ENTICE - dEcentralized repositories for traNsparent and efficienT vIrtual maChine opErations

Focus Area

In this project, we will research and create a novel VM repository and operational environment named ENTICE for federated Cloud infrastructures. The project aims to: (i) simplify the creation of lightweight and highly optimised VM images tuned for functional descriptions of applications; (ii) automatically decompose and distribute VM images based on multi-objective optimisation (performance, economic costs, storage size, and QoS needs) and a knowledge base and reasoning infrastructure to meet application runtime requirements; and (iii) elastic auto-scale applications on Cloud resources based on their fluctuating load with optimised VM interoperability across Cloud infrastructures and without provider lock-in, in order to finally fulfill the promises that virtualization technology has failed to deliver so far.

Market sector targets

With the advent of a pervasive ENTICE  distributed repository enhanced by a knowledge base which effectively supports migration, portability and accessability of optimally-sized VMs in federated and multi-layered clouds - required by the major target market of ENTICE -, the Cloud ecosystem environment will become a reality. There are real differences among the various VM products. Prices and business models vary widely, but each supplier monetises virtualization through the hypervisor, management, support or operating system software. In a market that is in flux, Gartner continues to recommend deployments with a rapid return on investment, and fallback plans to migrate to alternative technologies if necessary. The main competitors are VMWare, Citrix, Oracle, and Microsoft. ENTICE will enable to boost EU competitiveness in Cloud computing, a sector that is predicted to empower the EU economy by 957 million EUROS by then end of the decade.

Interoperability and portability: existing and emerging standards that can foster trust in the cloud

As VM image migration will be a normal practice within this area, efficient portability of user VMs is essential. The added value of ENTICE stands in its ability to optimise VMs towards specific markets, for example where migration time, user latency, and economic costs are most important for critical services. If one imagines a service provider enabling resources closest to its user demand at any given time and in a transparent and dynamic way, this is where ENTICE understands and serves best this new target market.

The standardisation activities of ENTICE will focus on establishing collaborative relations with the committees of several standardisation bodies (e.g. Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF), Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Open Grid Forum (OGF), Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) and World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)). The project will rely on Cloud-related standards both from the point of view of IaaS providers (i.e. how their internals should behave in collaboration with ENTICE technologies) as also from the users' point of view who plan to use several Clouds in a federated manner (i.e. how they should interface with Cloud providers exploiting the ENTICE advances).

First, the provider view will enable the project to participate and contribute to standards that foster efficient VM image distribution and image component representation such as Open Virtualization Format (OVF) from DMTF. The project also plans to investigate the applicability and extendability of the Cloud Data Management Interface (CDMI) standard of SNIA to ensure wide availability of the public VM images and image fragments produced by ENTICE. When crossing the barrier of private-public Clouds, the project technologies aim at reducing the risk of publishing sensitive data. The security and privacy measures taken during these steps will consider the Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM) standard of CSA and, if needed, the consortium members will actively lobby for the extension of the standard to be more applicable to VM image delivery, storage and distribution tasks.

Next, from the Cloud users' point of view, consortium members will participate in several standardisation efforts that are aimed at allowing the shared or federated use of Cloud computing infrastructures. ENTICE will ensure that use cases will be developed so they are using standardised Cloud access APIs (like Open Cloud Computing Interface (OCCI) from OGF). The consortium members will also actively build on and collaborate with in IEEE Intercloud and DMTF Cloud Infrastructure Management Interface (CIMI) standards in order to allow better collaboration between a federation of Clouds and the distributed repository delivered by ENTICE.

As part of the standardisations efforts, the ontology and the associated knowledge base of the use cases and the Federated Cloud environment will be proposed to the W3C organisation. The W3C has several working groups that are relevant to ENTICE dealing with Semantic Web and Cloud computing. The developed ontology will be proposed to become part of a recommended set of ontologies for the interoperability and integration in the Cloud domain.

Addressing new challenges for cloud, IoT, big data

Challenge 1: Creation of lightweight VM images through functional descriptions. The project will support users with no expertise in VM image creation by delegating the optimisation of VM management operations to the ENTICE environment. Based on functional descriptions received from the end-users for their applications (researched in Challenge 5), ENTICE will build highly-specific and highly-optimised VM images tuned for minimal size and management overhead. When no further optimisation is possible, ENTICE will highlight the major obstacles and provide hints to the users on possible manual optimisations.

Challenge 2: Distributed lightweight VM image storage. ENTICE will deliver technologies that decompose user VM images into smaller reusable parts bringing a twofold benefit: (i) it will reduce the storage space by storing the common parts of multiple image only once, and (ii) it will lower the costs by ensuring that users only pay for the VM image parts that they cannot reuse from past images.

Challenge 3: Autonomous multi-objective repository optimisation. ENTICE will research heuristics for multi-objective distribution and placement of VM images across a decentralised ENTICE repository that optimises multiple conflicting objectives including performance-related goals (e.g. VM deployment and instantiation overheads, data communication, application QoS metrics), operational costs, and storage space. Through these heuristics, ENTICE will ensure that commonly used VM image parts (e.g. just enough OS) are replicated and stored more widely. Thus, upon creating a new VM, common parts can be discovered and delivered from local repositories (i.e. of the provider who will host the new VM), while user-provided parts come from a different location (fostering cross-Cloud migration).

Challenge 4: Elastic resource provisioning. The ultimate aim of this project is to use the optimised and lightweight VM management methods researched in the previous objectives to improve the elasticity for ondemand scaling of industrial and business applications in Clouds in response to their fluctuating compute and storage requirements.

Challenge 5: Information infrastructure for strategic and dynamic reasoning. To support the optimised VM creation in the distributed ENTICE repository, we will develop a knowledge model of all entities and relationships for Cloud applications, including functional and non-functional properties of their underlying software components, QoS metrics, OS, VM type, and federated Cloud (e.g. SLAs), supported by strategic and dynamic reasoning. Strategic reasoning will support automatic VM packaging of applications based on criteria such as QoS functional properties, execution time, costs, and storage. Dynamic reasoning will support proper VM packaging and preparation based on dynamic (benchmark) information about the underlying federated Cloud (e.g. resource and network characteristics).

Why cloud is a helping hand for SMEs?

A clear target market for ENTICE is SMEs by supporting them to adopt Cloud technologies, as it is predicted that SMEs (especially companies with 100 - 249 employees) will increasingly rely on Cloud solutions. SMEs can be approached by IT re-sellers and consultant companies offering tailored SaaS solutions and getting revenue from charging depending on the infrastructure provider and the service sold. For Cloud providers, it means a new market channel to sell their services. WT can directly benefit from using ENTICE and offering consultancy services, expecting an increased revenue of 30% in their services sales. It is expected that SME's share on total public Cloud spending will increase to 25% in 2020 thanks to innovative solutions like ENTICE. Taking into account the Gartner forecast which indicates an SaaS market of approximately 26 billion USD by the year 2016, a conservative estimate is that at least 15% of this market can directly benefit from ENTICE outcomes, which would amount to 3,9 billion USD. The ENTICE project targets a small portion of this market.

Links and references

- ENTICE project: http://www.entice-project.eu/

- University of Innsbruck: http://www.dps.uibk.ac.at/

- MTA SZTAKI: https://www.sztaki.hu/

- University of Ljubljana: http://www.uni-lj.si/

- Flexiant Limited: http://www.flexiant.com/

- Wellness Telecom S.L.: http://en.wtelecom.es/

- Deimos Castilla La Mancha S.L.: http://www.deimos-castilla-la-mancha.pymes.com/