A team of York researchers are developing technology to allow academics and industrialists to make better use of computer systems based on the cloud.
In October, the University’s Department of Computer Science will launch youShare (www.youshare.ac.uk), a pilot system designed to provide all academics with easy access to data and software via the internet.
The revolutionary concept of cloud computing provides businesses, universities and other organisations with a means of increasing capacity or adding capabilities without the need to increase infrastructure or license new software. Cloud providers deliver applications via the internet which are accessed by a web browser, with business software and data being stored in servers at a remote location.
Research into cloud computing at York, led by Professor Jim Austin from the University’s Department of Computer Science, is fundamentally based on 25 years of work into the analysis of large and complex data using neural networks and other pattern recognition methods. To carry out this analysis, researchers require access to large computers and data storage, which led the York team to start to use web based technologies ten years ago.
Initially this was carried out with Rolls-Royce within the DAME project, which involved developing internet based prognostic and diagnostic systems for aero-engines. As part of this project, the team built a demonstration system that showed how users could analyse data from aircraft quickly and effectively using shared computers and the internet. This allowed Rolls-Royce to act on the data from engines far more quickly than before.
The work widened in the CARMEN project (www.carmen.org.uk) to allow neuroscientists to share electrophysiology data and software from their experiments, cutting costs and improving re-use of experimental data.
Professor Austin says, “The challenge has been to enable users to make better use of shared computing and storage – the cloud. Instead of using your personal computer the aim is to encourage the use of shared computers, to save cost and energy by cutting carbon, and to allow more effective sharing of both software and hardware.
“By accessing the data and software on a remote machine users can be sure it works, rather than hoping it will run on their own machine.”
CARMEN has a growing user base of over 150 users and is supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) for another three years.
The work carried out through the CARMEN and DAME projects has encouraged the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to fund the team at York to develop the pilot system youShare. This gives easy access to other researchers’ software and data via the internet, along with the computers and data storage to run them on.
Professor Austin says, “There is a growing trend towards shared services illustrated by the research councils’ insistence to show that existing computers cannot be used before buying new ones on grants. The advantage of youShare is that it’s simple to use, allowing all scientists to make use of this valuable capability.
“To support the youShare platform we have a large computer and data storage system at the University. This will link into the academic cloud under development by HEFCE, JISC and JANET at a national scale by mid next year.”
In recognition of the team’s work, York has been shortlisted for the Times Higher Education outstanding research team. The team is also closely involved in a spin-off company, Cybula ltd. which takes research through to market. The company has operated for over 10 years and customers include Bombardier Transportation, Doosan Babcock and Rolls Royce.
You can find out more about the work of the Advanced Computer Architectures research group at http://www.cs.york.ac.uk/research/research-groups/aca/