The present day solutions for PaaS, IaaS or SaaS, revolve around the concept of cloud computing and sometimes virtualization. Virtualization is not cloud computing.Virtualization only extends cloud computing, by facilitating the use of underlying resources. If there would be such a high level of abstraction, where the cloud and the internet of things start using the virtualization to an even higher level, where entire operating systems are being accessed via the cloud and manage to eliminate the need to have an end user/consumer need of an access point, such a solution would indeed be seen as a remake of present day status-quo of computers and internet.
The concept of OSaaS is not new, as Linux already released CoreOS, under the form of OSaaS. If OSaaS would be used as the general consumer standard, with enough functionality to allow world wide resource sharing, the Internet of Things and the Cloud would indeed change beyond human comprehension.
The definition of cloud computing, given by NIST is “Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”. The definition for virtualization is the separation of a resource or request for a service from the underlying physical delivery of that service according to VMWare`s site. Since the cloud separates either the software or the hardware resources and manages to offer them separately to each customer in a metered fashion, we could look at these terms of cloud computing and virtualization as interchangeable or equal, if the virtualization would offer resources in a metered fashion. The abstraction would add another layer of requirements – the end user would not need an operating system to access the cloud resource. In this case, the personal computer would be a part of the internet of things (or the Internet of Everything, according to CISCO) and access the operating system resources over the web.
2. Present day Operating Systems and Internet of Things
An operating system definition revolves around managing hardware resources for applications and is the interface between the user and the hardware. The operating system does not:
Allow other threads from other computers, to run on the computer it is installed on, so it cannot use network resources to full capacity;
Dynamically control hardware resources between workstations, if supplemented;
The Internet of Things (apex or event horizon) is seen as the point when more devices are connected to the internet, than the population of the globe. It is predicted that in 2015 there will be 25 billion devices connected to the internet, for a population of 7.2 billion. If we were to assume that IoT is a living organism, the sheer number of device population overtakes the humans by a factor of 3.3, thus the world of computing is 3 times bigger than the human world. This alone would make the world of devices an unexploited resource, that if connected, could give the future a totally new perspective.
However, at this point in time, the devices:
Function on different platforms and the platforms cannot be integrated;
The operating systems themselves do not fully decouple the hardware from the software and are semi-dependent on the hardware to a degree, where its almost impossible to share resources over the internet;
Since the new directions in technology is studying nature and implement natural patterns into technology and infrastructure, the next logical step is to use natural patterns in developing the IoT and how the future of devices will be.
3. Why the OS?
The OS is the first level of intervention, where something can be introduced in order to change the way devices work. Also, modifications brought to the OS level can overcome hardware architecture differences.
Changing the OS to allow for devices to share hardware resources over the internet and transforming the cloud (or the Internet of Things), by applying a natural pattern to it, into a structure similar to that of a human society, where devices could be seen as independent decision cells, but allowing them to be grouped together into functional organisms, would radically improve the way we live.
4. The proposed concept
The following features are proposed as main attributes of OSaaS:
Totally decouple the OS from the hardware and allow for shared hardware resources, over the internet, much like a server environment would work in a private network;
Enable the end consumer to access the resource via the internet (cloud), based on a specific hardware identification system;
Enable the consumer to access the resource in a metered fashion;
The end consumer hardware becomes a resource of the IoT;
Selective hardware resource sharing over the IoT;
SaaS offers targeted software applications for the end consumer. PaaS offers hardware and software resources, usually to build other applications. IaaS offers the hardware, hardware management, storage and networking resources.
OSaaS would have to be a combination of all the three concepts, where the end consumer would actually provide the infrastructure, the software would be provided by the producer and the network automatically manages the resources and access, with the help of the operating system.
Virtualization technology offers the ability to support the distribution of OS and applications over any type of hardware system, while improving resource usage and security. The types of virtualization that are of interest for such an implementation are OS-level virtualization or hardware-level virtualization. Obviously, for the purpose of such a proposal, the usage of hardware-level virtualization is the preferred solution. This is because hardware-level virtualization handles the entire OS and application, while detaching both the OS and applications from the hardware.
In terms of metering the access to the OS as a resource, similar solutions already exist, so it all reduces to selecting and implementing a solution from an already existing wide range.
The users would be metered under a specific payment plan and would access the OS as a resource, either when needed, or non-stop access, based on a payment plan. This solution would require an authentication system which is hardware and software based, but the main security lair would have to require a hardware signature to offer access. Such systems already exist, where internet access is given by the NIC MAC address. This solution could be extended and complemented with other means, that could be integrated to CPU level. The user would download the OS after authentication and would login to use it, but after the subscription has ended, the entire OS would be deleted, moved to a cloud cache or simply inactivated.
Furthermore, such a solution would also integrate elements of OS level virtualization, where each application would run into its own virtual environment. This would allow dynamic allocation of resources. If such a solution would also allow running threads across CPUs, while slightly changing CPU architecture to allow such thread operations, then the way the Internet of Things works would truly change into something organic.
The OS in this proposed architecture would have to act as a virtual machine on its own, and the personal computer would become an usable component or an extension, on the web. This concept would be very close to para-virtualization. However the OS itself would not need a virtual environment to work in, as itself may include virtualization features so that the computer does not need an underlying virtual environment to function and access hardware resources. Furthermore, the personal computer would be able to run other processes and threads from other personal computers who need more processing power. Such an OS would be able to virtualize any type of PC resource: memory, hard drives, CPU, network.
Since the explosion of the internet, it has been discovered in a study done by a group of researchers in China, that the Internet doubles in size every 5.32 years, just like Moore`s Law. This makes the Internet, the biggest computer in the world. The parts are the computers of the consumers, while the information circulates in a free manner. If the internet would be compared to the physical body of a human, the information would be the blood circulating through the body. However some specific aspects of such an architecture would stand out – the information could be easily shared and the entire consumer work stations could be used as a collective resource, much like the human cell. Secondly, this approach would create a self-redundant organism, where availability of information and infrastructure would be virtually unlimited. Each PC would represent a cell that performs the same function, while a cluster of PCs would represent an organic functional structure.
5. Features and advantages
There is no limitation on what such an OS would have to offer in terms of functionality. Based on the deployment environment, this approach would increase the power and the value of computing, by simply making available more processing power, through the web. Only by designing such a solution, without additional features, such an OS would offer at least the following features and advantages:
Users can share hardware resources as a feature of the OSaaS (built-in or opt-in). Since virtualized environments can make available additional hardware resources, such an operating system would by default include the ability to use other PCs as extra-computing power. Such a feature would be well welcomed especially in corporate environments.
Easier recovery from failures, as the OS would simply be transferred as a copy of a standard blueprint, over the web. This could be achieved by having a set of features attached to computer, as the computer becomes a metadata set on the web. The supplier would therefore know already what are the hardware components on the computer and would simply automatically customize the OS to function on the configuration. In practice, installation of an OS is just the beginning of a setup, as the subsequent actions of updating, installing additional drivers and configuration takes more time than the OS installation.
Users can work both offline and online, but must authenticate online at a given time interval in order to continue the usage of the OS. This will almost eliminate the hacking and black markets built around illegal software sharing.
Eliminate unwated access to data, by simply shutting down an operating system. Such a facility would not completely eliminate all possibilities of unwanted access, by physically accessing the hardware, but would more than likely completely eliminate the access to data, if the OS would be shutdown on demand.
Data would still be available, even if the subscription would not be paid. The OS would simply be “migrated” or inactivated, without damaging data or other owned applications, on the host computer.
The most important reasons in implementing virtualized solutions are infrastructure consolidation and supporting mission critical areas, as specified by all major virtualization solution providers. However, virtualization does not seem to be so present in day-to-day consumer world. Such a solution would integrate the entire desktop environment in the cloud and facilitate better resource control and optimization, especially for data.
If the concept of this solution would be extended to include support for integration with specially designated server solutions for data backup, management and security, such an environment would offer a greatly improved private cloud solution to a corporate environment.
In the public domain, such a solution will offer long term benefits to the security status of the Internet traffic. For the proposed solution functionality, integrating in the OS operating system level virtualization functionality, would also allow for the elimination of IPR infringement. This would be achieved by an untapped feature of using OS virtualization – the ability to limit access to, or entirely remove the un-certified applications, running in the OS environment.
Implementing a back-up solution and cross-platform access of hardware resources for processor calls would improve the entire web processing capacity and would truly turn the internet into an internet of things.
6. Effects in the market
In the long run, both the technology suppliers and the consumers would win from such solutions. The implementation model for the OSaaS could mean any of the following (or a combination of them):
Pay as you go models, where the consumer would pay in a metered fashion, the access to the OS resources;
Any type of subscription model (monthly or yearly), where the user would pay an year subscription to use the OS or some specific traits of the OS. This model is not new, as the Office 365 is now sold under a subscription model.
VMWare`s online studies show that hardware costs were reduced by 72%, while only very few work environments are virtualized (36% of x86 servers are virtualized). In a corporate environment, the usage of such a technology, where the personal computer would turn into an usable resource of space and processing power, we could assume a substantial profit increase, by simply cutting infrastructure costs.
In the public domain, a Windows 8 license costs 49.99 £ (or 101$), on the Microsoft Store (data may slightly differ at the date of publication, as this article was written in March 2015). In the long run, adding the described functionalities to the OS itself, would more than likely increase the license cost. Distributing the costs under a new subscription model, would make the cost impact lower to the end consumer.
For the supplier, such an approach would more than likely improve real income simply by increasing the raw sale price. However, the implementation of such a technology could bring other cost cuts, like:
The need of a smaller implementation and distribution infrastructure. The OS itself can simply be downloaded over the web, once the subscription is done;
Elimination of the entire first level support team, by simply implementing some already existing self-healing/self-diagnostics functionality and simply allowing for self-repairing processes;
It is clear that there are numerous advantages for the suppliers simply by adding another layer of control into software distribution and increasing the profit out of sales. But in other areas like education, such a solution would truly show its value, by facilitating easy access to software and hardware resources.
In the research industry, such a solution would be instantly adopted, as it would allow for almost non-stop access to computing resources orders of magitude above publicly known data stats.
Though many people would criticise such a view on devices and how the future looks, the evolution of the IoT into an environment where information is not shared like a dry stream of data, but also the hardware can be used as a resource, seems natural.