IBM has announced that it is leading a joint research initiative with 15 European partners that include telcos, healthcare and media companies and standards bodies to develop an object-based, standardised "smart cloud" storage architecture.
The European Union is giving €15.7 million (US$21.4 million) for a research project that will explore new technologies around cloud computing, including data mobility and secure access control.
The initiative, called Vision Cloud (Virtualised Storage Services Foundation for the Future Internet), will run three years and be led by IBM's research team in Haifa, Israel. Other participants include Siemens and SAP as well as the National Technical University of Athens and the Swedish Institute of Computer Science.
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 project will tackle some of the main issues with cloud storage, said Hillel Kolodner, a researcher at IBM Haifa and the lead architect for Vision Cloud. One of those issues is attaching metadata to a storage object, such as a video.
The researchers will also explore concepts such as computational storage, where a program - called a storelet - can run within a storage system and can, for example, analyse the soundtrack of a video and, using speech recognition techniques, extract a script of what people in the video are saying.
A step further is content-centric storage, where the storage system will know to supply a script when someone requests a video, Kolodner said.
The project will explore other advanced features for cloud storage, such as flexible but secure access control. For example, a company may want to distribute a video to participants of a conference, but they may not want to give access credentials to those people for its own network. The project will look into ways the video can be shared securely under those conditions while also being accessible by people through any device, Kolodner said.
The final area of focus is data mobility and federation. As enterprises contract with other providers for data services, it is important to be able to move that data to another provider easily.
Now, if a company wants to move their data, it needs to download all of the data to its own premises, store it and then upload it to a new storage provider. The Vision Cloud project intends to develop a system that would allow a company to, for example, immediately start storing financial records at a new provider while at the same time accessing the data with the old provider until it is completely migrated.
"All the time this is happening the small business can continue to access all of its data, both old and new," Kolodner said.