IBM and Qatari universities launch into cloud computing

IBM and three Qatari universities have announced an initiative to drive the use of cloud computing for research in the Middle East

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By  Mark Sutton in Doha Published  January 27, 2009

The Qatar Cloud Computing Initiative, which is being led by Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, Qatar University and Texas A&M University at Qatar, will aim to develop cloud computing technology, and provide a platform for local organizations to test applications in the cloud.

The project, announced today in Doha, is part of series of initiatives IBM is undertaking with six universities around the world, to use the cloud computing model, to enable academic research projects that require a large amount of computing power. By sharing resources through a cloud model, academic institutions can make better use of existing resources, and access more powerful resources for data intensive projects, in a more cost effective manner than by deploying their own infrastructure or outsourcing processing.

Dr. Majd F Sakr, Associate Teaching Professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar commented: “We are very excited to be working with IBM on creating the first cloud computing platform in the Middle East. This will help us realize our vision of developing, evaluating and extending a cloud computing infrastructure in Qatar to target regional applications and projects to help advance research.”

The initial cloud, which was deployed by IBM and Carnegie Mellon, is hosted at the university's Doha campus. Using IBM Blue Cloud Solutions, the deployment has 112 nodes and 7TB of storage overall.

The cloud will be used to develop cloud computing applications on the Hadoop platform and to develop a cloud computing curriculum students. Students of all three universities will also have access to its computing power for academic projects, and the cloud will also run pilot application projects for oil and gas exploration and production and Arabic language web search.

Takreem El-Tohamy, general manager of IBM Middle East & North Africa said: “This will be a nucleus for the cloud for Qatar, This will help academic activities in the country and the region, by bringing universities together; and we are counting on it being a catalyst to drive government agencies, and the private sector to join the cloud and benefit from the research they are doing in this field.”

Initially the three universities will share access to the single cloud at Carnegie Mellon, but will aim to integrate the computing centres at Qatar University and Texas A&M, including the Texas A&M High Performance Computing Centre into the cloud in the second phase.

Going forward, the initiative may also look to include the resources of Qatar Science and Technology Park, and other interested organizations in the country. The project will also look at how cloud computing can be made available on a commercial basis.

Professor Qutaibah Malluhi of Qatar University said that the cloud initiative will also help existing research projects, such as its recently announced wireless innovation centre, which will be able to begin using the cloud to process data before it has built out its own IT infrastructure.

The other university projects that IBM announced today include a project with Pretoria University to use cloud computing for advanced medical research, a project with seven universities in East Africa to provide cost effective computing to labs to students, and cloud computing research with the Kyushu University in Japan.

Dr. Willy Chui, Vice President of IBM Cloud Labs said: “For decades, clients have turned to IBM to integrate new technologies and computing paradigms into their operations. We're thrilled to be a part of projects like these that not only make organizations more efficient, but more the needle forward.”

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