The cloud encompasses a set of technologies that allow companies or cloud users to quickly start and stop new services, and depending on market demand, allow their services to easily and automatically scale up to huge computing infrastructures (= a lot of resources) or scale down to a minimum in use of resources to reduce costs. The cloud in most cases adopts a pay-as-you-go model which recommends intelligent/efficient use of resources to minimize costs.
The cloud also provides resilience and continuity, especially when accessibility to data centres and business locations is difficult, as proven during the pandemic. But it remains an entity managed by others which creates many questions and challenges regarding the security of hosted and processed data. Because the cloud is “managed” by various entities called infrastructure providers, our businesses and consequently our overall economy is highly dependent on it. With OpenCloudification, the partners IDLab-imec, LSEC and The Beacon want to bring advanced cloud technologies closer to Flemish technology companies.
The proprietary cloud services from Amazon, Microsoft, Google or other international vendors are not specifically explained here, but rather the vendor-neutral technologies that are largely available based on open source licenses e.g. through the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) or the Eclipse Foundation. By understanding and engaging with the important open-source cloud technologies as a company, a vendor lock-in with one specific cloud provider can be avoided (something extremely useful to avoid getting stuck in 1 ecosystem). Flemish companies today cannot possibly avoid the cloud, but they can try to do so on a cost-effective and vendor-independent basis. As a result, they are always looking for alternatives, but previous projects and collaborations with companies from the intended user and target group learned that many available technologies are too complex to set up without guidance, too difficult to manage (sometimes even unreliable in an industrial context) or they are not yet standardized in the industry (e.g. serverless computing). The proliferation of technologies and choices also means that companies can no longer see the forest for the trees, and have difficulty making informed choices.
One of the goals is to guide companies that, through this project, can gain greater expertise regarding good/bad choices to be made in the (advanced) cloud landscape. The social interest for both is to take care of, among others, the corresponding challenges in cloud environments with personal data protection, the AI act, and the CyberAct, etc., which are applicable to the target group companies. Some cloud services can also be made less dependent on global and dominant cloud providers by making good technological choices and introducing multi-cloud technology, where the workload can be moved to a cloud provider of choice in a relatively simple way. Thanks to the OpenCloudification project, we will be able to allow its technology users to become less dependent on the global cloud operators, and the project will contribute to the creation of a community with more technological sovereignty without having to compromise on innovation, security, resilience, elasticity, scalability, agility, and being able to help new services that both transcend the existing operators and use them optimally.
With this project, OpenCloudification wants to help technology companies, specifically software and device development companies, but not only them, to innovate by familiarizing themselves with various forms of advanced cloud technology. The goal is to use research translation and application-oriented knowledge building to bring technology companies faster access not only to this knowledge but also to open-source cloud technologies in areas such as CyberSecurity, container orchestration (e.g. Kubernetes), cloud-edge orchestration (e.g. KubeFed, IoFog), monitoring, CI/CD, data processing, etc. At the same time, helping them with all the challenges and difficulties brought by these advanced topics and technologies.
There are several open-source products available that, based on the available expertise of the researchers and with limited modifications, can be quickly deployed by companies in need of a forward-looking solution. For example, several solutions exist that, for example, can do rudimentary multi-cloud management (e.g. Terraform’s Infrastructure-as-Code), but each need to be adapted to a specific situation to be useful. Translation research can be used as the baseline to lead to a continuously updated driver that can be used for multiple subjects (non-exhaustive list: container technology, CI/CD, orchestration, monitoring, tracing, management of data flows, cloud API management). Recommended technologies will include links to how this software can be optimally installed (e.g., Helm chart / K8s operator), managed, and adapted, to shield the complexity of these technologies. In addition, the project will also lead to a further understanding and appreciation of the advanced capabilities of the cloud (including capabilities not yet considered/integrated at the beginning), potentially leading to further innovations and adaptations. Through OpenCloudification, the companies will stay up-to-date with advanced cloud aspects and will come into contact with a wide range of production-ready capabilities that should allow them to both innovate in their cloud product portfolio and improve the manageability and cost efficiency of their current solution. Other topics covered (non-exhaustive list): scheduling and orchestration, service discovery and service coordination, API gateways, service meshes, cloud-native storage, cloud-native networking, automation, container/VM registries, security and rule compliance, serverless, observability, streaming and message exchange, edge/cloud orchestration, CI/CD.