Session 1: Market demands and requirements for FIRE facilities

Evolution of FIRE: Facilities, Services and Collaboration Strategies for Sustainability - Session 1: Market demands and requirements for FIRE facilities, 17 March 2014, FIA2014, Athens

Hans Schaffer, Aalto University and coordinator of AmpliFIRE, moderated discussions on market demands and requirements for FIRE facilities with perspectives from Florian Schreiner (Fraunhofer FOKUS, EIT ICT Labs, FanTaaStic); Maurizio Cecchi (Telecom Italia, XIFI) and Stefan Bouckaert (iMinds, AmpliFIRE).

Florian Schreiner zoomed in on sustainable future internet test beds for education, research and innovation in Europe, explaing how FanTaaStic is moving towards the commercial rollout of a Testbed-as-a-Service (TaaS). The common goal between the new collaboration with EIT ICT Labs and FIRE, mainly through CI-FIRE, is to drive the sustainable use of FIRE facilities and services through concrete opportunities. The EIT ICT Labs is promoting the concept of experimentally driven research to help drive the creation of a dynamic, sustainable, and large-scale European experimental facility. The goal is to enable future internet research to flourish and establish Europe as a key player for sustainability concepts in the global arena. This is a very timely move now that several FIRE facilities reach maturity and ready for much wider use, beyond the research networking community.

The handshake between EIT ICT Labs and DG CONNECT focuses on taking selected test beds to market, opening them up for new user segments, particularly small businesses (startups and SMEs) for product development and testing but also for educational services. Now is the time to put into practice pioneering sustainability models for Europe’s FIRE initiative, facilitate community empowerment and ensure the best development and use of facilities, whether for research, education or innovation.

FanTaaStic is developing an operational model for TaaS, integrating various test bed facilities and services. The business process framework used in eTOM to define customers, services, operations and enterprise management roles. The ultimate goal is to serve as an “integrator” through its test bed federation and brokering facility offering both Resources-as-a-Service (RaaS) and TestBeds-as-a-Service (TaaS). Other services will span a one-stop-shop service (billing, payment and legal contracts), matchmaker services (discovery and resource allocation), and an advisor service (expert advice on test bed/resource usage/experimentation and testing). In spring 2014, work will be focusing on the integration and operation of OneLab and the FUSECO Playground, with an EIT ICT-based federation and brokering facility, aligned with the operational model and verifying the overall business model.

To support this goal, CI-FIRE is analysing the sustainability potential of FIRE facilities, exploring the benefits, on both the supply and demand side, of an innovative and federated European experimental facility. CI-FIRE has already published a series of reports on these topics, with further analysis on business planning, revenue models and partnering models planned.

Florian wrapped up by stressing that the common goal is to move towards a single federation, thus bridging the gap between FIRE and EIT ICT Labs. Other key factors to focus on include consultancy services, best pricing models, service level agreements (SLAs) and the legal framework, which are the main bottlenecks in the TaaS approach today. 

FI-PPP and SME demands to the utilisation of FIRE facilities and services: when looking at the future internet ecosystem, Maurizio Cecchi, Telecom Italia and coordinator of FI-PPP’s XiFi, believes it is important to consider the different roles within it, ranging from FIRE and the requirements of future internet developers, as well as the future internet public-private partnership (FI-PPP). In his view, businesses, especially SMEs and startups need a marketplace as a single entry point. This is the most important requirement for the future internet ecosystem within and beyond the FI-PPP programme.

None of the existing EC initiatives can currently achieve flexibility and scalability at the industry level but this is fundamental for future test-bed federations in order to be appealing to businesses. External developers/SMEs need to have at their disposal capabilities and resources, such as long-term evolution (LTE), and wireless sensors, among other things and in several distant geographical areas. In this respect, co-operation with GÉANT is essential. Moreover, we need to take on board specific requirements from additional local infrastructures involved in field trials for the easy deployment of new facilities.

SME requirements in the FI-PPP include the possibility for comparing, browsing and transparent access to the FI-PPP technology offer. Firstly, we need a set of advanced infrastructures that provide access to different advanced experimental services, such as sensor networks, smart energy grids; easy access management and monitoring of the FI-PPP services through a single account and a single entry point. Secondly, we need to enable the focus on the core task of application development instead of on the practical aspects of deployment and access to a Tutorial and Help Desk supporting the deployment and management of their application on the XIFI federation. FI-PPP offers different facilities and tools for SMEs, such as the FI-WARE access portal and XiFi marketplace, enabled by the FI-WARE test bed and FI Lab environment, as well as the XiFi federation environment. The three sets of environments includes: the FI-WARE software platform; the FI-LAB instance of the platform open for use cases and developers and the FI-OPS to ease the deployment, set-up and operation of FI-WARE instances by platform providers.

Maurizio wrapped up highlighting that the current barrier to the sustainability of FIRE facilities and services lies in the difficulty of SMEs to access and use them because the system works in terms of project lifecycles and contracts with issues concerning continued existence after the end of funding. CI-FIRE aims to help change this state of affairs through its exemplary collaboration with EIT ICT Labs and its FanTaaStic project.

Experimentation demands and expectations of Future Internet stakeholders: The iLab.t use case and implications for FIRE. Drawing on iMinds experience with the i.Lab.t facility, Stefan Bouckaert focused on how to attract more experimenters to FIRE besides users from academia, especially businesses, SMEs, initiatives like EIT ICT Labs and the FI-PPP. This is not only a challenge for FIRE but also for individual facilities that exist today around Europe. Stefan highlighted the importance of storytelling as fundamental to attract users from small and large businesses alike. While FIRE already offers diverse and very powerful test beds, it is very import to clarify the benefits for SMEs, such as validating theoretical research and speeding up time to market.

It is also important that FIRE adapt continuously to new developments, evolving in the right direction to attract advanced users. This means understanding experimenters’ needs and expectations. The iMinds experience in the i.Lab.t facility (technical testing and SME support) and through its involvement in various projects shows that it is important to talk in business terms, especially from the viewpoint of the company considering using a facility (customer value proposition).

Because the variety of FIRE facilities and services, it is important to customise the “unique selling points” and “get the story right”. It is equally important to adapt the storytelling to each specific phase in the lifecycle: idea phase, development or pre-release, design, development and testing. iMinds experience has also showed that personal guidance for each individual case proves to be an effective approach. This is one of the human factors linked to the FanTaaStic interview mentioned above.

Stefan concluded by underscoring that FIRE can answer many of the demands. Continued relevance naturally requires continued efforts. It is important to focus on a well-packaged offer, e.g. form, content, funding, which helps to reach out to new experimenters. As every experimenter has different requirements, personal guidance is usually preferred.