Massachusetts Invests In Big Data Innovation

State provides $3 million to launch Massachusetts Open Cloud Project, a university-industry partnership to build a new public cloud computing infrastructure for big data researchers, innovators.

Elena Malykhina, Technology Journalist

April 29, 2014

3 Min Read
The Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center facility

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The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is providing $3 million in funding to launch its Open Cloud project, a university-industry partnership to build a new public cloud computing infrastructure for big data innovation.

The investment will come from the Collaborative Research and Development Matching Grant Fund, created as part of the Economic Development Bill signed by Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick in August 2012. It will be matched by $16 million from industry partners and universities, Patrick said during last week's big data event at Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center, which will house the hardware platform for the project.

"Massachusetts Open Cloud will be a virtual laboratory to big data researchers and innovators in industry, academia, and government across the Commonwealth," Patrick said. "It will be a forum to experiment across our silos with solutions to big problems."

The Open Cloud project is backed by a number of large companies that include Cisco, EMC, SGI, Red Hat, Juniper, Dell, and Intel, among others. They will provide engineering and operational talent, equipment, financial support, and business guidance. On the academia side, Boston University is leading the overall project. Harvard University, MIT, Northeastern University, and University of Massachusetts are also part of the mix.

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According to a description on Boston University's website, the Massachusetts Open Cloud is a "new, transformative model for public clouds." It's an open, customizable approach to the design and operation of cloud computing. Instead of universities and researchers working independently or with a handful of vendors, Open Cloud participants can share ideas quickly with each other to try new approaches and come up with best practices by using open technology, Dave Egts, chief technologist for Red Hat's US Public Sector, said in an email.

"The Massachusetts Open Cloud lets new ideas and different workloads quickly blossom on a range of hardware and software in a transparent and flexible way. If this was implemented on any one particular vendor's public cloud, this consortium's innovation can only happen above the cloud layer provided to them," Egts said. "By including the underlying cloud hardware and software in the mix, they have choice from top to bottom, allowing them to tailor solutions to address a much more diverse set of workloads and solve problems faster."

The project is part of a larger Big Data Initiative, which Patrick announced in 2012 to accelerate Massachusetts' leadership in big data.

The global big data market is expected to reach $48 billion by 2017, up from $11.6 billion in 2012, according to the 2014 Mass Big Data Report, also released last week. Hardware and services will continue to account for the greatest share of revenue, but the fastest-growing sector is expected to be in big data-enabled applications. The need for big data applications in healthcare, life sciences, and financial services is prompting local firms to hire talent, seeking to fill as many as 3,000 big data-related jobs in Massachusetts over the next 12 months, the report found.

The report recommended various steps to help Massachusetts reach its big data goals, including strengthening opportunities for data science education and training, increasing regional talent retention and industry recruiting, and expanding access to open and public data.

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About the Author(s)

Elena Malykhina

Technology Journalist

Elena Malykhina began her career at The Wall Street Journal, and her writing has appeared in various news media outlets, including Scientific American, Newsday, and the Associated Press. For several years, she was the online editor at Brandweek and later Adweek, where she followed the world of advertising. Having earned the nickname of "gadget girl," she is excited to be writing about technology again for InformationWeek, where she worked in the past as an associate editor covering the mobile and wireless space. She now writes about the federal government and NASA’s space missions on occasion.

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