University researchers from around the country today received nearly $5 million from the National Science Foundation to help them run their high-performance projects on the Google-IBMCloud Computing University Initiative infrastructure. Among the 14 universities receiving funds are leading research institutions like Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California, San Diego; MIT, Yale and the University of Wisconsin received funding for a joint project. Apart from advancing the back and forth between Google-IBM and Yahoo around university partnerships, this funding further illustrates the potential applications of cloud computing and web-scale architectures.
For the universities involved, these partnerships are not rooted in cloud one-upmanship, but in invaluable experience. Partnering with companies like Yahoo and Google not only gives students and researchers access to the companies’ cloud infrastructures, it also gives them valuable experience developing massively parallel applications at a scale untouchable by in-house clusters. The projects receiving grants today run the gamut from web search to oceanography to cross-cultural machine translation.
Last month, I suggested that in order to differentiate itself from the likes of Google and Amazon, Yahoo should focus its cloud computing strategy around research. However, today’s NSF funding makes it clear that Google is serious about its university presence, too, and Yahoo might not be able to distinguish itself in the cloud space simply by fostering strong bonds with academia. At this point, there even is overlap in the partnerships: the NSF is working with both companies, and Carnegie Mellon and UMass each have projects running on both clouds.