Is Research Yahoo's Cloud Calling?

yahoo_research1Struggling to maintain relevancy in the shadows of web-giant brethren like Amazon (s amzn) and Google (s goog), Yahoo (s yhoo) has expanded its cloud computing research initiative. Initially available only to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, Yahoo’s 4,000-core, 1.5-petabytes-of-storage M45 cluster is now available to their counterparts at the University of California at Berkeley, Cornell University and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. If Yahoo can’t lead in consumer innovation, perhaps it can outpace the competition, and carve out a niche, at leading research institutions.

Giving university researchers access to Hadoop and a web-scale architecture serves two purposes for Yahoo. First, it associates Yahoo with the great, often altruistic, research being done by these researchers. Cornell, for example, cites everything from wildlife preservation to socio-economic balance as potential targets. Second, it familiarizes grad students with cloud computing, Yahoo-style. To the extent Yahoo wants to compete with the likes of Google in this arena, it has to groom a workforce that is up to the challenge. After all, Google has a similar program in partnership with IBM.

However, Yahoo has a deeper research presence than Google, as Yahoo also partners with HP (s hpq), Intel (s intc) and the University of Illinois, among others, on a globally distributed cloud testbed for research and education.

When discussions arise over who is leading in the cloud computing space, Yahoo rarely enters the discussion (probably because it doesn’t have a cloud offering). However, between the work being done internally by Yahoo Research and these research-driven partnerships, Yahoo might make its name as a cloud thought leader. Sure, it’s not too profitable, but it’s plenty respectable.