As data are becoming the real raw material of the Information Society they will be used by a variety of players and there will be forces to share them and other to restrict access. Data will be everywhere and aggregated in different forms. Most of the time processing will happen at each aggregation point. Other times, processing will require usage of data contained in different aggregation and this requires management of ownership boundaries along with privacy, authentication and much more.
The sheer number of data demands, in many cases, huge processing capacity, in other cases it will be a matter of coordinating and aggregating several local processing. We are heading to a very complex framework in terms of processing and processing will be more and more intertwined with networking.
By 2020 we can expect to:
❏ Have increased 100 fold the performance, using multi-core, multi parallel systems.
❏ Be based on new widespread distributed, clustered processing architecture (processing cloud).
❏ Be performed in a variety of objects, as tiny as sensors and tags and as big as supercomputers clusters.
❏ Have seen the flanking of alternative processing paradigm, namely molecular and quantum computing. Whilst it can be reasonably predicted that molecular computing will be used in specific niches (like genomics) it is difficult to make any prediction about quantum computing. If it pans out, issues like new cryptographic systems will have to be addressed.
The cost of processing will continue to decrease in this decade, at the same rate it did in the last four decades. The processing capacity for mass market will reach a plateau since it exceeds demand, probably in this first part of the decade. Some mass market processing needs, however, will continue to put pressure on processing performances, such as the chips for the rendering of video signals. As video will move in this decade to the 4k standard higher performances will be required for signal processing in television sets, in video cameras and related devices.
Increasing performance will be seen, coupled with lower energy demand, in handheld equipment and sensors. This latter will change some processing architecture (processing is cheaper than transmission in terms of energy bill). Particularly, sensor networks are likely to exploit local sensors processing capability for decreasing the number of data transmitted.
Also, signal processing in terminals may become much more demanding, particularly towards the end of the decade once the terminal can be asked to employ more sophisticated signal analyses to increase spectrum efficiency. In turns, this will lead to a change in the communications protocols and architectures (see 4.4).
The massive distributed processing where the “cloud” becomes a giant computer brings to the fore issues of latency and this in turn may push towards optical networks architectures not requiring an electronic signal manipulation (passive optical add drop).
- Processing and communications impact architectures and COMSOC should be involved in this.
- The processing at the network edges displaces the intelligence and affects the current network architecture. It can result, as some are claiming, in a transparent network or in a diffused network control. This latter may be the case once we consider the network as spanning beyond the present boundaries to include the networks at the edges. The problem in this expansion, of course, is the ownership domain that does not span across these networks.
- Sensors networks cannot be considered separating the aspects of communications from the ones of processing. A unified view is required.
- The cloud is going to be distributed over the network, over the edge networks, over the terminals (in many cases indistinguishable from edge networks) and over objects. Its processing is coupled with its inner and external communications capabilities (especially when latency is an issue) and shall be an important area in COMSOC.
The next decade will see, eventually, the failing of the Moore’s law applied to silicon. This will create a major earthquake in many industry sectors. It is likely that the overall processing power will continue to increase but such an increase will be based on carbon rather than silicon.