Universities get $5 million in grants to use IBM/Google cloud

MIT, Carnegie-Mellon, others focus on distributed computing

The IBM/Google cloud computing project for universities got a boost Thursday with the US National Science Foundation awarding nearly US$5 million in grants to 14 American universities participating in the initiative.

The IBM/Google Cloud Computing Initiative provides a virtual IT lab that lets students "learn how to develop systems and write massively parallel applications that take full advantage of the distributed computing paradigm," according to IBM.

The NSF awarded grants to Carnegie-Mellon University, Florida International University, MIT, Purdue, University of California-Irvine, UC-San Diego, UC-Santa Barbara, University of Maryland, University of Massachusetts, University of Virginia, University of Washington, University of Wisconsin, University of Utah and Yale.

"Academic researchers have expressed a need for access to massively scaled computing infrastructures that allow them to complete projects and research activities that have been difficult or impossible previously due to the amount of data involved," the NSF's Jeannette Wing, assistant director for computer and information science and engineering, says in an IBM press release.

The 14 universities have a variety of projects they will run on the IBM/Google cloud. Examples include Carnegie-Mellon projects to improve Web searching and to develop machine translation technology. MIT, Wisconsin and Yale are performing a comparative study of approaches to cluster-based, large-scale data analysis. The University of Washington is using the IBM/Google platform to develop new algorithms for analyzing astronomical images.

Key components of the IBM/Google cloud platform include a cluster of processors running the MapReduce programming model and the Google File System; IBM-designed open source software that helps students develop programs for clusters powered by Apache's Hadoop; and IBM Tivoli tools for management, monitoring and dynamic resource provisioning.

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