TII’s Secure Systems Research Center is collaborating with #ImperialCollegeLondon on an innovative cloud project to achieve trustworthy end-to-end cloud computing with hardware security


New project aims to achieve trustworthy cloud computing with hardware security

Technology Innovation Institute (TII), a global research center and applied research pillar of Abu Dhabi’s Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC), today announced that its Secure Systems Research Center (SSRC) has partnered with Imperial College London, a prestigious public research university in the United Kingdom, on a project that seeks to achieve trustworthy cloud computing with hardware security.

The goal of this three-year research program is to design a new trustworthy cloud OS (operating system) stack for future cloud environments. While exploring how to design OS support around a flexible userspace isolation abstraction, which is enforced by hardware mechanisms, the project will help ensure a compartmentalized implementation of OS functionality that maintains compatibility of existing cloud workloads with POSIX (Portable Operating System Interface) standards.

Dr. Ray O. Johnson, CEO – TII, said: “At TII, our focus is to work on breakthrough technology solutions that will make the world a safer 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. Cybersecurity depends on merging cutting-edge hardware and software to fortify systems and preserve confidentiality where needed.”

Speaking on the announcement, Dr. Shreekant (“Ticky”) Thakkar, Chief Researcher at SSRC, said the research will focus on heterogeneous cloud environments in providing systems security and span areas such as operating system (OS), hypervisors, and leveraging hardware security offered in ARM® TrustZone® architecture. The project will use silicon based on ARM and RISC-V architectures, which are likely to play a more significant role in future data centers and cloud environments.

Dr. 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.

“To advance quickly, our research work will utilize ongoing research results by the Large Scale Data & Systems Group (LSDS) at Imperial College London on trusted execution support, library OSs, hardware security mechanisms, and cloud security approaches.”

Prof. Peter Pietzuch, Professor of Distributed Systems at Imperial College London, said: “We are pleased to join forces with TII’s Secure Systems Research Center on this bold and groundbreaking project. 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.”

One of seven initial dedicated research centers at TII, SSRC was established to create a global center of excellence in the development of end-to-end security and resilience to protect cyber-physical and autonomous systems. SSRC has recently become a strategic member of RISC-V International, a Switzerland-based global nonprofit promoting an open standard that facilitates collaboration and innovation in computer chip technology.