Electrical and Information Technology

Faculty of Engineering, LTH

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Fatemeh Akbarian made cloud control systems safer.


Fatemeh Akbarian

Title of thesis: Resilient Cloud Control: Securing, Adapting, and Thriving.
Link to thesis in Lund University Research portal.

Defence: Friday, May 17th 09:15, room E:1406.

Describe your research in a popular science way

Imagine the cloud as an invisible, unlimited storage and processing power- house floating in the digital sky. It’s like a magical library that not only holds all your digital treasures but also has endless rooms where you can work, cre- ate, and manage everything from family photos to entire business operations. Businesses, in their quest for efficiency and flexibility, are increasingly moving their controller—the brains behind their operations—into this cloud. This transition allows them to operate more smoothly, access data from anywhere, and scale up or down as needed without investing in expensive hardware. However, moving to the cloud isn’t without its challenges. It’s akin to moving into a shared space where security and privacy become paramount concerns. There’s also the issue of ensuring everything runs smoothly, without delays or hiccups, despite the physical distance between the cloud (where the data and applications are hosted) and the actual physical location of the business. Imagine trying to control a drone flying in California from a remote control in New York; the further the distance, the trickier it is to ensure smooth operation. In my thesis, I tackle these challenges head-on. For security, I propose a robust plan that acts like an advanced, ever-vigilant security system. This system not only keeps a watchful eye for any potential threats but also has the capability to neutralize these threats before they can cause harm. It ensures businesses can trust their operations to the cloud without fearing cyber-attacks or data breaches. On the performance front, I address the problem of delays, which can be likened to the lag you might experience during a video call when the internet is slow. I introduce a strategy that compensates for these delays, ensuring that commands and controls are executed in a timely manner, just as if the cloud controllers and physical operations were side by side. This means businesses can rely on cloud-based control systems without worrying about interruptions or inefficiencies. Furthermore, I explore the challenges brought by the ever-changing cloud environment, where the workload can shift dramatically due to the actions of many users and different applications. It’s akin to living in a house where the amount of electricity and water available changes depending on how many devices are being used or how many faucets are running. To tackle this, I propose a flexible strategy that adapts the system’s "pace" or "rhythm" to keep up with these changes, ensuring it stays efficient and responsive, no matter how crowded or busy the cloud environment becomes. This approach not only keeps the system running smoothly but also promotes resource frugality. By adjusting its operations to match the current demand accurately, the system avoids wasting computational power and energy, much like smart home technology that dims lights or adjusts the thermostat to save electricity. This ensures that, just like your home’s utilities adjust to your needs in the most efficient way, the cloud system automatically optimizes its resources, providing a seamless experience without slowdowns, interruptions, or unnecessary waste. By solving these problems, my thesis paves the way for businesses to fully embrace the cloud, leveraging its vast capabilities without falling prey to security risks or performance pitfalls. It’s about making the cloud not just a place to store data but a secure, efficient, and reliable extension of the business itself. It enables operations to soar to new heights with the confidence and assurance that they are protected and optimized, no matter the circumstances.

What made you want to pursue a PhD?

I pursued a PhD to deepen my understanding of a topic I'm passionate about and to contribute meaningfully to the field through original research.

What is the most fascinating or interesting with your thesis subject?

The most fascinating aspect of my thesis subject is the potential for integrating control systems with the cloud. While cloud computing can provide significant advantages for industry, such as increased flexibility, scalability, and cost-savings, it also introduces new challenges that can make companies hesitant to fully embrace cloud-based control systems. In my research, I aimed to provide solutions to these challenges and make Cloud Control Systems (CCS) more resilient. Specifically, I focused on ensuring CCS are resilient to cyber attacks and delays, while also enabling the system to adapt its frequency according to the current cloud environment. By addressing these key challenges, my research seeks to motivate industry to fully utilize the advantages of cloud computing in their control systems. Rather than ignoring the benefits of the cloud due to its potential drawbacks, my work demonstrates how these challenges can be overcome, empowering companies to embrace the transformative potential of integrating control systems with the cloud.

Do you believe some results from your research will be applied in practice eventually? And if so, how / how?

Yes, I believe that some results from my research will be applied in practice. For instance, the methods I applied to a real testbed for a Cloud Control System (CCS) demonstrated the ability to make the system resilient to cyber attacks and delays, and adapt its frequency according to the cloud environment. These findings have practical implications for ensuring the reliability and efficiency of cloud-based systems.

What are your plans?

After completing my PhD, I plan to pursue a postdoctoral position in machine learning to further expand my knowledge and expertise in this field.