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Syracuse U Students to Gain Mainframe Experience with IBM Donation

Syracuse University students will gain mainframe experience on IBM gear as part of a multimillion dollar investment from IBM. The company has donated a System z10 to the New York school as well as software to the university's iSchool, the School of Information Studies.

In addition to the IBM z10, students and faculty will also have access to an IBM DS8000, high performance disk storage with 18 TB of capacity. The investment will total $27 million over five years and cover expenses related to the mainframe and storage hardware, as well as software, monthly license costs, maintenance, and service.

"IBM's investment goes beyond teaching our students about systems support. Exposure to the hardware and software of the IBM z10 introduces students to today's world of virtual data centers and the growing importance of mainframe-like quality required a broad range of applications, like helping doctors make smarter healthcare recommendations from countless data sources," said David Dischiave, who leads the master program in Information Management and teaches database and large-scale enterprises courses. "IBM's investment will allow us to do things we couldn't do before in our database and enterprise technologies courses."

Dischiave and his wife, Susan, also an iSchool professor who teaches advanced database and database security courses, both participate in IBM's System z Academic Initiative and received the program's 2006 Faculty Award. Through the program, they were previously allowed to tap into an IBM mainframe in the company's Innovation Center in Dallas to teach their students about large-scale computing environments.

The latest contribution will enable the school to provide virtual machines to students so that they can become familiar with building and processing large-scale data sets and to teach students about virtualization. "Basically, each student can have their own mainframe to work on, and we can mirror the large-scale systems that many big employers have," Dischiave said. "Now, our students will have worked within these environments before they graduate and will be better prepared for the workplace. They will have access to a whole new classification of tools in their toolkit to solve modern computing and information management problems for organizations."

The team has revamped its courses for this fall to include lab exercises that employ the new z10. IBM has also offered a "sanitized" Medicare claims database to serve as a sample data set for students to access in their courses. Until now, faculty has made up problems and data for their students to use. But, said Dischiave, "There's no substitute for real problems and real data to teach students about the system."

Researchers at the university will also be allowed to import their data sets into the system, which will be able to process the data at a rate faster than any resource currently available to them on campus, according to a statement from IBM.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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