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Interview with Andrea Passarella – SLICES Italian Node

Andrea Passarella is a research director at the Institute for Informatics and Telematics of the National Research Council in Italy. His research group are intimately involved with the SLICES-RI Initiative. Here Andrea talks us through how he became involved with SLICES, what SLICES can bring to research, and the importance SLICES will play on the European research stage while maintaining its international connections. 

  • Why are you personally involved in the SLICES initiative? 

I’m Andrea Passarella, a research director at the Institute for Informatics and Telematics of the National Research Council in Italy. When the SLICES initiative started, it made complete sense for us, and for me personally, to get involved because I thought it was the natural follow-up of one of the research methodologies that we always used in our group, both to test and validate our research findings.

  • What can SLICES bring to researchers?

In our field, let’s say the field of research on the future of the Internet, in the broad sense, having a reference testbed that is large-scale pan European and trusted is extremely important, and there is no such tool in existence right now that we can use for validating our search results. Having such an instrument at a sufficiently large scale to test solutions in a realistic environment, with respect to the scale of the Internet, and validate our results, is something that is much more than the live scale test beds that each of the groups in our community more or less have.

It also allows us to move towards a step forward and bring those experimental results to an environment that is trusted, that is, a reference point at the European and international levels.

  • What kind of new research are you envisaging with SLICES?

Essentially, I would say there are primarily two vast areas that, at this stage, we can realistically target in the coming years. The first is the research beyond 5G and 6G technologies, and this is, of course, a critical research area, both for Europe and internationally. However, more is needed, as I was saying, as SLICES targets not only communication technologies but distributed systems for the Internet, indeed, for the very future Internet in a broader sense. We will also develop components for the centralised AI distributed systems, which are generally complementing the 5G component we are designing and developing right now.

  • Why is SLICES important for the research community and for Europe?

One reason is that we need in our community an instrument like SLICES, one that is pan-European. Meaning, essentially, large-scale enough and one that is the reference point for research in Europe, where we can test the search results that we are developing as researchers in a reliable and trustworthy way.

The second point is that the rest of the world is not sitting. I mean, the rest of the world is also developing similar infrastructures, and they are even ahead of us in some cases. So just to mention a few, in the United States, there is a big initiative called PAWR which our colleagues have been developing for years. It is a very big research infrastructure for wireless networking.

  • What is the status of the SLICES Italian node with respect to the overall SLICES strategy and development status?

We have built up a synergy with two other big entities in the country that group together, respectively, all the computer science departments and Telecommunication Departments of all the public universities in Italy. So, the Italian SLICES node is built by these three entities, CNR, CNIT, which is the National Consortium for Telecommunications, and CNE which is the National Consortium of Computer Science Department in the country.

At least two of the three sides that I mentioned, mainly CNR and CNIT, are already working hard in order to contribute to the design of the 5G blueprint, and in the coming weeks and months, they will aim to deploy them, starting from the infrastructure that we have already. We don’t start from scratch, we already have pretty important testbeds that have been developed in the framework, primarily of European projects in starting from FP6 and up to Horizon 2020, and that would be the starting point for us to develop the beyond 5G component according to this SLICES blueprint. We foresee certainly within 2023 to be ready for interconnection with the other nodes in the SLICES research infrastructure that will develop a similar group blueprint and start testing the interconnection and the individual functionalities of our testbeds when the blueprint will be installed.