U Washington Joins Google/IBM Parallel Computing Initiative

The University of Washington has become the first university to join a new academic initiative launched by IBM and Google, according to information released last week by IBM. The goal of the initiative is to foster better practices in highly parallel computing among computer science students. U Washington is joined by several other institutions that will pilot the program.

As part of the program, IBM and Google will provide "hardware, software, and services to augment university curricula and expand research horizons." These include a cluster of Linux-based IBM BladeCenter and System x servers, as well as machines supplied by Google. The machines will also include XEN systems virtualization and Apache's Hadoop project software. Computer science students will test their parallel computing projects by accessing the cluster via the Internet. IBM said it expects the cluster to grow to more than 1,600 processors eventually.

Other resources available through the project include a curriculum developed by Google and U Washington and released under a Creative Commons license; open-source software for developing programs for Hadoop clusters; an online support site; and services provided by IBM, including management, monitoring, and resource provisioning for the cluster.

The companies, in a joint statement, said they hope to lower barriers for exploring "this emerging model of computing."

Students at U Washington have used distributed computing to create complex applications that, among other things, can scan Wikipedia edits "to identify spam and [organize] global news articles by geographic location.."

"In 2006, when I helped Christophe Bisciglia, a former UW student now a senior engineer at Google, to develop the program, our goal was to understand the challenges that universities face in teaching important new concepts such as large scale computing and develop methods to address this issue," said Ed Lazowska, Bill & Melinda Gates Chair of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, in a statement released last week. "A year later, we've seen how our students have mastered many of the techniques that are critical for large scale-internet computing, benefiting our department and students."

Several other universities are also piloting the program, including Carnegie Mellon University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Stanford University; the University of California, Berkeley; and the University of Maryland.

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About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director, education for 1105 Media's Public Sector Media Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal. A 22-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).


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