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The Cloud Name System – Addressing Architecture for the Internet of Things

A key development for the Internet of Things will be the evolution and emergence of the ‘Cloud Name System’

A key development for the Internet of Things will be the evolution and emergence of the ‘Cloud Name System’, a directory system for Cloud applications in the same way DNS (Domain Name System) works for the web and email.

Lori MacVittie wrote a while back about the need for an ‘SNS’ – a Service Name System, a DNS type directory approach but for Cloud Services so that they can be entirely loosely coupled from their IT infrastructure.

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web, himself described a scenario of ‘Socially Aware Cloud Storage‘ that applies this same ideal of abstraction to our personal data across all the social networks we use. This refers to a distributed (Cloud) storage service that is used to store personal user data for social networks, rather than the social sites holding it themselves.

The standard I am more familiar with is the OASIS XDI protocol, where they have coined the term Cloud Names and Cloud Numbers. This is a re-naming (!) of the term i-names and i-numbers, the naming system that XDI enables.

In short XDI enables unique and permanent identifiers (eg. =neil.mcevoy) for entities including but not limited to people, in the same way that web site URLs and email addresses do for web sites and communications, but where they are persistent while these can change, and where they will enable a universal data sharing network in the same way universal web content and email messaging are achieved.

The inventors of the standards describe it here, via their implementation called the Respect Network.

This type of architecture will be needed for the vast universe of RFID tags and other devices and nano-technologies predicted to become the ‘Internet of Things’.

The Cloud as Linked Dataweb
This is driven by the ongoing evolution of the Cloud not just as an environment for running virtualized apps, but also as a broader singular environment for the data they store and process, better connecting it as part of this integrated world.

This is particular important given our fears of the privacy of this data. Certain features of XDI explain key important points about this system, most notably ‘Link Contracts‘ – These are the actual mechanisms of linking data, because they define the nature of how it is linked, and so builds into this the critical privacy protection factors, such as respecting your wishes for who can and can’t access and use your data.

Sir Tim also describes this trend within a context of ‘Linked Data‘, where the data is joined up like in a database but at the web level through the same linking mechanism that joins content to form the world wide web. Therefore the fundamental shift is that rather than storing data centrally, in a database, and accessing it via a distributed content tool (the web), you would simply distribute data the same way.

This concept of a “Dataweb” is also the same vision behind XDI, explained in this white paper (21 page PDF). It was written in 2004, ten years ago, showing how visionary this developments are and how they are now maturing, making for a very exciting future for technology innovators and entrepreneurs.

An evolution of this nature will have as profound an impact on our approach to software and business systems a magnitude larger again than the first impact of the first wave of the Internet.

In particular it will be extremely powerful for problem-solving, given how many IT problems can be traced to a lack of data interoperability between different systems. The CNS would solve this problem for everyone at a global level, in the same way the Internet solved universal email and content sharing for every one.

For example it’s a notorious issue in Healthcare, and scenarios where it could be applied are aptly described for example through the standards work for EHealth Ontario, where have a system for implementing ‘Object Identifiers’, these same unique identifier principles.

There are also other protocols setting out to tackle the same need – For example Named Data Networking, even further down the path of maturity, so these are no longer conceptual ideas, they are now in the early stages of traction, always the best time for smart investors and entrepreneurs to get involved….

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