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Google and IBM push cluster computing on colleges

Program lends gear, curriculum to academia

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Google and IBM want their future employees to have large-scale cluster computing chops, so they're investing several million to get them while they're young. The companies are teaming up to promote the study in academia.

Their ambition is to lower the cost and logistics of collegial research on parallel computing — a technique that spreads computational tasks across many computers. Google and IBM hope to advocate the cause by offering the considerable gear necessary to universities remotely.

Students will access Google and IBM's new dedicated computer cluster through the internet to test their parallel programing course projects. Of course, once student brains are full and fat off the practice, the companies can swoop down with employment.

"In order to most effectively serve the long-term interests of our users," said Google CEO Eric Schmidt, "it is imperative that students are adequately equipped to harness the potential of modern computing systems and for researchers to be able to innovate ways to address emerging problems."

The two companies have already dedicated several hundred computers to the initiative — a mixture of Google's gear, IBM BladeCenter and System x servers — and plan to grow to more than 1,600 processors. The cluster runs on open source software, including Linux, Xen, Apache and the Google File System (GFS). Each company is spending between $20m-$25m on the program, The Wall Street Journal reports.

A small group of universities is piloting the program. Those currently involved are the University of Washington, Carnegie-Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, The University of California at Berkeley and the University of Maryland. Google and IBM will expand the program to include more researchers, educators and scientists.

"We're aiming to train tomorrow's programmers to write software that can support a tidal wave of global web growth and trillions of secure transactions every day," said IBM CEO Sam Palmisano.

Students using the cluster will have access to a Creative Commons licensed university curriculum developed by Google and the University of Washington. They will also have available open source software by IBM to develop programs for clusters running Hadoop. The software works with Eclipse, an open source development platform. ®

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