisition, analytical pipelines and the visualisation of results, necessary for cyber defence.

Trust is the key

Configured Things specialise in empowering the building of trust into systems. In a world that provides cyber-physical orchestration, AI-enabled organisations will thrive by having physical systems and their back ends that are pre-deployed based on prediction and allow organisational trust relationships to be honoured, providing for network slicing that delivers dynamically well configured slices from cloud to endpoint.

In the defence and security sector, imagine when it is possible for a commander or security operations manager to have full situational awareness of the evolving threat. Displays that can adapt to focus on critical information and intelligence as signals are received, processed, triaged and prioritised. Imagine the cost savings if this intelligent system only existed during the live mission or incident, systems rapidly deployed and tore down as necessary. In this environment global teams are empowered as they can freely query datasets outside of their geography as the system interprets each query with respect to the regulatory policy and renders results that are shielded by pseudaonymisation automatically.

Currently, there is much cost to the isolated physical and virtual worlds, advertisers  spend great cost on audits of their chosen venues to quantify whether ads are shown at the correct time and to what given audience. Imagine the pricing benefits if these were integrated, an audience could be measured in trustworthy multi-modal fashion based on anonymised WiFi patterns, carbon dioxide and infrared emission. Trustworthy ads placements data can be automatically recorded and robustly defended due to strong configuration assertions, whilst current draw and pixels measured on display screens is used to verify proof of play.

Actually, it is Configuration management Jim, but not as we’ve know it…

To Configured Things, trusted, reliable and pervasive configuration management, that does not just stop at IT systems, but transcends organisational trust challenges through the command and control of disaggregated systems, is the core enabling technology to empowering the future for how the world should work. A trusted, configurable world, can be a smart world.

To discuss the ideas discussed in this article,  your Smart Space or Smart Services projects, challenges or requirements please get in touch at info@configuredthings.com

What’s going on at our July event at Ashton Gate Stadium, Bristol, UK?

What “tech” are we showing?

We are using our WebWindows screen management technology as a showpiece to demonstrate the Configured Things platform as a tool to curate Smart environments and systems.  The “Smarts” are provided by various IoT sensors and other “Things”  which are collectively orchestrated to affect the visualisation of the system or smart space in a multi-screen digital display environment. We will be simulating a co-operative environment where within a prototype security schema devices are potentially “owned” by different organisations and the control of these assets plus the resulting data are shared to achieve whatever the desired objective is for the overall “system”.

Should you be interested?

Yes – if IoT is not just a data collector for you – you are interested in IoT systems co-operating and creating those smarter environments or more intelligent applications.

Yes – if you are involved in projects which require – or would be enhanced – if different organisations could share control of assets and the resulting data in ways that might seem impossible to you at this time. Examples would include Smart spaces and Smart city projects but could also include next generation Service Provider wholesale/5G networks.

Yes – you have a Digital signage/display project which would benefit from a completely new approach to utilising those assets together with other IoT assets that might be available to you. Examples of this would be a City or cyber security control centre.

What’s the format of the event?

The event is really a collection of 1 to 1 meetings held over the 25th and 26th of July at Ashton Gate Stadium. Most of these meetings are already arranged and in place but we do have some free time we could accommodate meetings with folks who may be interested and available to meet us on those dates. The “event” invite is listed below but an R.S.V.P. describing your interest and availability to attend a meeting with  us should be sent to info@configuredthings.com

Lastly – a clarification

Whilst we are really grateful to the team at Ashton Gate Stadium we must point out that we are being hosted at Ashton Gate Stadium only; this isn’t a validation of our technology by the stadium in any sense. Rather it is them providing us space to build a tech demo and use the venue to meet our potential clients and interested parties.

Why is configuration management critical to the Internet of Things?

IoT Configuration and security

With IoT we all recognise that the World is just getting started.

Our commitment to IoT

At Configured Things, we are committed to the provision of a richer configuration language with associated runtime, security framework and other ancillary tools. It is with these tools that continuous configuration management becomes a business enabler.

IoT version 1 – The current prototype

As we collectively come to terms with the idea of IoT version 1, bright organisations are refreshing their old tech and issuing new tech to open up new possibilities. These possibilities are quite rightly generating lots of excitement around positive and perhaps negative disruptions to our lives. However this version IoT version 1 is just the prototype. Wait until version 2 when the smart crowd – the global population – gets to apply their imagination to drive use cases for IoT. It is clear that the potential for change is huge.

The evolution of IoT

This continuous evolution of IoT use cases  mandates that IoT platforms cannot be limited by baked in functionality defined by static code that matches only the imagination and purpose of the original provider. Static functionality that is exposed by a narrow, often one-time configuration schemes. These Things are costly to deploy en-masse and often financed via public funds. Society is going to be more and more sensitive to waste. Ripping out and starting again when the need changes is going to be politically non- acceptable.

Realising the potential

We believe that a well-engineered configuration management can dynamically create cyber resilient systems of things that provide ease of integration, control and a safe-space for human-machine and direct machine-to-machine interactions. It is with such a system that the hype of technologies such as AI, Blockchain 2.0 and 3.0, Mixed Reality and Robotics can not only become a reality, but widespread and not restricted to niche applications.

Configured Things believe that the configuration of Things, particularly IoT, needs to be thought of as an automated, continuous, dynamic process perhaps taking inputs from A.I. Baked-in functionality hidden in software should be limited as much as possible. General purpose functionality should be encouraged and functionality exposed via rich configurations.

This continuous configuration management needs to be aligned with a ‘DevSecOps’ approach to security so that the resulting, perhaps federated, systems are recognisably secure and automated to an extent that they add no overhead in terms of operations.

 

 

 

Smartfrog Re-launched

Patrick Goldsack on why Configured Things is taking a fresh look at the SmartFrog Opensource Project

The much loved Smartfrog project is still resident on SourceForge. We are in the process of moving the ancillary content (videos, introductory material, etc.) to a new server and in the mean time, we apologize for its current non-availability. We will try to restore it as soon as we possibly can.

We are in the process of redesigning SmartFrog itself to bring it up to date with the technologies that are now in current use and to make it suited to being the core modeling and configuration framework for Configuration Things.

The areas that are under change are:

  • A new more powerful configuration description language, taking all the good parts of the SmartFrog notation and making them even more expressive and powerful.
  • A new lighter-weight component model better suited to run on small light-weight devices common in the Internet-of-Things.
  • A security model that better suits the federated nature of the problem space that Configured Things is tackling.
  • A way of supporting very rapid and possibly conflicting changes to configurations, coming from the set of federated instances, with appropriate roll-back and failure recovery.

The intent is that this new version of SmartFrog (known as colloquially as SF2) will be released as open source with a permissive license that will encourage wide adoption and the creation of a user ecosystem.

The Importance of Federation for Digital Transformation

Patrick Goldsack discusses why Configured Things are so focused on helping organisations work together

Federation is the need to work across administrative boundaries within an overall framework. This work may involve control of the devices, including configuration and management, as well as access to data and information.In most large-scale deployments of things, even within a single enterprise, there will be aspects which involve federation. For example, control of network devices may be under the control of a different organization than that for building management, and although there may be times to link their management, they also need to operate in isolation and have independent failure modes.

In smart cities or event management, federation is inherent in the construction of a solution. System belong to vastly different organizations that need to collaborate – for example transport agencies, emergency services, local business and individual citizens. Each will have data that others may need to access, but with strict controls depending on the accessing organization. Limited control of the systems might be ceded to another organization, perhaps for a fixed period during an emergency situation.

These complex relationships make federation a complex issue and without the required underlying capabilities being included within the underlying platform it becomes an almost impossible task. Its importance ensures that federation is at the core of the conception of Configured Things.

Social Tax? – dealing with the impact of IoT/Smart Cities/Automation

Nick Randall discusses the social implications of the next industrial revolution

I’ve been discussing the potential social impacts of what we are generally about with various thought leaders this week. As technologists we are busy realising the ‘dream’ with a weather eye very much focused on doing generally cool things that will make peoples lives easier and better. Most of the discussion is about a positive social revolution.
Obviously we in our industry are aware that there is a potential downside to the upcoming revolution; whole areas of employment are under threat – from Big Data taking out layers of professions like legal, banking staff, estate agents etc. as well as the almost traditional erosion of manufacturing jobs with the progression of automation. To the latter category – just think what driver less vehicles might do.

Industrial relations are going to need to be handled by all parties much more effectively than the recent rail strikes in Southern England – as an example.
In our own industry – our innovations will lead to layers of technical staff being taken out of organisations. Turkeys voting for Christmas?
Do we think our political, corporate and industrial leaders are ready for this? Can they effectively manage this social revolution? Probably not. <gulp>
The proposed answer for this is touted by our industry peers as education and retraining. Well – I don’t see much group think from our political,corporate and labour force leaders on this so where is the strategic vision and leadership going to come from?
Perhaps we need a concept of social tax akin to the model we have adopted re carbon emissions and carbon tax? At least with “carbon tax” we have a framework to discuss the issue i.e. global warming.
Lets get a discussion started – but first lets invent and agree a framework for this discussion.