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New Assured Cloud Computing Center to Be Established at Illinois

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By Jenny Applequist, Information Trust Institute
May 9, 2011

  • The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Technology Directorate will create a new University Center of Excellence in Assured Cloud Computing at Illinois.
  • The Center will perform research and educate professionals and students in the secure cloud computing sciences and technologies.
  • The faculty affiliated with the new center include ECE Professors Ravi Iyer, David Nicol, and William Sanders.

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Technology Directorate (AFRL) has announced plans to create a new $6 million "University Center of Excellence in Assured Cloud Computing," which will be a combined effort of AFRL, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), and the University of Illinois.

The Assured Cloud Computing (ACC) Center of Excellence, which will be housed in the University's Information Trust Institute (ITI), will perform research, provide technical exchange, and educate professionals and students in the secure cloud computing sciences and technologies that are needed to allow the Air Force to succeed in air, space, and cyberspace missions. ACC's research activities will focus on developing technology for assured, mission-critical cloud computing across "blue" and/or "gray" networks that ensures the confidentiality and integrity of data and communications, job completion in the presence of cyber attacks and failures, and timely completion of jobs to meet mission requirements.

The principal investigator for the ACC Center will be Dr. Roy Campbell, who is the Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Professor in the Department of Computer Science.

"Cloud computing" is computing in which a user accesses a shared, heterogeneous set of computing resources without necessarily having information on the configuration, location, or identity of those resources. A computational cloud used in military applications may include both blue and gray networks, where "blue" networks are U.S. military networks, which are considered secure, and "gray" networks are those in private hands, or perhaps belonging to other nations, which are considered insecure. In order to reach mission goals, it will sometimes be necessary to coordinate computation across a mixture of these blue and gray resources. Thus, cloud computing in a military context presents special security challenges. Specifically, assured mission-critical cloud computing across blue and/or gray networks requires the realization of "end-to-end" and "cross-layered" security, dependability, and timeliness.

"We're trying to offer the military extended functionality, to implement a vision of global vigilance, global reach, and global power giving us the ability to meet overseas commitments," explains Campbell. "If we can use a variety of secure networks plus insecure networks, it gives us lots of agility and mobility and the ability to manage situations where normally we wouldn't be able to reach."

He points to humanitarian missions in potentially unfriendly territory as an example application. "Suppose you have a rescue mission, say a disaster in Pakistan, like an earthquake or a river flooding. If their government requests help, do we have the capabilities to safely assist in their aid? Not all the people in Pakistan might agree with the U.S. providing assistance. Staging such an operation would be risky without a cloud infrastructure that has secure properties. So how do you assure a successful mission in a possibly hostile environment? How do you benefit from the cloud, its communication, computations, and data in missions to help people in need?"

Ilesanmi  Adesida
Ilesanmi Adesida

Ilesanmi Adesida, the dean of the College of Engineering at Illinois, observed that the planned research has broad implications. "Although the new project will primarily benefit the Air Force over the short term, assured use of the cloud will be a tremendous benefit to humanity. Today, you can't really trust cloud computing because of the security issues that remain to be addressed," he explains. "No one has been able to use cloud computing in a task-oriented way before. The work of the Assured Cloud Computing Center will make it possible to deploy cloud computing in task-based, mission-oriented human activity. For that reason, this work will be groundbreaking."

Ravishankar K. Iyer
Ravishankar K. Iyer

Robert A. Easter, University of Illinois Interim Vice President and Chancellor, expressed his enthusiasm at the announcement of the new research partnership. "I believe that AFRL, AFOSR, and Illinois form a great team to solve the problems of an assured cloud. Cloud computing is a transformative way of delivering data and computation for a wide range of human endeavors. Although its vision is ambitious, the work of the Assured Cloud Computing initiative will surely join the long list of University of Illinois research achievements that have changed the world and enriched lives around the globe."

David M. Nicol
David M. Nicol

In addition to Roy Campbell, the Center's research team includes faculty members Gul Agha, Masooda Bashir, Rakesh Bobba, Indranil Gupta, Ravishankar K. Iyer, Zbigniew Kalbarczyk, José Meseguer, David M. Nicol, and William H. Sanders, whose home departments at the University of Illinois include the Information Trust Institute, the Coordinated Science Laboratory, the Department of Computer Science, and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

William H. Sanders
William H. Sanders

About the Information Trust Institute (ITI)

The Information Trust Institute is a multidisciplinary cross-campus research unit housed in the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It is an international leader combining research and education with industrial outreach in trustworthy and secure information systems. ITI brings together over 100 faculty, many senior and graduate student researchers, and industry partners to conduct foundational and applied research to enable the creation of critical applications and cyber infrastructures. In doing so, ITI is creating computer systems, software, and networks that society can depend on to be trustworthy, that is, secure, dependable (reliable and available), correct, safe, private, and survivable. Instead of concentrating on narrow and focused technical solutions, ITI aims to create a new paradigm for designing trustworthy systems from the ground up and validating systems that are intended to be trustworthy.

Editor's note: media inquiries should be directed to Brad Petersen, Director of Communications, at bradp@illinois.edu or (217) 244-6376.

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