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Ulster Professor Develops Cloud Computing Links with Middle East

13 November 2012

The provision of and demand for Cloud Computing services is opening up exciting new business opportunities around the world, a University of Ulster academic has claimed.

Following a visit to the United Arab Emirates, Coleraine campus based Telecommunications Engineering Professor Gerard Parr said the market was rapidly expanding as computer users sought lower costs and the minimum overheads.

Professor Parr explained: "Essentially,CloudComputing,which isalso known as UtilityComputing,is a ‘pay-as-you-go’ model for outsourced computing resources where the headaches and costs or purchasing and maintaining expensive equipment are reducedor removed completelyfrom the user.

“Everything,from dealing withwhich hardwareand applications to purchase, ongoing software license upgrades and local technical support is handed over toa Cloud Service Providerto help release existing staff to get on with more value-add rolls.

“Eventuallymany non-sensitiveapplications, including processing and storage of data will be outsourced, taking away concerns about processing or storage capability of your home or business computer. All you willneed will be a method for datainput,ascreenfor visualisation and viewingand peripherals for audio and local print."

Cloud computing is revolutionisingthe wayInformation & Communications Technology(ICT)resourcesaremade availableand will benefitindividuals, small businesses, large companies and government agencies.

Forrester Research predicted last year that themarket forCloud Services will reachabout $55 billion by 2014, growing toaround $241 billion by 2020.With tracker agencies such as Bloombergpredictingeven highergrowth rates, themarket and opportunitiesfor Cloud Computing arehuge, said Professor Parr.

The Coleraine based academic recentlygave a keynote address to an internationalaudience of academicsandICT professionals at‘Beyond theCloud’,an eventorganised byEtisalat-BT Innovation Centre (EBTIC) and hosted at KhalifaUniversity of Science and Technologyin Abu Dhabi.

The UAE is seen as a region of strategic interest for the Northern Ireland Economy as evidenced by the recent visit of the First and Deputy First Ministersand EnterpriseMinster Arlene Foster to the region withInvest NI.Manufacturing exports from Northern Ireland to UAE were £102 million for year ending March 2012.

Professor Parr and colleaguesinthe School of Computing and Information Engineering, including Professors SallyMcClean, BryanScotneyand Dr Phillip Morrow, are alsoinvolved inmulti-millioninternational research projects with academia andbusinesspartners in the UK,India, Irelandandthe MiddleEast.

Other new initiatives are under development withtheUSA and China.University of Ulster research in Cloud-relatedprojectsinclude:
WirelessSensorsNetworks Management Frameworks for Future Connected Cities; Energy-aware protocols for routing and data centre management; Large scale distributed data mining and the handling big data sets; Imaging and gaming in theCloud; Resource discovery, allocation and management protocols forCloudservices;and Mobile access to on-demandCloudservices

Other exciting initiatives are underwayto utilise and leverage the KELVIN Trans-Atlantic Fibre Interconnector which came ashoreatPortrushto support international research.Professor Parr said people are usingCloudtechnology everydaywithoutevenrealising it.

“Cloud-based ways of accessingsoftwareandinfrastructure are already well established, and changing the way people use applications, especially where the application is accessible from multiple users using devices such asiPads, tablet PCs and in-car systemsacross the Internet," he observed.

“Every timewesend messages by email or mobile phone, access Google,make an onlinepurchase on eBay or Amazon, or purchase an on-line movieweare usingvarious forms of Cloudtechnology. Mostpeoplehave no idea of (nor do they care) how the information they are accessing is being sent or storedso long as it arrives intactandontime,” he said.

“Cloudcomputing has many advantages for all users including:greater flexibility in the choice of products and services, near ready access to scalable resources,reduced total cost of ownershipand local technical support available 24/7.

“It willmakeIT resources effortlessly and almost invisibly available to the end user whodoesn’t haveto worry about how it all works.Ultimately, the most important thing for most people is that their data is processed in an efficient and secure way and is accessible when neededat an affordable price.”

Greater connectivelyisundoubtedlygood news for consumers who will benefit from more choice at lesscostbutthere are many challenges facing the research community,not least how todesign the systems for fault-tolerance and scalability, manage and store the information in anefficientmanner and ensure the systems and networks aresecure, andoperate in an energy-aware manner.

Professor Parr continued:“We’re living in a digitally connected global community where informationis collected and processed 24/7.

"Forexample, sensors in river banksare monitoringwaterflow and quality; sensors embedded in road, rail and utility networks are producing all kinds of data about usage and potential faults; and CCTV cameras are continually collecting images. This information has to be stored, processed and be accessible on demand.

“The rise of interests and projects fordesigns and initiatives aroundConnected Digital Cities and Future Connected Digital Communities is gathering pace around the world and we seek to connect and manage all types of devices in businesses and homes and the environment.Belfast’s recently awarded Super-City project is one such example and others include Singapore."

Another aspectof Ulster’sTelecommunications research istodevelopa 'Green ICT' strategy improve overall efficiency of data centres around the world.

“DataCentres arehuge buildings housingmultiple high capacitycomputer serverswhichsupport application requests from clients like Google,eBay, Amazon,Microsoft,BBCiPlayer,and Youtube.Techniques are required to provide for efficient power-aware computation,storageand content delivery," added Professor Parr.

“Servers are rarely used to full capacity because of the effects of increased workload on their temperature, subsequent air conditioning demands and additional power cost overheads and intelligent techniques are required to perform predictive load balancing, replication and resource management. These are all areas of research that are taking place at Coleraine.”

In the last Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), Computer Science research at Ulster was ranked 15th out of 81 UK universities in terms of research power. The submission of 41 staff was the 8th largest in the UK, with 55% of the submission judged to be world-leading or internationally excellent, and 90% internationally recognised.