'Cloud services made security no longer a problem for few, but for all of us.'

We had a chat with Prof. Massimo Villari from the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Messina in Italy about the growing ubiquty of cloud computing and connected devices, with an outlook on the future of industrial and consumer needs. He is the general chair of CN4IoT 2017, 2nd EAI International Conference on Cloud Networking for IoT Systems, which will take place in Brindisi, Italy on April 20-21, 2017. Let’s dive in.
Since it has been almost a full year since the last edition of CN4IoT, I would like to begin with taking a look back. A year can be quite a long time in technology so the question is – has there been a change in how we (both as members of the public, as well as industry) interact with cloud networks? Is it fair to say that cloud has made it closer to ubiquity?
Yes, in this domain there really is a rapid evolution that involves not only the cloud and the area of networking, but also any new device which expands Internet of Things. We are close to ubiquity because any part of the system is trying to set up an advance at another device in the environment. Right now, networking and cloud continue to be a challenge, and many telecom operators are looking for new business models in this area. It is no longer about making the connection between datacenters and the IoT, not only about networking inside of the centers, but we are moving outside of the centers, to communication between devices.
When we last spoke on the topic of cloud networking, you emphasized that for it to be a success on a massive scale, it has to be easy to use and it must have a positive impact on the lives of users. Has progress been made in that regard? Are there trends in research and development of cloud networks that really focus on user-friendliness and quality of life?
Yes. We are in the era of smart cities, smart things, smart everything, and the main aim of all these is to improve the quality of life of the citizens. If you look at the trends of the apps appearing in the market, like Airbnb, car2go, Uber, and others, they try to optimize life of each of us. And technology is going in that direction but a lot of work still has to be done.
Privacy and security is still a concern and we do hear about security breaches from time to time. Leaks from Apple’s iCloud come to mind as some of the more publicized ones. Do incidents such as these have a significant impact on attitude of a mass consumer towards cloud-based services?
Even as we are speaking, there is a big problem – Yahoo announced a security breach and loss of customer data, credentials of 500 million users. That is a huge number. The number is so huge because they are related to cloud services, which is why this is no longer a problem for few, but for all of us. The problem exists because the systems are not designed from scratch to consider such possibilities. Instead, companies are trying to build new systems on top of the original foundations – this is the reality. We need to change the model, change the approach – which of course costs a lot –  but we need to change the way we do things on the cloud because it’s quite easy to lose all data, all credentials and privacy of customers. So cloud is good, but can be bad in cases such as this one.
One could make a compelling argument that organizations, e.g. corporations or governments, have more to lose from a hypothetical security breach than an average individual. From a security standpoint and generally speaking, are organizations more reluctant to use cloud, or are their fears offset by the benefits of cloud?
To be honest, organizations really are reluctant to use cloud. Right now, I’m also working with eHealth and it’s not easy to make doctors and medical staff understand that this could be an opportunity. When incidents such as Yahoo are reported nowadays, it discourages these people from using the cloud. Again, for me, this is a challenge, but also an opportunity. What we have to do is to understand where and how to correctly use cloud. Also, if we look to networking, we find that technology is able to address this issue and provide security in cloud. Even having a good device can enhance one’s security. We need to redesign things and reach an understanding with organizations and people in charge regarding what is possible to use and what isn’t. For these purposes, I strongly believe in hybrid clouds. Every organization should have a private cloud, but also use an external one when necessary.
More than ever before, it seems that everyone we talk to stresses how their field is very reliant on interdisciplinary approaches. CN4IoT even has both cloud and IoT in its name. And IoT itself is a whole other mix of technologies. Does this interdisciplinary nature of technology complicate things?
They are not complicating anything, if you look at trends such as, for example, microservices, what is happening is we have microservices in the cloud, but we are moving towards microservices in the edge, in IoT. We are going towards some sort of homogenous system in one domain, cloud, in the network, and in the Internet of Things. I totally believe that we are discussing the same matter. This is why we started with the concept of this conference, because it affects all of us in the same way. All of us will need to understand how to make provisioning of microservices, or even to have massive datacenters where you can set up big data analytics tool like Adobe or Spark. The same common thread runs through all of these efforts, and that is trying to simplify the domain. The domain is going to be a software-defined something. Software-defined networks, software-defined IoT, software-defined datacenters, some layer that harmonizes all of it.
CN4IoT 2017 is still accepting papers! Find out more here.