I have visited Brussels twice on NESSI business and on holiday with Mrs. L. These trips were originally blogged on my sun/oracle blog as series of article, I have brought the articles across here, and presented them as two articles, This article chronicles the NESSI AGM. I wrote about NESSI last time I visited Brussels in November, but it is having its AGM over the next two days.

On Day 2, of the NESSI AGM, we broke into seminar groups. The first session I attended was called the ‘ Future of the Internet’, it was led by Mike Fisher of BT [Google him], who presented about the forces for change on the internet, both historic constraints and changes being brought about by technology innovation, and demand. Again a key view of the future is the the internet evolves from a network of computers, beyond a network of things to a network of services. Since Mike comes from a network company, and a large one at that, and so understands how poorly IT is ready to manage the challenge of scale raised by these factors.

In the afternoon, I attended the ‘Service Orientated Infrastructure’ session. Some aspects of the problem domain are very broad and interesting, but the discussions seemed focused around today’s grid solutions in academia and commerce, although I arrived late.

On Day 1, the day finished, with a series of presentations about the current approach to research and most interestingly presentations from the leading strategic projects. This was followed by cocktails. Very nice!

There is an  EU funded attempt to create an academic Network of Excellence, led by University of Dusberg-Essen, called S*Cube. There are 16 partner universities who will all participate equally, the UK partner is City University, London. Dr. (Klaus) Pohl, predicted that the nature of the Internet was going to change so radically, that its name should be changed. His vision is of a network of services. Will the transition from a network of computers to a network of things require new network paradigms and protocols? Will it challenge the atomic locking, single write-ahead log database? Dr. Pohl exposed a research framework, that analysed Service Technology as the existence and interfaces between business processes, Service Components and Service engineering. These need to be created, which requires engineering knowledge and science and monitoring and adapting, which are classified as Service Engineering. It is felt that interfaces between these domains can also be developed and the S-Cube research is looking at developing knowledge from current intellectual property around BPM, grid, systems engineering and service management.

Prof. Carlo Ghezzi, of the Politecnico di Milano, presented on Academic/Corporate collaboration and among other things examined the drivers of macro-change in open world. He argued that inter-operability is not enough, and that both a series of what he called self-* qualities are required such as self-healing, self-configuration etc. He also again identified the self-advertisement as a new problem to allow services to be discovered and used. I wonder if these ambitions are contrary to the classic inspection and vote that takes place in today’s clusters.

Mr Paolo Donzelli, of the Italian Department for Technical Innovation, presented on the italian government’s policies in sustaining and nurturing innovation, and IT innovation in particular. A fascinating study, which explained their strategy and the analysis that led to it, making a distinction between digital enablement, encouraging usability and adoption, reducing the digital divide and straight forward training.

They have and are looked very hard at healthcare systems and incubated a web or distributed computing approach as opposed to a messaging solution. Possibly more red shift than blue shift. Their approach in the education sector is less advanced; they have a cost problem on the desk top. I should find someone to give them a call. I found it interesting that their showcase industry approach is textiles which they see as very important to the Italian economy. It reminds me however about the case study based on a Spain to New York fashion house that has a design to ERP solution and can offer haute couture for several days at a time, with both industry leading time to market (days) when they’re innovating their market, and best of class rapid response when they’ve been out flanked. It seems that high fashion is a true time to market industry and thus IT can obviously help. Paolo made some comments about the suitability of 3D computing and hence virtual worlds as design aids in the textile industry scenario.

As you can see below and in this article, elsewhere on this blog, at  “How real is Virtuality?”, I am very cautious about the utility of virtual worlds and particularly second life, but where the problem domain is in a world of 3 dimensions, such as fashion, or even engineering design may give it a relevance I haven’t recognised. It doesn’t solve the problem examined on this blog in the latter article, that to program in a virtual world, you need to understand the virtual world’s physics. The bulk of programming theory since Djikstra has involved understanding the real world problem and modelling it, or creating languages in which the real world can be described. This approach can’t be taken in Second Life. Building a wind tunnel in Second Life would be very difficult and almost certainly more costly than simulating it using other tools. (No doubt, someone has done it and will prove me wrong.) Whether this is a fundamental feature of virtual worlds, I don’t know.

After the coffee break, Dr Joan Bigora spoke about IT adoption in Barcelona City Hospital. He is the Managing Director and has an interesting view on what he needs to know about IT as the MD of a hospital. I was speaking the day before to a Sun colleague, about CEO’s saying suppliers need to talk their language; they are not interested in IT. It’s clear to me that IT is the business of a growing number of CEOs. Unless they understand both the problems it can solve and the capability of the technology, they’ll get their key investments wrong. So when I say he had an interesting view, he obviously felt he needs to know this stuff. Medicine is the obvious ultimate knowledge industry. IT can thus add tremendous value in many areas. This is the third presentation I have had from Spanish people about IT in healthcare, specifically examining the success of remote healthcare systems, using new age monitors and video conferencing for case care work and even remote diagnosis. They may have something, and it is remarkable how simple some of these initiatives are. I expect that third wave medical systems will need to deal with massive scale and some very interesting provisioning and change management problems, and even the Spanish seem not yet to be at this point yet, which Dr Bigora acknowledged.

We have just heard from Dr. Frans De Bruïne and Ken Ducatel, the former talked about the need for Security, to guard against global warming and the demographic time bomb; Europe is not just interested in health care because of the socialists. The ageing population is a jeopardy to the wealth engine of work and the various governments and commission all have different responses (Oh Boy!). He stated that for instance in Holland, they’re playing with a government ‘Facebook’ page. Will this lead to you having to document your car insurance, child support liabilities and private pension provision on-line in a government portal. The latter might help keep track of what the insurance companies owe you, but do you really want this hackable, or publishable at the will of politicians and civil servants? Despite these fears it is a possible first step to a real EU Web 2.0 and user created content, I am not sure what value one can create through communities in such a portal. It would also need some serious investment in reaching all the EU’s citizens, both in the network and server infrastructure to reach everyone, but also in client access ubiquity. Not everyone has access to a computer, although most have phones and the ipod touch with its wifi is an interesting and probably popular innovation of the internet hand held device. Wifi is neither as ubiquitous, nor as cheap as in the US yet, and I suspect it varies massively with the EU. He also spoke about how in Germany, networked medical care systems in the home allowed patients to be discharged earlier, thus saving money. Presumably the IT reduces the number of relapses. Ducatel argued that the US uses its its (minimal, except for defence) public requirement to seed ICT innovation. I wonder if this is because US business has a greater appetite to build its own code. The flip side of this is that “Europe under uses Software”. Its an opportunity for growth, and an opportunity for supply, but commercial stove piping inhibits the growth opportunity.

The opening key note was from Dr. Joao Schwarz Da Silva, a Director from the Commission’s ICT. He envisioned a network of services driven by trends easily observable today. These are,

  • Social Networks
  • Digital Production
  • Virtual Worlds
  • Internet of Things

Much of the consideration around social networks seems around how to monetise the size of the network. The value created by cooperation seems always to be under valued. Dr. Da Silva predicted that the growth of social networks and user created content would lead to the growth of what he calls Digital Production. At its most simple, this will be just allowing mashups on a home page, however more complex models such as the tools for machinima or audio manipulation are clearly here today, it’ll be interesting to see where this goes.

I am more questioning that virtual worlds will become ubiquitous and powerful problem solving tools. It is clear that World of Warcraft is a hugely popular both social network and digital world, but we have spent 1000’s of years devising two dimensional representations of most of the problems we seek to solve. We need new representational metaphors before 3D rendering and virtual worlds become serious problem solving devices. I mentioned this earlier in the year. These criticisms are before considering that a Social Network needs to leverage the wisdom of crowds, or at least the wisdom of huddles. Facebook’s visual {book/DVD} shelf works because you can see what both your close friends and strangers say about the books and films you’re interested in. You can see what everyone, or at least your friends recommend. An interesting counterpoint though is that if you consider electronic gaming to be a social network, then sharding reduces the wisdom of crowds; you can only learn from the wisdom of a shard. There’s lots of work to do before 3D and/or Virtual Worlds truly take off.

He then looked at how in a network of services, one discovers anything useful. So this is partly how does one discover any content, such as images (tags), houses (attributes) etc., but for services we expect a directory solution. There isn’t yet a directory of internet services.


Originally blogged on my sun/oracle blog as series of articles, and reposted here in July 2016.


NESSI AGM (2007)
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