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Imperial College London embarks on cloud security research push with Abu Dhabi tech hub

Imperial College London is embarking on a three-year project with an Abu Dhabi-based group of researchers to find ways for datacentre operators and cloud providers to secure their infrastructure

Imperial College London is working with the Abu Dhabi-based Technology Innovation Institute to create an operating system (OS) that is intended to change the way datacentre operators secure their cloud technology stacks.

The two organisations are embarking on a three-year programme of research that they claim will culminate in the creation of a “trustworthy” cloud OS designed for use in heterogenous off-premise environments, built around ARM and RISC-V architectures.

Shreekant Thakkar, doctor and chief researcher at the Technology Innovation Institute’s Secure Systems Research Centre, said that the reasons for focusing its efforts on these types of architectures is because they are “likely to play a more significant role in future datacentres and cloud environments”.

Thakkar added: “The research project with Imperial College aims to find solutions based on AArch64, and it fits nicely with other research and use cases as SSRC is doing a lot of work on ARM-based and RISC-V platforms and on OS in phones and drones. Easily applicable to today’s mobile devices, the project’s solutions will simplify the unification of cloud and edge security approaches.”

The SSRC said it plans to get a jump-start on its efforts to create a new OS by drawing on the research Imperial College’s Large Scale Data & Systems Group has already undertaken into library OS, hardware security mechanisms, cloud security approaches and trusted execution support, continued Thakkar.

“The project will [also] help ensure a compartmentalised implementation of OS functionality that maintains compatibility of existing cloud workloads with POSIX [Portable Operating System Interface] standards,” the organisations said, in a joint statement.

Peter Pietzuch, professor of distributed systems at Imperial College London, said that the overall aim of the project is to change how cloud datacentre operators approach securing their hardware-based systems,

“While cloud security mostly focuses on software-based solutions, this research project will aim to develop the specific technologies for system security regarding lightweight hardware-assisted container isolation,” added Pietzuch.

Ray Johnson, doctor and CEO of the Technology Innovation Institute, said the collaboration with Imperial is in keeping with its mission to help bring to market “breakthrough technology” offerings that stand to make the world a “safe and more empowered place.

“Given that purpose, university and industry partnerships, such as this one between SSRC and Imperial College London, are crucial in helping us combine forces with like-minded researchers around the world to deliver transformative outcomes,” Johnson said.

“Cyber security depends on merging cutting-edge hardware and software to fortify systems and preserve confidentiality where needed.”

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