News Release

Ulster Professor Develops Cloud Computing Links with Middle East

13th November 2012

The provision of and demand for Cloud Computing services is opening up exciting new business opportunities around the world, a University of Ulster academic has claimed. 

Following a visit to the United Arab Emirates, Coleraine campus based Telecommunications Engineering Professor Gerard Parr said the market was rapidly expanding as computer users sought lower costs and the minimum overheads.

Professor Parr explained: "Essentially, Cloud Computing, which is also known as Utility Computing, is a ‘pay-as-you-go’ model for outsourced computing resources where the headaches and costs or purchasing and maintaining expensive equipment are reduced or removed completely from the user. 

“Everything, from dealing with which hardware and applications to purchase, ongoing software license upgrades and local technical support is handed over to a Cloud Service Provider to help release existing  staff to get on with more value-add rolls.

“Eventually many non-sensitive applications, including processing and storage of data will be outsourced, taking away concerns about processing or storage capability of your home or business computer. All you will need will be a method for data input, a screen for visualisation and viewing and peripherals for audio and local print." 

Cloud computing is revolutionising the way Information & Communications Technology (ICT) resources are made available and will benefit individuals, small businesses, large companies and government agencies. 

Forrester Research predicted last year that the market for Cloud Services will reach about $55 billion by 2014, growing to around $241 billion by 2020. With tracker agencies such as Bloomberg predicting even higher growth rates, the market and opportunities for Cloud Computing are huge, said Professor Parr. 

The Coleraine based academic recently gave a keynote address to an international audience of academics and ICT professionals at ‘Beyond the Cloud’, an event organised by Etisalat-BT Innovation Centre (EBTIC) and hosted at Khalifa University of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi. 

The UAE is seen as a region of strategic interest for the Northern Ireland Economy as evidenced by the recent visit of the First and Deputy First Ministers and Enterprise Minster Arlene Foster to the region with Invest NI. Manufacturing exports from Northern Ireland to UAE were £102 million for year ending March 2012. 

Professor Parr and colleagues in the School of Computing and Information Engineering, including Professors Sally McClean, Bryan Scotney and Dr Phillip Morrow, are also involved in multi-million international research projects with academia and business partners in the UK, India, Ireland and the Middle East.  

Other new initiatives are under development with the USA and China. University of Ulster research in Cloud-related projects include: 
Wireless Sensors Networks Management Frameworks for Future Connected Cities; Energy-aware protocols for routing and data centre management; Large scale distributed data mining and the handling big data sets; Imaging and gaming in the Cloud; Resource discovery, allocation and management protocols for Cloud services; and Mobile access to on-demand Cloud services 

Other exciting initiatives are underway to utilise and leverage the KELVIN Trans-Atlantic Fibre Interconnector which came ashore at Portrush to support international research. Professor Parr said people are using Cloud technology everyday without even realising it. 

“Cloud-based ways of accessing software and infrastructure are already well established, and changing the way people use applications, especially where the application is accessible from multiple users using devices such as iPads, tablet PCs and in-car systems across the Internet," he observed. 

“Every time we send messages by email or mobile phone, access Google, make an online purchase on eBay or Amazon, or purchase an on-line movie we are using various forms of Cloud technology. Most people have no idea of  (nor do they care)  how the information they are accessing is being sent or stored so long as it arrives intact and on time,” he said.

“Cloud computing has many advantages for all users including: greater flexibility in the choice of products and services, near ready access to scalable resources, reduced total cost of ownership and local technical support available 24/7.

“It will make IT resources effortlessly and almost invisibly available to the end user who doesn’t have to worry about how it all works. Ultimately, the most important thing for most people is that their data is processed in an efficient and secure way and is accessible when needed at an affordable price.”

Greater connectively is undoubtedly good news for consumers who will benefit from more choice at less cost but there are many challenges facing the research community, not least how to design the systems for fault-tolerance and scalability, manage and store the information in an efficient manner and ensure the systems and networks are secure, and operate in an energy-aware manner.

Professor Parr continued: “We’re living in a digitally connected global community where information is collected and processed 24/7.  

"For example, sensors in river banks are monitoring water flow and quality; sensors embedded in road, rail and utility networks are producing all kinds of data about usage and potential faults; and CCTV cameras are continually collecting images. This information has to be stored, processed and be accessible on demand.

“The rise of interests and projects for designs and initiatives around Connected Digital Cities and Future Connected Digital Communities is gathering pace around the world and we seek to connect and manage all types of devices in businesses and homes and the environment. Belfast’s recently awarded Super-City project is one such example and others include Singapore." 

Another aspect of Ulster’s Telecommunications research is to develop a 'Green ICT' strategy improve overall efficiency of data centres around the world. 

“Data Centres are huge buildings housing multiple high capacity computer servers which support application requests from clients like Google, eBay, Amazon, Microsoft, BBCiPlayer, and Youtube. Techniques are required to provide for efficient power-aware computation , storage and content delivery," added Professor Parr.

“Servers are rarely used to full capacity because of the effects of increased workload on their temperature, subsequent air conditioning demands and additional power cost overheads and intelligent techniques are required to perform predictive load balancing, replication and resource management. These are all areas of research that are taking place at Coleraine.” 

In the last Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), Computer Science research at Ulster was ranked 15th out of 81 UK universities in terms of research power. The submission of 41 staff was the 8th largest in the UK, with 55% of the submission judged to be world-leading or internationally excellent, and 90% internationally recognised. 

Caption: University of Ulster Telecommunications Engineering Professor, Gerard Parr Dr Mohammed Al Mualia, Senior Vice President for Research and Development & Interim Provost, Khalifa University of Science Technology and Research, Abu
Dhabi, UAE.

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