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IBM Offers Free Cloud Computing To North Carolina Students

The program is an expansion of IBM's Virtual Computing Lab, a 2-year-old, on-demand computing platform powered by donated IBM BladeCenter servers and software.

IBM and North Carolina State University announced Friday that they're making free software services and computing power available to students at schools throughout the state. They're also using the trendiest buzzword in IT these days, calling the offering a "cloud."

The cloud offering is actually an expansion of what to date they've called the Virtual Computing Lab (VCL), a 2-year-old, on-demand computing platform powered by donated IBM BladeCenter servers and software, and developed in partnership with North Carolina State. VCL has primarily served the university's students and faculty, but the partners are now opening it up to students at grade schools and colleges across the state.

Students with a broadband connection will have access to free educational materials, select software applications, computer power, and online storage, IBM said.

North Carolina State also is making the code used to develop VCL free through the Apache open source community, for organizations that might want to use it to build similar "clouds." The university and IBM also announced the opening of a new research center on campus -- named, not surprisingly, the Cloud Computing Center of Excellence -- to support further collaboration between the two on the VCL concept for education. IBM's BladeCenter development teams are based in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina.

Free online applications for grade-school kids include Disney's MathQuest for building math skills. At the high end of the education scale, students will have access to educational materials on such topics as mainframe computing and service-oriented architectures.

The educational content is projected through the virtual lab as images. When a user's session is over, her "virtual space," which had been running on one or more blade servers, is wiped clean and added back to the resource pool, IBM explained.

To further understand how IBM and other companies large and small are approaching cloud computing, InformationWeek has published an independent report on the subject. Download the report here (registration required).

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