NSF Funds Major New Cloud Computing Project

September 8, 2010

The National Science Foundation has awarded total of $3M to fund a new research project “Towards Trustworthy Interactions in the Cloud.”  This is a collaborative, multi-institutional award, under the aegis of the RISCS Center at BU. Approximately $1.5M will fund the research team at BU. The team at BU includes: Professors of Computer Science Azer Bestavros (BU PI and project lead), Jonathan Appavoo, Leo Reyzin, and Nikos Triandopoulos. Researchers at Brown University and UC Irvine round out the team.

The research deals with outsourced computation (also known as cloud computing). As one of the most promising emerging concepts in information technology, outsourced computation is transforming our perception of how IT is consumed and managed, yielding improved cost efficiencies and delivering flexible, on-demand scalability. Cloud computing reduces IT resources and services to commodities acquired and paid-for on-demand through a fast-growing set of infrastructure, platform, and service providers.

Despite the relatively fast growth and increased adoption of clouds, our understanding of aspects related to their security, privacy, and economic value proposition—and hence our ability to trust them— is lacking. This project addresses this challenge by (a) extending cloud service-level agreements to govern aspects such as integrity of outsourced services, information leakage control, and fair market pricing; (b) developing mechanisms that allow providers to guarantee and users to verify that such trust-enhancing service-level agreements are being followed; and (c) exposing trustworthiness guarantees and tradeoffs to cloud customers and system integrators in ways that are both practical and usable.

The research work pursued in this project is timely, as it addresses the issues of cloud trustworthiness early enough to avoid having the conflicts among its various stakeholders develop unchecked— as was the case with the Internet decades ago. Doing so has the potential of improving the utility and hardness of our cyber-infrastructure, with significant benefit to our economy and society.

The project will ultimately lead to a better marketplace for computing resources, in which users are assured that the services they acquire satisfy their performance, security, and privacy expectations.

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