IBM And EU Launch Research Consortium

A research group forms to help businesses understand the nature, structure and business purposes of cloud systems and make it possible even for SMBs to use e-services, aka cloud-based services, to smooth out tricky IT-related business processes.

IBM announced July 7 that it is entering into a collaborative agreement with the European Union and several academic institutions to launch a research consortium on cloud computing.

The work group's mission is to help businesses understand the nature, structure and business purposes of cloud systems and to enable them to use "e-services"—aka cloud-based services—to smooth out tricky IT-related business processes.

Using new and existing open-source software, the ACSI (Artifact-Centric Service Interoperation) project will try to solve problems that businesses face in streamlining the use of separately managed e-services into a centrally managed platform.

The ACSI project will focus on "the development of a new computer science model that will enable organizations to greatly accelerate the typically time-intensive [processes]" that bog down coordination of cloud services, IBM said.

Cloud, or utility, computing serves up computing power, data storage or applications from one data center location over a grid to thousands or millions of users on a subscription basis. Coordination of these services can be a nightmare for a business owner, whether or not that business has an IT staff.

ACSI is based on the notion of "an 'interoperation hub,' which was introduced by IBM Research in 2009. Interoperation hubs provide intuitive, flexible environments around which e-service blends can form," IBM said.

A second aspect of the ACSI framework is "the concept of dynamic artifact or business entity. These artifacts represent business processes and are based on a holistic combination of data and how that data changes as the artifact moves through its life cycle. Dynamic artifacts have already been used in dozens of IBM business transformation projects" to increase efficiency and cost savings, IBM said. "Partners in the consortium will work together to develop rich extensions and applications for these basic concepts."

IBM continued, "ACSI interoperation hubs will be provided as SAAS—software as a service—and hosted in [IBM's own] cloud environments." Businesses then will follow "a pay-per-use model for data storage, task executions and service integration costs."

The company also said, "The consortium plans to demonstrate that the new framework can reduce the cost of creating industry-specific service blends by 40 percent over conventional techniques."

IBM's researchers will be working with "experts from Sapienza Universita degli Studi di Roma, Italy; Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy; Imperial College Of Science, Technology and Medicine, UK; Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, Netherlands; University of Tartu, Estonia; Indra Software Labs SLU, Spain; [and] Collibra NV, Belgium."

The company also said the consortium's "research will enable even small to midsized businesses to create or join into flexible e-service blends," without having to invest in their own IT hardware, software, or expertise. IBM also said the consortium expects to create open-source software to support these new features.

"Up until now, organizations have had to invest significant time and money in conventional, mostly manual blending and customizing efforts to enable their e-business service operations to communicate and work collaboratively," said consortium leader Fabiana Fournier, an IBM Research scientist. "ACSI represents a new combination of computer science principles that are designed to enable businesses to retain a laser focus on operations and goals as they achieve new efficiencies in blending and interleaving e-services."

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