António Casimiro Says: “To Ensure a Trustworthy Network Operation will be Crucial for Telecom Operators”

António Casimiro FCUL 

The Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program, through the Portuguese Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), funds 25 research projects in the Information and Communication Technologies areas. One of the projects approved for funding is TRONE - Trustworthy and Resilient Operations in a Network Environment, which goal is to enhance network quality of service and protection, operational efficiency and agility. During the first year of this project the research team published one paper in a journal and four papers in International Conferences and Workshops. 

António Casimiro, principal investigator of the project at the Faculdade de Ciências of the Universidade de Lisboa (FCUL), in Portugal, explains that “the initial work in the project was directed towards the analysis of the possible use cases and the selection of one that would be appropriate to anchor the expected project results and, at the same time, relevant for Portugal Telecom,” the project industrial partner. Therefore “in the deliverable we analyze the main threats to the cloud infrastructure components and identify the possible controls that may be in place to prevent or minimize potential threats.” The research team did also a risk analysis for the considered use case, classifying the threats as more or less severe according to the probability of vulnerability exploitation. “The scenario provides a base for forthcoming work,” says Casimiro adding that “in particular it will serve to guide the definition of concrete proof-of-concept prototypes to show the benefits and impact of TRONE solutions.

CMU Portugal: The main goal of the TRONE project is to enhance network Quality of Service and Protection, operational efficiency and agility. This was a decision supported on the technology push, and on the consumer pull, why?
António Casimiro [AC]: The Internet, as we have known it for the last two decades, is changing. Today, everybody talks about the Cloud, a new Internet that is even more pervasive, more present, which delivers all sorts of services and keeps track of our data. The Cloud leverages on Next Generation Networks, on the ability of providing multiple services with on-demand provisioning, and all that in a seamless and technology-independent manner. The Telecom industry is strongly involved in this technology push, eager to provide more and better services, while users create the consumer pull, being eager for new, more efficient, reliable, secure and cheaper services. The confluence of these two trends leads to increased challenges on the way operators manage and operate their infrastructures today, in order to master the increasing complexity and likelihood of failures, which may also be malicious. In particular, Quality of Service and Protection, operational efficiency and agility appear as key factors for the success of these next generation networks and the competitiveness of a telecom operator. TRONE is therefore focused on addressing these challenges and providing solutions that will lead to an improved, trustworthy network operation.

CMU Portugal: In what way do you feel that this kind of research can help companies in the telecommunications area, like Portugal Telecom?
AC: As I mentioned above, the ability to ensure a trustworthy network operation will be crucial for telecom operators, providing them a competitive advantage in particular when considering services provided to large enterprises or governments. It is expected that TRONE will contribute with scientific and technical advances that will help improving the monitoring platforms used by operators to monitor their data centers. More specifically, increased trustworthiness is foreseen with the application of TRONE mechanisms for on-line fault diagnosis and detection that will be associated to recovery and dynamic adaptation strategies, and by employing architectural components and protocols that are able to survive attacks and overloads. Portugal Telecom is involved in the project and as such will benefit from a direct knowledge and access to these solutions and the possibility of applying them on their own infra-structure.

CMU Portugal: Why did the research team selected the PT cloud computing environment as the use case scenario?
AC:
The initial work in the project was directed towards the analysis of the possible use cases and the selection of one that would be appropriate to anchor the expected project results and, at the same time, relevant for Portugal Telecom. The main contribution of the deliverable is the presentation of the selected use case scenario. The use case scenario that we will consider in TRONE is developed over the PT cloud computing environment. In the deliverable we analyze the main threats to the cloud infrastructure components and identify the possible controls that may be in place to prevent or minimize potential threats. We also did a risk analysis for the considered use case, classifying the threats as more or less severe according to the probability of vulnerability exploitation. The scenario provides a base for forthcoming work. In particular, it will serve to guide the definition of concrete proof-of-concept prototypes to show the benefits and impact of TRONE solutions.

CMU Portugal: This is a three year project. What kind of impact do you expect that this research project could have on Portugal Telecom, and also in the academic community?
AC:
I expect two kinds of impact on Portugal Telecom: a short term impact and a medium to long term one. The short term impact will be reflected on the application of some of the TRONE solutions for improving the existing tools or parts of PT's monitoring infrastructure. The fact that PT relies on proprietary solutions will be an obstacle for the integration of TRONE solutions, but we look at TRONE solutions as usable in a complementary way. In general terms, I would say that the main impact will be that the overall resilience of PT's infrastructure will increase. A medium to long term impact is also expected through the adoption of architectural principles and solutions defined in TRONE. This adoption takes time, but the direct involvement of PT in the project ensures that they are aware about the benefits of TRONE solutions for trustworthiness and, thus, this should have a future impact on their decisions. From an academic perspective, the project provides an excellent opportunity to develop a number of ideas, implementing them and evaluating their impact. This is the goal of research. More objectively, we have students involved in the project that will become, we hope, skilled researchers, by learning while working in the project development. Additionally, but not so directly, we expect TRONE results (e.g. protocols, diagnosis methods, services) to be reflected in materials used in graduate courses in the areas of security, dependability and communication systems, thus benefiting a large number of students.

The TRONE project is carried out by researchers from the Faculdade de Ciências of the Universidade de Lisboa (FCUL), Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia of the Universidade de Coimbra (FCTUC), Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), with the partner company Portugal Telecom |PT Security Lab. The principal investigators are António Casimiro, from FCUL, and Prya Narishman, from CMU. This project started in 2010 and will end in 2013.

July, 2012

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