RealTime IT News

HP, Intel, Yahoo Team on Cloud Computing Labs

Yahoo, Intel, HP cloud computing research
Is there gold in them thar clouds? Yahoo, Intel and HP seem to think so.

The trio of tech titans announced an ambitious research initiative today focused on studying the software, hardware and datacenter management issues surrounding cloud computing. The group's new Cloud Computing Test Bed is aimed at creating a large, globally distributed testing environment that they hope will encourage unprecedented levels of research.

Companies from Amazon to Google, IBM and Salesforce.com already offer some cloud computing services, but Prith Banerjee, senior vice president of research at HP and director of HP Labs, said a larger effort is needed.

"It requires an entirely new approach to the way we manage, and deploy cloud computing," he said in a conference call with reporters.

Banerjee also said the participation of HP Labs fit with the group's renewed commitment to focus more on projects that have a clear commercial payoff.

Other partners for the test bed include Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Germany's Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). The partnership with the University of Illinois also includes a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The test bed will initially consist of six locations at IDA, the University of Illinois, the Steinbuch Centre for Computing at KIT, HP Labs, Intel Research and Yahoo.

The companies said each location will host a cloud computing infrastructure, with HP and Intel providing the hardware and processors. Each center will have 1,000 to 4,000 processor cores.

All six locations are expected to become fully operational later this year, when they'll also become available to researchers through a worldwide selection process.

"We really need to think of this beyond the physical hardware layer," said Prabhakar Raghavan, head of Yahoo Research. "It's about what exciting applications you can build once you take the cloud for granted. What if a utility was always available at any location or scale we want?"

Gartner analyst David Mitchell Smith said the research effort could potentially pay off by providing companies and organizations with ways to use cloud services to offload the huge cost of buying and maintaining datacenters.

"People are starting to imagine the cloud on that scale -- it's not pie in the sky anymore," Smith told Internetnews.com.

Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) Research Director Andrew Chien said the scale of project will help to expose what works and what needs more research. "It's one thing to do things at a test tube level, it's another to operate at a much larger scale with network effects and contention," he said.

Cloud computing research on a large scale is far from new. Last year, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) also announced a joint project in conjunction with several universities. When asked why Intel and its partners didn't simply join that effort, Chien said he thought his group's effort is both complementary and different than the Google/IBM project.

"What we're trying to do is support research in a variety of levels and novel hardware features Intel has been able to add in silicon," he said. "We'll allow people to run a fairly low level of customized software."

Gartner's Smith said the reason Yahoo, Intel and HP are going their own way is simple: "They're competitors."

Additionally, he doesn't think a broader collaboration of competitors is likely in the near future.

"I wouldn't expect one unifying 'cloud' vision anytime soon," he said. "You'll see different definitions by different vendors."