Jun 22 2015

IBM’s Cloud-Powered Open-Architecture Lab Takes Higher Ed Research to New Heights

The newly announced SuperVessel cloud service is helping higher ed researchers collaborate globally.

An open-access cloud-powered environment built specifically for the needs of researchers in the higher education space has been making strides in China, and IBM is helping to lead the charge, the company announced in June.

At Beijing's IBM Research and IBM Systems Labs, a global community of developers and researchers are collaborating on SuperVessel, a cloud environment operating on IBM’s OpenPOWER system. SuperVessel is enabling open source developers, students and other business partners to accelerate their application development. As the IBM news release states, the environment contains a series of labs through which “users can access open source software, build and test applications, and share experiences and best practices.” The labs include Big Data, Internet of Things, acceleration and virtualization on POWER.

The work is part of the OpenPOWER Foundation, which was founded in 2013 by IBM, Nvidia, Mellanox, Google and Tyan. The foundation helps technologists collaborate using open server architecture for data centers.

Beijing Is the Cornerstone of Progress for SuperVessel

The progress being made in Beijing exemplifies the power of the platform, says Keith Brown, director of IBM Systems Strategic Industry and University Alliances. More than 30 universities are using the SuperVessel open access cloud service, nearly all of which are in China.

"This has been a cornerstone for us in terms of how we're starting to think about connecting with universities, what kind of resources we need to provide and make more pervasive sets of resources available to the educational community," says Brown.

The Beijing site, housed and managed by an IBM research team, is one of four similar research centers available to the academic community across the world.

"We're trying to create cloud resources that give us regional presence for the educational community to use as well as for the open development community," he says.

In addition to providing cutting-edge resources to university environments, IBM is helping students gain new skills native to IBM platforms, including Big Data, the Power system and analytics. That in turn will give the company an opportunity to harness the skills of the next generation, on a global scale.

What Do Today's Higher Ed Researchers Need?

Field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) are among the most highly requested hardware that higher ed researchers ask for access to, along with dedicated graphics processing units (GPUs), according to Brown.

"I'm repeatedly being asked, ‘How do we get access to those kinds of systems?’" he says. "And SuperVessel has these systems integrated, giving them access to that kind of infrastructure."

Along with FPGAs and GPUs, another request among researchers is access to open software environments, which allow developers to create software without having to own or build the infrastructure themselves.

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