The cloud will be shared by seven institutions to create and share new curriculum around analytics

IBM Canada is giving a multi-million dollar private cloud to a consortium of seven post-secondary institutions in Nova Scotia for analytics-related studies, it was announced this morning.

The cloud will be shared by the schools to create new curriculum and conduct research around business analytics.

“It’s there to enable two types of collaboration,” Matthew Ivis, IBM Canada’s government program executive, said in an interview. “It will enable the institutions to collaborate and share new analytics curriculum across a number of domains — from marketing to health administration to energy and environment, mathematics and computer science — to help develop high value skills for the Nova Scotia economy. It will also be used for collaborative applied research in analytics.”

The system, which will be operational early next year is being hosted at Dalhousie University  and used by faculty and students at Acadia University, Cape Breton University, Mount Saint Vincent University, Nova Scotia Community College, Saint Mary’s University and St. Francis Xavier University.

“A collaboration involving seven post-secondary institutes in Nova Scotia is unprecedented in this region,” said Michael Shepard, dean of the faculty of computer science at Dalhousie. “The ability to share a common system among all schools enhances our ability to collaborate as educators and researchers. There are always benefits to working together and this shared infrastructure will really allow the consortium to leverage each institution’s unique programming, resulting in highly skilled students ready to enter the workforce.”

“Cloud is now providing incredible opportunities for collaborative research across Canada,” said Dan Fortin, president of IBM Canada. “This shared computing platform in Nova Scotia will support advanced research today, and will be used to build the much-needed analytics skills for tomorrow.”

The platform will be based on IBM’s Flex System chassis and will include Intel-based x3650M4 servers and x240 compute nodes, with a total of 144 cores. Each compute node will have 64 GB of memory. Storage will be built around IBM’s Storwize V3700 storage area network with 40 TB capacity.  Apache’s Virtual Computing Lab (VCL) software will be used for the cloud interface. Analytics software will come from IBM’s Cognos SPSS and Information Management brandsw.

Each school will have scalable on-demand access to servers, storage, applications and services.

The schools will use the system to deliver curriculum that reflects the mix of technical and problem-solving skills necessary to prepare students for high-demand careers in analytics, IBM said.

IBM’s contribution of this cloud infrastructure is part of  November, 2012 agreement between the company, the government of Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Business Inc. and the consortium of post-secondary education institutions to seed analytics skills in Nova Scotia, locate an IBM [NYSE: IBM] services delivery centre in the province and create up to 500 new highly skilled jobs by 2020.

It’s the second project IBM Canada has with higher education institutions. In April, 2012 it announced it would be part of a $210 million partnership with several Ontario universities and the federal government in a big data analytics research consortium. IBM’s share of that project, called the Southern Ontario Smart Computing and Innovation Platform (SOSCIP)  was valued at $175 million and includes its Blue Gene/Q supercomputer. Ottawa promised to put in up to $20 million while the province committed to putting in up to $15 million.

SOSCIP projects — which are available to small and mid-sized businesses — are focused on IT, health and urban infrastructure (such as water, energy and transportation). For example, the University of Toronto and Chematria Inc. are working on a tool to help predict leukemia inhibitors, while Western University and Novus Environmental Inc. are looking into integrating weather projections with city infrastructure to improve design of buildings and transportation networks.

 

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