North Carolina State University and IBM Extend Access to Educational Resources through Cloud Computing

Author(s): NC State University and IBM
Date Published: 10/24/2008
North Carolina State University and IBM Extend Access to Educational Resources through Cloud Computing
NC State Expands Collaboration with IBM; Center of Excellence in Cloud Computing Opens

RALEIGH, N.C. – October 24, 2008 – North Carolina State University (NC State) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced plans to provide every student in North Carolina access to advanced educational resources through Virtual Computing Lab (VCL) technology, Through this cloud – a set of Internet computing resources – students at K-12 schools all the way to community colleges and the University of North Carolina system campuses across the state will have access to the most advanced educational computational materials, select software applications and computing and storage resources.

NC State also announced they have made the code for its VCL technology freely available through the Apache open source community, and is in discussions with a number of universities across the globe that wish to replicate this cloud computing model.

In support of this effort, the NC State Department of Computer Science, Office of Information Technology and IBM also announced creation of the Center of Excellence in Cloud Computing, an applied research and development facility on the NC State campus that that will spearhead collaboration projects between NC State and the IBM “Blue Cloud” development team, helping improve the quality of education provided through the VCL platform.

The VCL solution allows users to remotely access a desired set of applications and environments over the Internet – using a personal computer, laptop or mobile device – from anywhere, at any time. These applications, delivered via the cloud, can be delivered through a click of the mouse. To VCL users, even the most demanding software applications, operating systems and environments are easily accessible through license-honoring technology. Access is instant, and offers a range of options – from single desktops to classroom-sized labs, to collections of servers and other resources, to high-performance computing clusters.

“NC State and IBM are inviting universities worldwide to participate in the Virtual Computing Initiative,” said Jai Menon, vice president of IBM University Programs and vice chair of the IBM Academy of Technology. “Through this collaboration, universities which participate in this program have a tremendous opportunity to not only further enable their own students, but to also improve the lives of students in economically disadvantaged parts of the country and the world. The VCL technology is a conduit that can greatly enhance students’ education, self confidence and overall quality of life.”

“We are excited to partner with IBM to offer schools across North Carolina access to the academic resources of the NC State Virtual Computing Lab. The VCL has the promise and track record to allow for improvements in wide ranging activities from enhanced teaching and learning to improved business continuity,” said Dr. Marc Hoit, vice chancellor for information technology and CIO of North Carolina State University. “Collaboration, partnership across educational and industrial entities, and shared innovation are hallmarks of NC State’s approach and mission, so the cloud computing and open source technology is a perfect fit.”

Using VCL, university and community college students can access high-end applications such as SolidWorks, MatLab and SAS, as well as complex networking simulators, mainframe computing facilities running IBM System z, and specialized IBM’s Cell microprocessors to learn, for example, about Service Oriented Architectures and IT Management.

Through the same system elementary school students can access content appropriate for their advancement. For example, “Alice” — an innovative educational software environment with 3D animation and story-telling – and Disney’s MathQuest grade school software, that helps build essential math skills, including addition, subtraction, estimating, sorting and understanding patterns, all through participating in virtual mazes and expeditions.

The content is projected through the VCL images, which consist of an operating system and set of prepackaged applications, middleware or other material that is securely stored in the cloud. Once a session is over and the user has saved the data they want to keep, that user’s “virtual space”, which had been running on blade servers with hypervisors, is wiped clean. This enables the computing resources to be re-provisioned by other users as needed. This cloud computing solution at NC State consists primarily of a pool of IBM BladeCenter servers, plus storage and software that can be shared by geographically distributed users.

With the creation of the Center of Excellence in Cloud Computing, NC State hopes to lead the way in applying cloud computing technology to the betterment of the quality of education for students in North Carolina, as well as around the world. The center will serve as a focal point for the many ongoing cloud computing research projects being conducted at NC State and other local universities, including the open source Apache project.

“We are excited that has accepted the Virtual Computing Lab as one of its open source projects,” said Dr. Louis Martin-Vega, dean of the College of Engineering at NC State. “As part of this prominent open source community, the VCL will continue to add to the development of open source computing and improve access to high-performance computing power across the state.”

IBM and NC State collaborated to establish the VCL in 2004. Since then – along with several other corporations and active support from NC State, the University of North Carolina General Administration and state legislature – IBM has also assisted in expanding the VCL with technical support from IBM BladeCenter development teams in Research Triangle Park (RTP), North Carolina, as well as through sustained funding from the IBM RTP Center for Advanced Studies (CAS) and IBM corporate university relations.

The IBM WebSphere Technology Institute also assisted NC State in launching the VCL Apache incubator project. Through support from RTP CAS and the Academic Initiative, the VCL allows North Carolina faculty to create and deliver advanced educational material in support of programs that are preparing their students for the 21st century workforce. Through fellowships, grants and technical collaborations, IBM is supporting local faculty who are applying VCL in support of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) outreach programs to North Carolina K-12 students and teachers.

As part of its Cloud Computing Initiative, IBM has built 13 cloud computing centers around the world, many of which partner with universities and other organizations. For example, in addition to working with NC State, IBM is working with Google to help university students gain the skills to program cloud applications, and there are academic collaborations with Georgia Institute of Technology and Ohio State University to develop new autonomic technology for cloud computing.

IBM and NC State will be showcasing the VCL capabilities at Educause 2008 in Orlando, Florida, October 28-31, and at Supercomputing 2008 in Austin, Texas, November 15-21, 2008.

Schools can download the VCL appliance at, or for more information on how to join the Virtual Computing Initiative, please visit or

For more information on IBM Cloud Computing, please visit

# # #

Media Contacts:

Hanna Smigala
(914) 766-4439
Tim Willeford

Nate DeGraff
NC State University
(919) 515-3848