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Research project to investigate cloud computing technologies

Computer lab

Aston is involved in a £1.2m research project which is set to investigate the possibilities of next generation ‘cloud’ technologies for large-scale, complex IT systems.

Engineers from the Computer Science Group are collaborating with the University of Bristol and University of St Andrews to evaluate ‘cloud computing’ and associated technologies, and their relevance to SME’s and large organisations in the future.

‘Cloud computing’ allows individual users and companies to gain access to computing infrastructure, platforms and software applications on demand, via a ‘utility’ service similar to accessing the electricity grid.

This new service, accessed via the Internet, allows information to be stored and processed in a ‘cloud’ by remote and very-large-scale date centres, with individuals and organisations then able to access resources to suit their own particular business requirements.

Aston's researchers will be creating maths-based models to explore the dependability, resilience and performance levels of these new large-scale IT ‘clouds’. They will be developing theory and methods to assess reliability and service quality, and simple ‘toolkits’ for business users to easily assess future needs.

Pricing, resources, service speed and social, environmental and technical implications of developing cloud technologies will also be examined across the research teams at the three UK universities.  

Dr Radu Calinescu, Lecturer in Computing, said; 'One vision is to see ‘cloud computing’ as the next major utility service such as gas and electricity, with perhaps a small number of very large companies providing this service on-line and on-demand  to a mix of individual and business users.'

He added; 'The ability to run applications using remote ‘cloud’ resources could significantly reduce equipment and running costs for SME’s. The clouds offer unprecedented, cost-effective flexibility, allowing individual businesses to vary the amount of compute power and data storage they use in line with fluctuating workloads – potentially by many orders of magnitude. This ability to scale resources up as well as down virtually instantaneously will put an end to the expensive practice of provisioning for peak demand.'

The three-year project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Words by Alex Earnshaw

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