National Science Foundation gives UALR $108,000 grant
Dr. Shucheng Yu, assistant professor of UALR’s Department of Computer Science, is the grant’s principal investigator. Yu, along with co-investigators Drs. Mengjun Xie, Kenji Yoshigoe, and Chia-Chu Chiang, received funding from the NSF for their project on “MRI: Acquisition of a Cloud Computing Infrastructure for Research and Education.” The cloud computing device obtained from this funding will be the first cloud computing instrument, in the entire state of Arkansas, dedicated to research and education.
Simply put, cloud computing is a network of shared computers that is able to run the program simultaneously. By using the shared, unused resources of all connected devices, cloud computing can solve intensive problems that devices alone cannot withstand. Although some high performance computers are able to handle such processes, the cloud allows for more flexibility.
At UALR, high performance computer users need to go through administrative processes, users themselves have limited access to monitor a task. The purpose of cloud computing is to support high performance computer anywhere and anytime. With the cloud system “everything is under the control of the users, this is the magic difference between the cloud and the high performance computer,” Dr. Yu said. The cloud allows users to perform and manage a task all the way through, by themselves.
While students may be able to create their own cloud network, the development of a cloud from this funding will allow students to create, manage, and improve clouds on a larger scale—a feat students do not have private access to. By making this cloud accessible to students, Dr. Yu wants “to provide these students a new experience with large scale infrastructure.”
The cloud computing infrastructure will benefit students from the very start of the project. Dr. Yu plans to engage students during the development of the cloud itself. “For the cloud, we need to install software and hardware, and during this process we want to get students involved especially those interested in research,” he said. Students will also be able to participate in the management process, which provides students with hands-on experience, giving students an edge that many other university students do not have.
The university curriculum itself is enhanced through the cloud computing system. The computer science department has courses such as security classes and software engineering related to cloud computing infrastructure. Now, because the cloud infrastructure is dedicated to education and research, professors and students can use the infrastructure to create unique class projects that will enhance the class’s learning experience.
This infrastructure does not just relate to security and software engineering. Any field that generates big data and needs large-scale infrastructure to handle the amount of data can make use of cloud computing. As a result the cloud is applicable to areas as diverse as social networking, bioinformatics, and cryptography. With the cloud computing system, Dr. Yu also hopes to collaborate with outreach programs and provide some training opportunities to graduate, undergraduate, and even high school students.
In a press release, UALR Chancellor Joel E. Anderson said, “With the revolutionary technology of cloud computing, this instrument will significantly boost research at UALR and across the state of Arkansas.” Dr. Yu hopes with further development of the infrastructure to invite students from all over the country to come and conduct research with this novel cloud system devoted to the purpose of education and research.
More information about this computer science project is available on the Department of Computer Science website.