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Coping with success: Cloud platform UNICORN ease games growth pains and resulting customer disappointment?

Taming the cloud with UNICORN

In 2016, multi-cloud management and cloud cost optimization specialist RightScale surveyed 1,060 tech professionals across a broad cross-section of organizations about their adoption of cloud computing. The subsequent findings (detailed in their “State-of-the-Cloud” report here) were a key inspiration for UNICORN, an EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation project to facilitate the design and deployment of cloud applications and services, improving developers’ productivity by reducing cloud application design time via code annotations and blueprints for security. Although cloud deployment provides a powerful way to automate application and infrastructure management, developers have noted that hybrid deployments raise the complexity of monitoring and management across multiple clouds (according to the 2016 report, SMEs use up to six different clouds on average and one out of five SMEs manage deployments with more than 1000 virtual machines).

Key challenges and UNICORN

From a development perspective, designing secure software and ensuring customer data privacy is challenging enough, but resource scaling (“elasticity”) introduces yet another important cloud deployment issue to tackle as well. Several application management platforms claim to address these issues, including proprietary solutions like AWS CloudFormation and Oracle Exalogic (locking users to their specific providers) and open frameworks like CAMF and Juju (allowing users to choose their cloud provider, including AWS, Google Compute Cloud and Microsoft Azure). However, none of these solutions wholly resolve data protection and privacy concerns or provide the ability to manage the lifecycle of a cloud service distributed across multiple availability zones and/or cloud sites. Techniques to deal with elasticity properties covering resources, costs and quality are also not well-supported. Most significantly, these tools are designed to address cloud management issues after application development, delaying time-to-market and thus hitting especially SMEs and start-ups with smaller development teams hard. By reducing cloud application design time via code annotations and blueprints for security, UNICORN aims to solve all these cloud application and services issues for developers.

ProsocialLearn – a game development example

The Prosocial Learning Digital Game (PLDG) demonstrator is a cloud-based multiplayer game in which players (in particular school-age children) develop their social skills. The overall development process has highlighted several technical issues, including data volume handling, rapid scaling, security/authentication and compliance. Developer Redikod is using a modified version of Unity’s uMMORPG multiplayer game base for the PLDG demonstrator’s client and server. The game client and game server are running together in a docker container along with nginx to host the game client, specifically a WebGL build and nodejs server using expressjs for communication with the demonstrator’s external host server (running the central ProsocialLearn platform infrastructure) that controls the game lifecycle via voice chat using peerjs. One important barrier encountered with Unity is that it does not support secure web sockets, required by the developer to serve content via secure https. To work around this, Redikod included a plug-in with the WebGL build that changes all ws calls to wss calls. That does not work with the server though, so nginx has been used as a reverse proxy so the Unity server can use unsecure web sockets, but the client connects with secure ones. Redikod has also encountered issues with voice chat not having access to the ssl certificate used to serve secure web pages and services. Since the peerjs server cannot be served from the same location as the game is served, Redikod had to set-up a peerjs server on a separate web server. There are also some issues with getting peerjs and voice sensors to work simultaneously, especially in a push-to-talk environment. ‘ UNICORN-enhanced cloud computing applied to the PLDG demonstrator enabled a rapidly scalable, cost-effective IT infrastructure on demand, coping with rapidly growing user demand at different times and with enormous, fluid and constantly updated datasets by applying elasticity policies through annotations within the game’s source code, while satisfying particularly strict security needs with enforcement annotations, and privacy requirements via mechanisms that restrict data movement between different geographic regions.
Join the dev competition!

UNICORN has also launched a contest to test and validate the platform by developing software or use-cases using the UNICORN framework, with twelve selected SMEs and start-ups to each receive 10,000 EUR in funding. The submission deadline is 28 February – so learn more about UNICORN and the contest at unicorn-project.eu and apply now!

You can download the article here

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Keep the contest applications coming!

UNICORN partners are in for a lot of work, as they continually receive applications for the validation contest.
At this moment, they are currently reviewing numerous applications from various SMEs and start-ups around Europe, their goal is to select just 12, that will each receive a 10,000 euros funding in order to test and validate UNICORNs product either using their own software or use-cases using the UNICORN framework.

But that’s just not only it! Winners will have access to the UNICORN platform and to all the resources needed for a successful validation including Cloud hosting services, and UNICORN training and examples, among others.

Moreover, they will be invited to participate in UNICORN training workshops, and their venture will be introduced to the Startup Europe entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Does all this sound good to you? then do not procrastinate! apply and join the competition and you might be one of the selected participants.

Deadline for applications is February the 28th 2019.

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Unicorn participates at the ICT2018 in Vienna

UNICORN partners attended the ICT 2018 Conference in Vienna, where 6 plenary sessions on topics such as Artificial Intelligence, Next Generation Internet, Digital Skills and High-Performance Computing took place.

What is more speakers from policy circles, academia, civil society and industry highlighted their perspectives and priorities, and discussed how each can contribute to the successful digital transformation of Europe.

Our consortium partners had the chance to attend the conference in Vienna where they promoted UNICORN’s validation contest to the public. Find more information on the contest here

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UNICORN validation contest is now open!

It is with great pleasure that today, we are officially launching the UNICORN VALIDATION CONTEST for start-ups/SMEs. Twelve applicants among participants will be selected and receive a 10,000 € validation contract, with which they will validate the Unicorn platform.

Participants will make use of the platform in order to develop their own applications as from April to October 2019, to test and validate the platform by developing their own software or use-cases using the UNICORN framework.

During the development phase, participants will have access to the UNICORN platform and to all the resources needed for a successful validation including Cloud hosting services, and UNICORN training and examples, among others.

Meanwhile they will have the opportunity to attend related events and get trained by UNICORN experts where they will also get the chance to demonstrate their progress and results and get introduced to the Start-up Europe entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The call of participation will be officially closed by the end of February 2019!

Don’t think about it twice! Hurry up and fill in the participation form that you will find here! http://unicorn-project.eu/index.php/contest/.

The UNICORN consortium wishes Good luck to all participants!

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UNICORN in Dockercon technology conference in Barcelona

UNICORN attends today Dockercon Technology conference, where customers and community come to learn, share and connect with each other. Attendees are a mix of developers, systems admins, architects, and IT decision makers.

Our partner from SUIT5 is attending and will disseminate UNICORN in the conference by presenting its product and what it has to offer.

You can find more on the event here

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UNICORN attends the South Summit

Partners from the Cloud Incubator HUB of the UPCT attended South Summit 2018 on October the 3rd. South Summit is one of the largest startups and innovation fairs in Spain, and in this edition the numbers were beyond expectations 650+ investors, 3500+ startups participated and $1.4+ billion raised.

UPCT partners were able to contact some of the startups attending the fair, and described in detail the UNICORN platform and the double opportunity it offers: on the one hand, utilizing a beyond-state-of-the-art cloud computing platform that simplifies (1) the deployment and orchestration of micro-services based applications, (2) the continuous monitoring and reporting of several parameters related to application performance, and (3) the detection of intrusions and cyber attacks by continuously supervising network activity in order to detect attack patterns; and on the other hand, participating in UNICORN validation contest to get one of the twelve 10.000€ validation contracts we offer, which will allow them to have early access to the platform and to the experts who develop it.“

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Unicorn contributes to European Cloud Standardisation and begins to develop a CEN Workshop agreement

A CWA is an agreement developed and approved in a CEN Workshop; the latter is open to the direct participation of anyone with an interest in the development of the agreement. From Unicorn the partners who will get involved are UCY, CAS, UBITEC, SUIT5 and the Cloud Incubator HUB.

CWA is not formally a European standard and involves no obligation at national level, but it is much faster and flexible in its production as well as an essential step towards the development of the European standard.
The CWA will allow UNICORN project to faster and better use the project results, as it increases the interoperability and enables the comparison of UNICORN’s outcomes with the products that already exist in the market. Lastly this will help the project to better disseminate its results to a wider community.

The kick-off meeting in Athens led by DIN will focus on introducing the CEN and the workshop concept, the election and appointment of the workshop Chair and Vice chair, while also the project plan will be adopted, and future actions and meetings will be discussed

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Unicorn Partners re-unite in Athens

Unicorn consortium is holding its plenary meeting in Athens on 8th and 9th November 2018, and its hosted by Ubitech. Apart from the usual talks such as the status of the project and the status of current deliverables, partners will also participate in interesting workshops such as the Workshop on communication roadmap which will be organised by European DIGITAL SME Alliance and FORTH.

Additionally, the consortium partners will kick-off its further standardisation activities with the launch of the CEN Workshop Agreement on the Analytics Insights and Scaling Policies for Microservices. The activity is led by UNICORN partner DIN.

Lastly, the final preparations of the Idea Innovation contest will take place, and the responsible partners (UCY, UBITECH, CINCUBATOR, DIGITAL SME) will be setting up the technical infrastructure for the contest, planning the communication activities, etc.

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Cloud computing standardization

In the course of the last years, due to the increasing complexity of IT networking, a variety of processes have changed. For example, a few years ago, software and hardware were increasingly being acquired and used for stand-alone operation, while more and more companies are currently sourcing their resources via the cloud services market. This increases the flexibility and cost efficiency of the use of information and communication technology. By relieving small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through the use of cloud services, it will be easier for them to focus on the core business, which could increase the competitiveness of SMEs. But not only companies rely on it. Private users as well as authorities use cloud-based IT services. Standardization in terms of quality improvement and assurance could play a significant role, especially in such forward-looking topics.

The international standardization committee ISO / IEC JTC 1 / SC 38 "Cloud Computing and Distributed Platforms" performs the corresponding standardization work. Recognizing the potential of this new technology paradigm, consumers of IT technologies and services are demanding standards to assist in their transition to Cloud Computing. The work of SC 38 covers the different aspects of standardization in the areas of Cloud Computing and Distributed Platforms including:

• Foundational concepts and technologies,
• Operational issues, and
• Interactions among Cloud Computing systems and with other distributed systems

Since holding its first meeting in May 2010, SC 38 has developed a variety of important Cloud computing standards. Two of these are for instance the foundational standards ISO/IEC 17788:2014 (Ed. 1) “Information technology -- Cloud computing -- Overview and vocabulary” and ISO/IEC 17789:2014 (Ed. 1) “Information technology -- Cloud computing -- Reference architecture”. Foundational standards that deal with vocabulary and reference architecture are essential for developing standards that go further considering the specific technology. For instance the ISO/IEC 19941 specifies cloud computing interoperability and portability types, the relationship and interactions between these two cross-cutting aspects of cloud computing and common terminology and concepts used to discuss interoperability and portability, particularly relating to cloud services. Furthermore, the ISO/IEC 19086 series deals with the standardization of Service level agreements (SLAs).

These kinds of standards help cloud providers in their daily routine, since cloud providers have to guarantee that their cloud service is in accordance with data protection. By introducing the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018, this matter became especially for European countries more relevant than ever. Certain cloud customers may only rely on the offer of cloud providers, who can demonstrate that compliance with data protection is guaranteed. International Standards reflect the state of the art and therefore are reviewed every five years. During the review, it is decided whether the standard should be confirmed for another five years, revised or withdrawn. Due to this, International Standards are always up to date. Since standards reflect the state of the art, using Cloud Computing standards can increase the quality and trustworthiness of cloud providers. Having Cloud Computing standards is therefore beneficial both for the cloud providers and cloud customers. Since introducing the GDPR this year and the significant Cloud Computing standards being ISO/IEC standards, the thought of CEN/CENELEC starting to develop European Standards (EN) in the field of Cloud Computing could be debated. While International Standards have the higher priority in comparison to European Standards, it could be worth a thought, whether European Cloud Computing standards are needful at this time, since the EU GDPR has been introduced this year. It is probably not unthinkable that there could be talks between ISO and CEN/CENELEC regarding this matter in the future.

The article was written by Samarkhel-Khan Yahya from DIN

You can download the article here

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Unicorn at the 5th Network and Information Security (NIS’18) Summer School in Crete

Unicorn was present at the 5th Network and Information Security (NIS’18) on Network and information security in Heraklion Crete. The event was jointly organised by the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) and the Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas (FORTH). The event was focused on the main challenges of Information Security.
Unicorn was present with our consortium member FORTH and presented our solutions and actions,

You can find more information about event here

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UNICORN project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and innovation programme under grant agreement  No 731846.

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