IBM today announced it is contributing a multi-million dollar private cloud to a consortium of post-secondary institutions in Nova Scotia.

The system, the first of its kind in Atlantic Canada, will form a shared computing platform enabling the schools to together create new curriculum and conduct research, all aimed at better equipping graduates with high-demand analytics skills to drive Nova Scotia’s economy.

The system, operational in early 2014, is being hosted at Dalhousie University but will also be accessible through a simple, single log-on process to 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. 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,” says Michael Shepherd, dean of the Faculty of Computer Science at Dalhousie University.

The cloud platform, based on IBM Flex System and IBM Storwize hardware, will run the Apache Software Foundation Virtual Computing Lab (VCL) software, providing each school with scalable on-demand access to servers, storage, applications and services.  This open source cloud platform is designed specifically for the education and research community and will also include access to a wide range of IBM analytics software products.

“Cloud is now providing incredible opportunities for collaborative research across Canada,” says 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 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. This need is being fueled by the explosion of Big Data — the 2.5 quintillion bytes of information generated daily from a growing list of sources such as smartphones, social networks, instrumentation, GPS, audio or video files, emails and sensors. New insights are found when analyzing these data types together.

IBM’s contribution of this cloud infrastructure is part of a November, 2012 agreement between IBM, 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 services delivery centre in the province and create up to 500 new highly skilled jobs by 2020.

The technology contribution is under the auspices of two IBM programs which facilitate collaboration with educators to teach students the information technology skills they need to be competitive and keep pace with changes in the workplace. IBM’s Shared University Research and the Academic Initiatives programs provide hardware and access to analytics software, curriculum materials, case study projects and IBM data scientists and other researchers.


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