A new pilot project from the IBM Canada Center for Advanced Studies in Toronto (CAS Toronto) and the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) is providing Ontario research institutions cloud-based access to IBM software development tools.
The Tools as a Service (TaaS) project consists of two commercially-available IBM products – WebSphere Integration Developer and Rational Software Architect over the Internet – delivered on the Centre of Excellence for Research in Adaptive Systems (CERAS) cloud computing infrastructure.
CERAS is a research partnership between CAS Toronto, OCE and eight universities to advance development of next-gen software services and applications. TaaS was developed by the IBM Center for Advanced Studies’ Technology Incubation Lab (CAS TIL) to validate CERAS research results and showcase a potentially commercialized offering, explained Joanna Ng, program director of CAS Toronto.
CAS Toronto and CAS TIL are both hosted at the IBM Toronto Software Lab.
TaaS is a win-win proposition for IBM and the universities involved, said John Sloan, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group. Students and faculty get access to these tools far more cheaply because they don’t have to build out workstations and servers to host them, while IBM sees a class of developing computer science and software architects using their platform, Sloan explained.
The IBM products included in TaaS are already familiar to computer science departments, according to York University computer science professor Dr. Marin Litoiu. Accessing them through the cloud, however, provides several benefits.
“IBM gives these tools for free to universities, provided you download and install them. It’s a very time consuming process and most of the time, it fails,” said Litoiu. “When you move to cloud computing, first of all, you don’t need to install them.”
“The second thing is that these tools need a lot of computing resources, storage resources, which you usually don’t have in a university environment. You have to find specific labs where you install them, because otherwise they don’t work,” Litoiu continued. You don’t need special labs for cloud computing, he pointed out.
“Third, IBM provides them to be used on campus only, so you have to install them in a lab and students have to go in the lab to use them,” Litoiu said. The most important aspect of cloud-based tools – from the student point of view – is the ability to access them anytime and anywhere, which means students can use them from home, he said.
TaaS is also a valuable collaboration tool for researchers, Litoiu pointed out. “It allows people to develop applications together because they use the same type of tools and work on the same type of data. It is easier to share a common project between many universities,” he said.