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Google proposes collaboration with Research Computing


Over the past year, ITS Research Computing’s investigation of the feasibility of commercial cloud computing resources as a research tool consisted of multiple pilot programs that tested Google Cloud Platform as an environment for research and investigator development. These initiatives have demonstrated how cloud and machine-learning services advance the research agenda of UNC-Chapel Hill investigators.

Based on the success of these initiatives, in late summer 2019, Google proposed collaborating with Research Computing and UNC-Chapel Hill.

Jeff Roach
Jeff Roach

“Google has been pleased with the talent and the forward-thinking attitude that it has found here at UNC,” said Jeff Roach, Research Computing’s Senior Research Associate. Roach, who has a Ph.D. in mathematics, has been leading the efforts with Google Cloud Platform.

Google has been so pleased, in fact, that it proposes enabling Research Computing to provide cloud-first support to the local faculty and researchers.

The goals are to:

  • Attract the most talented future students and researchers through the availability of unique services and additional funding sources.
  • Accelerate research and innovation, making Carolina more competitive for public and private grant funding.

Blueprint for other universities

“The model is proposed to become the blueprint for all Google engagement with higher education and research,” Roach said.

Google proposes several incentives, including discounts on Google Cloud Platform services and research credits for un-funded investigators, which could help them win future funding. In addition, Google proposes funding a high-speed network link directly to Google.

Mutually beneficial

The perceived benefits of this collaboration to Google and the University are significant, Roach said.

Google gains increased usage, naturally, in the short term. In the long term, Google benefits from graduate students and post-doctoral fellows developing into excellent investigators and capable users of Google Cloud Platform. This creates a self-sustaining large user base.

How Carolina benefits

The benefits to the University are many. Google Cloud Platform gives researchers the most appropriate computational environment for the majority of researchers on campus. It also gives them easy access to new developments in both algorithms and advanced hardware.

In addition, Google maintains active research programs in artificial intelligence and bioinformatics among many other areas of active research at the University.

Graduate students and post-doctoral researchers requiring very little capital investment in computational infrastructure will gain a competitive advantage over their peers in the academic job market.

Likewise, University researchers who become proficient with Google Cloud Platform will enjoy a competitive advantage over their peers at other institutions when it comes to working with the increasing number of national research organizations that are using Google Cloud Platform.

Researchers also will be able to take the data science and development skills they learn through Google Cloud Platform to the commercial and commercial research environments.

“Capability with GCP,” Roach said, “will be of great advantage to UNC researchers for the foreseeable future.”


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