Information Trust Institute block of abstract images
Information Trust Institute block of abstract images

ACC Offering a New Short Course on Cloud Computing

The Assured Cloud Computing (ACC) Center in ITI has developed an overview short course on the topic of cloud computing. In July, the one-week course was presented for the first time at the Griffiss Institute in Rome, New York. The course leaders hope to offer it repeatedly in the coming months, and may develop an online version.

The NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) identifies "cloud computing" as "a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction." Cloud computing is rapidly gaining momentum in the IT industry because of its numerous potential benefits. For example, storing of data at multiple remote sites offers reliability and security advantages, and costs to businesses may be dramatically reduced if they can purchase use of third-party computing resources instead of buying, setting up, and maintaining their own equipment.

The idea of creating a cloud computing short course sprang up earlier this year, when ACC director and computer science professor Roy H. Campbell was co-teaching (alongside electrical & computer engineering professor Yi Lu) a regular, full-semester University of Illinois course on cloud computing.

As the class progressed, Campbell and the course's graduate student assistant, Reza Farivar, began to reflect that professional engineers and managers might benefit from an abridged version of the class. After all, cloud computing is a hot topic, but is still only vaguely understood by many professionals who need to work with such systems--or should be considering doing so.

"We discussed the possibility of condensing the more practical parts of that course, minus the theoretic contents, into a short course," explains Farivar. Campbell specifically thought that the Air Force Research Laboratory, along with an associated collaborative research entity, the Griffiss Institute for Information Assurance, might have an immediate interest in such a course.

When those institutions indeed responded positively, Farivar and Campbell proceeded to develop a one-week short course that included both lectures and hands-on laboratories. The course's main objectives were to introduce some of the major developments in cloud computing; to show students how to re-think batch processing computational problems to fit the MapReduce programming paradigm (which is crucial for cloud computing); to teach students how to develop cloud-based, real-time streaming computations and, through hands-on experience in labs, to reinforce and deepen students' knowledge of the Hadoop (a popular open-source implementation of MapReduce from Apache) and Storm (an open-source cloud streaming engine from Twitter) frameworks.

Farivar presented the course in July 2012 to 22 students at the Griffiss Institute in Rome, New York. The attendees of the inaugural offering--who included both engineers and program managers--received certificates of completion. "We received positive feedback from the students taking the course. We had lively discussions on the topics covered in the lectures, team exercises and activities, and finally labs. They definitely enjoyed the programming labs," he says. "We are fine-tuning the course based on our summer experience. The Griffiss Institute has encouraged us to offer the course again in the fall, and we are looking forward to it."

Companies and other interested parties can obtain more information on the Cloud Computing short course by contacting Lynette Lubben, the project coordinator for the ACC Center, at llubbenatillinois [dot] edu.

The views and conclusions contained herein are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies or endorsements, either expressed or implied, of the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, or the U.S. Government.