IBM advances research through Cloud computing to help solve real-world problems

Armonk 26 January 2009IBM 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 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.


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", stated 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 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 centre without having to actually house the centre 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 health care 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 Health Care Center of Excellence, designed to provide Sub-Saharan Africa readily available health care 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).

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 of research, software, hardware and services initiatives, spanning many years. With 13 Cloud computing centres 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. More company news is available in the VMW January 2009 article IBM and Merge Healthcare join forces for better development of advanced medical imaging technology.

Source: IBM

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