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UHV professor to begin 'cloud computing' online lab

Nov. 13, 2010 at 5:13 a.m.

Li Chao

Li Chao

Cloud computing is all the rage in the technology industry, but it is in its infancy for real-world applications.

Now a University of Houston-Victoria professor is in the process of developing an online lab using cloud technology that could potentially result in saving time and money for the university and students.

UHV faculty member Li Chao, a professor of computer science and mathematics, has used a $7,000 grant he recently received from to develop an online lab with the new cloud technology.

"Cloud" refers to the delivery of IT infrastructure via the Internet, as opposed to through local networks.

"This can reduce the cost of technology," Chao said. "Universities, school districts and small businesses with limited technology budgets are all interested in how they can apply this."

Cloud computing is customizable because it allows users to run applications through the Internet rather than being in the presence of a single computer running software applications. In higher education, it would allow a student to access a lab without being on campus.

"Through this lab, we can learn about cloud computing, and students can access the lab on their own," he said. "We will see how it works, but there is huge potential savings when you consider space requirements, equipment and personnel costs of maintaining a computer lab."

A single application on a server could be run on hundreds, or even thousands, of remote computers, saving the institution money on equipment, maintenance and software licensing. The predictability of the platform is seen as a plus.

Chao said his grant purchased 70 virtual machines, which he will distribute to students for the online lab.

"So far, it seems pretty good. It runs much faster than we anticipated," he said of the cloud experiment. "Our students are getting good experience because they are learning what cloud computing is, and they will have worked in a cloud environment."

Cloud computing also could benefit students by saving them driving time, Chao said.

"If we set up labs online, these students can stay home and do their lab work," he said. "They'll be able to tap into it from anywhere there is an Internet connection."

Although the new technology still is being touted by early adopters, it is easy to see how cost savings would appeal to UHV, which delivers many of its courses online.



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