Computer Science @ University of St Andrews

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StACC - Collaborative Research in Cloud Computing

StACC (pronounced like 'stack') is a research collaboration, launched in April 2009 (Press Release) focusing on research in the important new area of cloud computing. Unique in the UK, StACC aims to become an international centre of excellence for research and teaching in cloud computing and will provide advice and information to businesses interested in using cloud-based services. Our StACC white papers are geared to providing accessible information to businesses about cloud computing.

The School of Computer Science at St Andrews is providing start-up funding for StACC of more than £0.5 million which will provide research studentships, an experimental hardware facility, technical support and support for short-term experiments in cloud computing.

Over the summer of 2009, we set up one of the first private clouds in the UK based on Eucalyptus open-source software. This is a small experimental system running up to 64 virtual machines that will be used for cloud computing software experiments.

We think of StACC as a co-laboratory – a network of researchers, from different places and from different backgrounds, who use computer-based tools to work together, share data and equipment and exchange ideas. We are based in Scotland but are interested in interacting with researchers from anywhere in the world. We particularly welcome involvement from members of our partner universities in SICSA.

To get involved send an email to stacc$cs£st-andrews£ac£uk (replace $ with @ and £ with . to form email address).

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing is an approach to the provision of computing services where any computing facility (application, storage, computation) may be delivered as a service over the internet. It has the potential to dramatically simplify IT provision, reduce costs and increase accessibility of computing services. Nicholas Carr, who wrote The Big Switch (the first popular book in this area), summarises what cloud computing means:

"Now that data can stream through the Internet at the speed of light, the full power of computers can be delivered to users from afar. It doesn't matter much whether the server computer running your program in the data center down the hall or in somebody else's data center on the other side of the country. All the machines are connected and shared - they're one machine."

Cloud computing research

The research problems in cloud computing range from the physical problems of controlling the power consumption and heat output of data centres through software problems of using the cloud efficiently and migrating applications to the cloud to the socio-technical problems of designing business systems that rely on cloud-based software.

Current cloud computing projects and experiments include:

  1. The development of a decision-support system for cloud migration
  2. Cost modelling for cloud migration
  3. Comparative analysis of cloud systems

Our cloud research group has recently gained support from the EPSRC for a new project with our LSCITS partners from Bristol and Aston Universities. The project as a whole is concerned with cloud computing in large-scale complex IT systems and our role is to investigate the migration of enterprise systems to the cloud. We will be focusing on developing methods for modelling enterprise systems for cloud migration. More details soon. EPSRC information about the project is here .

We have several studentships available for PhD students who are interested in cloud computing research. These awards are funded by the EPSRC and eligibility is limited to permanent UK and EU residents. Please check that you are eligible on the EPSRC's site before contacting us.

Cloud computing reading list

Research leaders

At St Andrews, we have expertise that encompasses almost all research areas in cloud computing including networking, distributed systems, dependability, functional approaches to cloud computation and high-performance computing. Research leaders involved in StACC include:

  1. Prof. Ian Sommerville, who works in the area of socio-technical systems and who is interested in how cloud computing will affect organisations and business practice.
  2. Prof. Alan Dearle, is interested in how resources may be harnessed and harvested to create ad-hoc clouds within enterprises. He is currently looking at the use of ad-hoc clouds for data intensive applications.
  3. Prof. Steve Linton, who works in computational algebra and is interested in how cloud computing can be adapted to serve the needs of research mathematicians.
  4. Prof. Kevin Hammond, who works in high-level approaches to parallel computation, and who is interested in advanced computation patterns for cloud computing.
  5. Prof. Ian Gent, who works in search algorithms for combinatorial problems, and is interested in how search can be faster using clouds, and how it can optimise clouds to make them better.
  6. Prof Saleem Bhatti, who works in networked systems, and is interested in examining what changes need to be made to the current network architecture, protocols and interfaces in order to support cloud computing, including resource and performance management.
  7. Prof Simon Dobson, who is interested in programming cloud applications in ways that are predictable, adaptive, scalable and certifiable.
  8. Dr Colin Allison, who works in Distributed Systems and Technology Enhanced Learning, is interested in the use of Clouds for supporting Learning Environments which exhibit very high dynamic variance in their demand for computational and communication resources.
  9. Dr Graham Kirby, who works in distributed and autonomic systems, is interested in dynamic management of cloud infrastructure.

StACCPressRelease.pdf75.01 KB
StACloudDiagram.jpg50.61 KB
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LSCITS-Cloud.pdf198.05 KB