A consortium of 15 European organizations led by IBM is seeking to develop a major new cloud storage architecture that will deploy several innovations in data storage. The initiative, called Virtualized Storage Services for the Future Internet (VISION), aims to improve information mobility and security by storing data as smart objects that describe its contents and how it should be handled and stored. In addition, the plan calls for performing computations close to the stored content.
The VISION architecture is intended to provide for more efficient delivery of data intensive storage services, and allow for new data and storage services across countries and vendors, IBM said in a statement. The company described potential uses including a digital safe that a future provider of storage services could offer to allow people to safely and conveniently store photos, videos, health records, and financial data.
For example, the company said an ultrasound image of an expectant mother could be automatically uploaded to her digital safe. The smart data object would include the date, format, stage of pregnancy and other content description. The mother could then safely allow other such parties as family, friends or medical professionals to view the video, independent of device or platform. Providing computing power as part of the storage enables transforming it to appropriate formats, and could also suggest medical diagnoses.
VISION might also allow a small business that stored its data in the cloud to easily switch vendors in search of better pricing or other reason, without having to download the entire quantity of data. In that case, data could be split across providers, transferred in the background, or transferred to a new provider only on demand.
The initiative was prompted by challenges including cost-effectiveness, cross-provider data mobility, security and computing demands of current architectures. Mushrooming data is the prime force behind all these, the company said, citing an estimate that the quantity of data generated worldwide has climbed from 150 exabytes (billion gigabytes) in 2005 to 1,200 exabytes in 2010.
Consortium members are standards bodies, telecommunications firms, media companies, universities and others. They include SAP, Siemens, Telefonica's Investigacion y Desarrollo unit, Orange Labs, Norwegian telecom company Telenor, Italian broadcaster RAI, ad agency Deutsche Welle, the SNIA Europe standards organization, National Technical University of Athens, Umea University, Swedish Institute of Computer Science, and the University of Messina.
"Users now require capabilities that are far richer than simple raw bits and basic storage," said Dr. Hillel Kolodner, an IBM researcher in Haifa, Israel, who will serve as lead architect for VISION Cloud. "To satisfy this need, the focus must shift to the data---where the collections of bits are semantically meaningful and have associated metadata."
"Data should be a first class citizen, where its importance is comparable to the computing power itself," Kolodner continued. "With VISION Cloud, our aim is develop the infrastructure to support this prominence of data and data-intensive services."