Yahoo Teams with Academia to Boost Cloud Computing

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2009-04-10

Yahoo Teams with Academia to Boost Cloud Computing

Yahoo has announced expanded partnerships with four U.S. universities to advance cloud computing research.

The four universities include the University of California at Berkeley, Cornell University and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, which will join Carnegie Mellon University in using Yahoo's cloud computing cluster to conduct large-scale systems software research and explore new applications that analyze Internet-scale data sets, ranging from voting records to online news sources, Yahoo officials said.

Yahoo and school officials said academic researchers have had limited access to Internet-scale supercomputers for conducting systems and applications research. To help alleviate this, Yahoo is granting these four universities access to the Yahoo cloud computing cluster. The Yahoo cluster, also known as M45, has been operational since November 2007 and in use by Carnegie Mellon. The cluster has approximately 4,000 processor-cores and 1.5 petabytes of disks.

"We have been using the Yahoo cluster for more than a year now and have made significant progress in a number of key research areas, resulting in the publication of more than two dozen academic papers," said Randal Bryant, dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon. "Our researchers were able to extract and process documents from the Web in a way that was not possible before, changing the way we think about research problems. We were also able to conduct research over a corpus of 200 million Web pages, processing two orders of magnitude more data. We conducted systems software research, comparing, for example, the performance of the Hadoop file system and other parallel file systems. The simultaneous access to applications and systems software has been a real benefit and we look forward to our continued partnership with Yahoo and joint contributions to the cloud computing community."

"Yahoo is dedicated to working with leading universities to solve some of the most critical computing challenges facing our industry," said Ron Brachman, vice president and head of Yahoo Academic Relations. "The ability to access and analyze massive data sets is becoming increasingly crucial to the advancement of Internet-related computer science and cross-disciplinary research. By expanding our university-facing cloud computing program to partner with more universities, we hope to catalyze data-intensive computing research, furthering our commitment to the global, collaborative research community advancing the new sciences of the Internet."

Processing Massive Amounts of Data


Yahoo's M45 cluster runs Hadoop, an open-source distributed file system and parallel execution environment that enables its users to process massive amounts of data. Apache Hadoop is an open-source project of the Apache Software Foundation, to which Yahoo engineers have been the primary contributors to date.

"Hadoop powers many of our most broadly used and complex systems at Yahoo, from Web search to optimizing content for the home page," said Shelton Shugar, senior vice president of cloud computing at Yahoo, in a statement. "Continuing to invest in the open-source community and in technologies like Hadoop is an important element in our efforts to drive breakthroughs in Internet-scale computing and ultimately to continually improve the quality of the consumer experience of Yahoo. By partnering with these top educational institutions to share our M45 cluster and our technical expertise, we hope to further key insights into the next generation of systems software research and development."

Shankar Sastry, dean of the College of Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, said: "Access to the cluster is a first step in helping us analyze the vast amounts of societal-scale information available on the Web, such as voting records, online news sources and polling data. The Yahoo cluster will also enable us to conduct computationally intensive econometrics research, combining economic theory with statistics to analyze and test large-scale economic relationships."

"Our partnership with Yahoo will enable us to attack problems ranging from wildlife preservation and biodiversity, to balancing socio-economic needs and the environment, to large-scale deployment and management of renewable energy sources," said Bob Constable, dean of the faculty of Computing and Information Science at Cornell University.

"Our vision is to improve upon current technology through the processing of large data sets," said Jim Kurose, dean of College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. "Yahoo's supercomputing cluster will enable us to do data-intensive research on a large set of scanned books drawn from the Internet Archive's million-book collection. The latter includes 8.5 terabytes of text and half a petabyte of scanned images. Research on such large datasets would not be possible without the use of clusters like the one Yahoo is offering us access to."

Partnership with these universities is the next step in expanding Yahoo's support for cloud-computing research, the company said. In July 2008, Yahoo joined forces with HP, Intel, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) in Singapore, and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany to create Open Cirrus, a global, multi-data center, open-source test bed for advancing cloud computing research and education. The partnership with Illinois also includes the National Science Foundation (NSF), creating a cloud computing cluster that is made available to the entire reach of the NSF academic community, Yahoo officials said. The international partnership promotes open collaboration among industry, academia and governments by removing the financial and logistical barriers to research in data-intensive, Internet-scale computing. As the Yahoo M45 cluster is part of the Open Cirrus cloud computing test bed, the above universities will also gain access to and be part of the Open Cirrus community. 

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