Massachusetts launches open cloud to spur big data R&D

Massachusetts has teamed up with Boston-area research universities and several high tech firms to set up an open-cloud framework, which the participants hope will become a regional hub for big data research and innovation across the Commonwealth.

Unlike existing proprietary public clouds, where all of the technology is controlled by a single entity, the goal of the Massachusetts Open Cloud (MOC) is to establish a marketplace where hardware capacity, software and services can be supplied, purchased and resold by many participants. 

Analysis of massive data sets such as those targeted by the Commonwealth’s Big Data Initiative will be a primary focus of the MOC, which is being hosted at the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke, Mass.

The research and computing facility is a joint venture funded by Massachusetts, private industry (including Cisco Systems) and five of the state's most research-intensive universities: Boston University, Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern and University of Massachusetts. The MOC is expected to improve the Commonwealth’s computational infrastructure and help transform cloud computing and big data analysis into a thriving, locally hosted industries, officials said.

The universities are working with industry on the open-cloud technology, which is based on OpenStack and Red Hat cloud technology. The MOC will provide a range of services, including infrastructure as a service, which offers on-demand access to virtual machines, as well as application development and big data platform services via the cloud.

The open-cloud project aims to remove barriers that small, innovative companies face in trying to enter markets. Offering these firms a cloud platform for developing their technology will save them time and money, Orran Kriegar, a research professor in the Department of Computer Science at Boston University, said during an interview.  

Besides using cloud and big data resources, small startups can also provide hardware or software services through the MOC, exposing their technology to a large community of users and deriving revenue from it, he said.

Officials intend for MOC to differentiate itself from existing clouds by allowing multiple entities to provide, rather than just consume, computing resources and services on a level playing field. 

Each participant that provides a service will be responsible for operating that service and determining the rate users are charged, they said. The MOC will also be responsible for managing the shared services of the cloud and for collecting charges, along with a small overhead to pay for MOC operations. 

Several projects are now under way using the open cloud, including the deployment of a test cloud by Boston University’s Engineering Department for department-scale user testing as well as the development of a user interface for the marketplace. 

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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