ATLANTA - Georgia State University is poised to launch its first virtual computer lab, allowing students access to educational and research resources 24 hours a day.
As one of the first higher education institutions worldwide to join IBM's Cloud Computing Academy, Georgia State aligned with 16 others, including North Carolina State University and New York University, as a founding member of IBM's academy.
The academy will share and collaborate using "cloud computing," a technology that provides access to data and software through the Internet rather than on local computers.
The virtual computing lab, similar to a regular computer lab except that it is online, is planned to open later this fall. It will be focused for student use, but will be available for faculty and staff as well. GSU also uses a similar system for faculty with research computing.
"We are very pleased to be a founding member of this innovative initiative that will bring on-demand computing resources to all Georgia State students," said J. L. Albert, GSU's associate provost for IS&T and chief information officer. "The IBM Cloud Academy will also expand the platform for researchers to exchange ideas and further advance the university's mission in teaching, research and service."
Through funding from the university's student technology fee, GSU recently acquired a state-of-the-art IBM server solution for the initiative and will roll out this fall its virtual computing lab. The lab will be an open-source community application that allows computer software and hardware to be shared online.
"By providing virtual computing, students can access a lot of information, not only hardware but also software and applications," said Yi Pan, chair of the Department of Computer Science. "It's reducing cost and providing more computing power for the benefit of faculty, staff and students."
Mike Russell of GSU's Information Systems & Technology Strategic Alignment unit championed the student technology fee proposal with assistance from a team of computer information systems students from GSU's J. Mack Robinson College of Business.
The students participated in the project as part of their senior capstone business course for Carl Stucke, associate chair of the Department of Computer Information Systems. The students evaluated several virtual computing lab options and determined that the IBM system was the most cost-effective option.
"This was a wonderful project for the CIS team not only to select an effective application of this IBM environment but also to leave this lab as a legacy for future GSU students that is also a view into flexible green computing," Stucke said.
IBM's Cloud Computing Academy is a global forum for educators, researchers and information technology personnel from the education industry to pursue cloud computing initiatives develop skills and share best practices for reducing operating costs while improving quality and access to education.
Through the academy, GSU and other members can work jointly on technical projects across institutions, share research findings and exchange new ideas for research.
"A virtual computing lab provides maximum flexibility as to when, how and where students, faculty and staff can access technology required for day-to-day lab and research use," said Art Vandenberg, Georgia State's research computing expert and consultant. "Specifically, it makes student labs and research centers available in a virtual format 24-hours-a-day."