IBM Advances Research Through Cloud Computing to Help Solve Real-World Problems

ARMONK, NY -- (MARKET WIRE) -- Jan 26, 2009 -- Today, IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced it is working with six universities to leverage IBM Blue Cloud solutions to speed up projects and research initiatives that were once constrained by time, limited or unavailable resources, or overloaded IT systems.

  • The Qatar Cloud Computing Initiative, driven by three universities, will open its cloud infrastructure to local businesses and industries to test applications and complete various projects, including seismic modeling and the exploration for oil and gas.
  • Another university, the University of Pretoria, is using cloud computing to test the development of drugs to slow the progression of serious illnesses in Africa.
  • In addition, IBM is also working with The Higher Education Alliance for Leadership Through Health (HEALTH Alliance) in East Africa and Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan to use cloud computing.

Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, Qatar University, Texas A&M University at Qatar

One of the first projects to bring cloud computing to the Middle East, the Qatar Cloud Computing Initiative, is operational and initially located at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar. Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, Qatar University, and Texas A&M University at Qatar will collaborate on this environment, along with a community of industry experts, researchers and clients, to develop a cloud solution to help solve industry problems.

"We are very excited to be working with IBM on creating the first cloud computing platform in the Middle East," said Associate Professor Dr. Majd F. Sakr at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar. "This will help us realize our vision of developing, evaluating, and extending a cloud computing infrastructure in Qatar to target regional applications and projects to help advance research."

Among the many anticipated uses of the Qatar Cloud Computing Center for advanced research include search, data mining, scientific modeling and simulation, computational biology, and financial modeling and forecasting. In addition, five pilot application projects have been identified to focus on:

  • Seismic modeling and exploration for oil and gas
  • Integrated production operation solutions for oil and gas industries
  • Arabic language web search engine
  • Test and migrate various applications using Hadoop / MapReduce programming methods
  • Create curriculum to teach cloud computing at universities

"This collaboration will support the Secure and Reliable Server-Aided Computation project from Qatar University, which are techniques businesses can use to outsource computationally intensive tasks to a server in a secure way," said Dr. Qutaibah Malluhi, Head of Computer Science and Engineering Department, Qatar University. "Engaging with IBM and leveraging their expertise will help us work with government and business agencies in Qatar to outsource their computations to a high-end data center without worrying about data confidentiality."

The development of this cloud computing center will be based on a phased approach. Initially, the universities will collaborate with IBM on building the infrastructure. Next, they will collaborate on developing applications that will leverage the Hadoop programming model as a first step in improving the local knowledge of this new programming model.

"We are looking forward to working with IBM on pioneering cloud computing research in Qatar and the Middle East," said Texas A&M University at Qatar Professor Hussein Alnuweiri. "Our research is focused on developing methods for coordinating and scheduling multiple task streams on the cloud computing infrastructure. These methods will provide the main enabling technology for mapping large-scale and time-critical industrial and commercial applications into the cloud."

University of Pretoria, South Africa

The second new client, the Computational Intelligence Research Group at the University of Pretoria, will use cloud computing for next-generation medical research. Through this initiative, students will find ways to slow the progression of serious illnesses by studying drug absorption rates and protein structure folding of a person's DNA once introduced to a certain type of medication.

Not only are students taking part in research to help better the health and wellness of society, but the cloud computing solution also enables the students to better manage their projects and workloads. In the past, students did not have dedicated hardware to run research projects, and it was impossible for multiple students to reliably run workloads together on one computer. In addition, the students also had to manually collect experimental data results themselves due to limited data management applications availability.

As expected, cloud research times were reduced from weeks to just days, and multiple variations of research tests are available in the cloud solution in order to draw statistically accurate results.

"For decades, clients have turned to IBM to integrate new technologies and computing paradigms into their operations -- in recent years Linux, open source and the Internet," said Willy Chiu, Vice President, IBM Cloud Labs. "We're thrilled to be a part of projects like these that not only make organizations more efficient, but move the needle forward for the world."

The Higher Education Alliance for Leadership Through Health (HEALTH Alliance), East Africa

The HEALTH Alliance, a consortium of seven universities, is working with IBM and industry experts to extend education through virtual computing labs that students access remotely. Through this cloud, students of the Alliance will have access to the most advanced educational materials, select software applications, and computing and storage resources, without incurring the expense of maintaining and powering full computing environments.

Additionally, while leveraging the IBM Cloud Computing Center in South Africa as an incubator, IBM is helping the Alliance create a solution that will run a cloud computing center without having to actually house the center initially. IBM is partnering with rSmart to deploy Sakai, an open source learning management system, that once powered by Linux on an IBM System z mainframe and IBM Tivoli Services Automation Manager, will provide Sakai learning management services from the IBM South Africa Cloud Computing Center for the HEALTH Alliance to use.

The goal for the HEALTH Alliance cloud solution is to migrate from the South Africa Cloud Computing Center to an on-site cloud hosted at one of the seven participating universities over time, establishing a showcase cloud computing solution aimed at educating the next generation of healthcare leaders and impacting social outcome. The HEALTH Alliance, dedicated to promoting the strategic use of technology in public health training, plans to establish a Public Healthcare Center of Excellence, designed to provide Sub-Saharan Africa readily available healthcare and education services.

The universities included in the Alliance include universities in Kenya, Jimma University, Ethiopia; University of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Tanzania; and Makerere University, Uganda. The Alliance, legally registered in Uganda, is led by Dr. William Bazeyo, Deputy Dean of Makerere University School of Public Health (MUSPH). For more information on the Alliance's activities, visit www.liphea.org.

Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan

Finally, students at Kyushu University will take part in hands-on classes to help them understand the cloud computing management system and design applications and cloud infrastructures that can run extremely compute-intensive jobs using thousands of computers at once. As cloud computing gains traction across multiple industries, it is vital that workers entering the market understand how to leverage this new computing paradigm.

More so, students are currently taking part in Societal Information System Engineering classes, which are advanced courses that foster highly skilled IT engineers to thrive once entering the global workforce. With one-on-one collaboration with outside engineers from key enterprises, students are nurtured with high ethical standards based on the clear understandings of society's positioning of information and communication technology.

Some objectives of the Societal Information System Engineering course include:

  • Learn the unique skills needed to work with the research development of software
  • Obtain foresight about long-term changes in social conditions and learn how to develop information technology accordingly
  • Nurture leaders who take lead roles in business

The cloud computing environment at Kyushu University has been operational since November of 2008.

IBM has supported the evolution of cloud computing through a number or research, software, hardware and services initiatives, spanning many years. With 13 cloud computing centers around the world, IBM has worked with small organizations and very large enterprises to use this compute model to lower costs and extend new services to users. In addition, IBM has developed its own cloud for innovation, which manages more than 100,000 users today.

For more information about business-class cloud computing, please visit www.ibm.com/cloud and for information about IBM education and university initiatives, please visit www.ibm.com/education or www.ibm.com/university.

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