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IBM's cloudy object vision stoked by EU

Eurocrats fund IBM-led development

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Fancy that: European tax-payers are coughing up for a €15.7m IBM research project about storing objects in the cloud with metadata.

The EU-funded VISION Cloud (Virtualized Storage Services for the Future Internet) project will run for three years and is led by IBM Research in Israel, with 14 partners in a consortium.

The aim is to work out a way to store data as so-called smart objects, composed of data and metadata about it, describing how the data can be handled, shared, replicated or backed up. One aim is to help data move from one cloud provider to another without losing these attributes. IBM is calling this a smart cloud architecture.

The data holding entity can use the metadata to regulate access to the data. We might think of the metadata as being roughly similar to the XML (extensible Markup Language) rules for encoding documents in machine-readable form. IBM claims the smart cloud architecture will use the knowledge of the content being stored to improve data mobility and enable more efficient and secure methods of computation of different types of content, whether medical data, telco information, TV shows, enterprise storage, or personal data.

IBM claims that VISION Cloud will make it "easier and less costly to develop new data intensive services that provide security and QoS (quality of service) guarantees." It will do this by combining a rich object data model, having computation execute close to the stored content - quite reminiscent of Sun's X4500/Thumper approach, have content-centric access, and full data interoperability.

IBM's announcement has one of those "the future will be wonderful" type paragraphs full of optimism and reassurance. It should be treasured and here it is:

For example, with VISION Cloud, a future provider of storage services could offer a "digital safe" service, where people can safely store all their digital information, including photos, videos, health records, financial records, and more. Then, for example, when an expecting mother undergoes a 3D ultrasound of her foetus, 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. Her friends and family each download the video from her safe and view it on their own personal device, each with its own screen size and supported video formats. Meanwhile, a radiologist finds a slight anomaly and can tag the scan accordingly. The tagging triggers a search in a medical repository, which finds that the probable cause of the anomaly is an allergy medication.

That old mother and child thing, tugs at the heartstrings, doesn't it? Get your feet back on the ground by reading about IBM shipping server jobs from the EU (Ireland) to China here.

IBM's VISION Cloud partners include IT technology, business software, and service providers (SAP AG, Siemens Corporate Technology, Engineering and ITRicity), Telco providers (Telefónica Investigación y Desarrollo, Orange Labs and Telenor), media service providers (RAI and Deutche Welle), the SNIA Europe standards organisation, and various universities (National Technical University of Athens, Umea University, Swedish Institute of Computer Science and University of Messina).

We're told the VISION Cloud "technologies developed by this project are expected to serve IBM, partners and customers in the development of modern data centres with quantified and significant improvements in service delivery productivity, quality, availability and cost".

This could end up as just another high-status and pointless EU research project which will be forgotten about after the Eurocrats have finished patting themselves on the back. ®

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