Rackspace and The University of Texas leverages powerful computational research and new discovery

I would not have easily identified deep synergies between a large cloud provider and an academic institution, but they clearly exist. Rackspace Hosting, and The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) have designed, built and deployed an advanced academic research software platform based upon OpenStack technologies.  This new computational power resource has been designed to revolutionize the way scientists and scholars use technology to accelerate their research efforts. Ok, this type of collaboration, clearly makes sense, but it would appear that the partnership goes a bit deeper than the obvious.

In 2011, The Austin Technology Incubator kicked-off its 3rd annual Student Entrepreneur Acceleration and Launch (SEAL) program, a two month accelerator for five select UT Austin student-led startups. The Rackspace Startup Program was invited to experience the early stage pitches from four of the five participating teams. The Rackspace Startup Program helps entrepreneurs with cloud technology and business connections through sponsorships. One of the participating startups, Vectralux, an optical transceiver vendor that enhances signal performance over multimode fiber, attracted Rackspace’s attention. According to a posting on the Rackspace Cloud Blog, there “could be a future for this device within Rackspace Hosting data centers”. Now I understand the rationale behind these types of collaboration.

Academic and scientific research typically involves the construction of mathematical and numerical models to solve scientific and engineering problems. Traditionally, these complicated and intensive computational models have been implemented on complex super computers or a high-performance computing (HPC) infrastructure with high maintenance demands. With cloud computing, researchers are freed from managing IT equipment and can put greater focus on their research initiatives.

Paul Rad, VP, Private Cloud Technology Alliance Program at Rackspace has this to say, We are pleased to have worked with UTSA to build them a hybrid cloud platform featuring Rackspace Private Cloud and public Open Cloud solutions to help them advance their efforts around research and academics. This solution will enable UTSA to run scientific computations and big-data such as bioinformatics, aircraft digital twins, energy exploration research, and digital human model & real-time surgical control on an open cloud solution”.

Rackspace is also providing a significant amount of training and development to UTSA, helping to drive adoption and effective use of the OpenStack powered private cloud. The ability for researchers and students to leverage this new platform allows for massive scale, flexibility and speed in research.

The hardware for this new scientific endeavor was provided by a grant through Rackspace co-founder and Chairman Graham Weston’s 80/20 Foundation, which provides grants to public charities centered on turning San Antonio into the next entrepreneurial hub, promoting technology skills for the jobs of tomorrow and giving San Antonio more urban options.

“The demands made by applications and the needs of computer users are constantly spiraling upward,” said Dr. Mo Jamshidi, chair, UTSA Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “We were challenged by the physical limitations of our computers and wanted to find a new computing plateau where we could have the freedom to explore the full potential of our research. Rackspace’s Hybrid Cloud has given us real computing freedom and made the technology itself even more useful.”

Image credit: (UTSA)

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