Technology titans Google, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems will provide $7.5 million, collectively, to fund research at a University of California, Berkeley, laboratory that will use the money to focus on next-generation Internet technology.
The Reliable, Adaptive, and Distributed (RAD) systems lab is designed to create technology for use by inventors and entrepreneurs who will be developing broad-based services like the kind offered by eBay or Amazon, said David Patterson, a UC Berkeley professor and founding director of the RAD lab.
Researchers will focus on alternative strategies to traditional software-engineering approaches. Software development for big projects usually is done by large teams in orderly stages, starting from system concept to development, assessment, deployment, and operation.
The lab's goal is to perform such tasks and invent new tools for smaller groups or entrepreneurs, Patterson said. "We can help do this by applying statistical machine learning to the development of computer systems," he said.
Google, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems, founding members of the RAD lab, each are donating $500,000 per year. With smaller contributions expected from other I.T. companies, the research laboratory will receive about 80 percent of its support from industry sources.
Any software and applications emerging from the lab will be made available to the public, with source code distributed using the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) license.
"We are creating an open-source toolkit for Internet research," said Patterson, noting that the university has an established track record for developing technologies that have resulted in the founding of multimillion-dollar businesses.
The investors, all of which have a vested interest in Internet services, will benefit by getting a glimpse of new ideas at the early stages of development and the obstacles that must be overcome to grow the industry as a whole, Patterson said.
Grants from the National Science Foundation and the university's Microelectronics Innovation and Computer Research Opportunities (MICRO) program hopefully will comprise the remaining 20 percent of funding for the center.
"Government funding for this type of research has fallen off, which means that companies have to step up in helping produce the next generation of technology leaders in information technology," said Patterson. "There are a lot of bright young people that deserve support, but can't find it elsewhere."
The RAD lab will start with six UC Berkeley faculty members and 10 graduate students. The number of graduate students participating is expected to grow to 30 over the years. Representatives from the companies will act as consultants and provide advice for the center's participants, but they will not work at the RAD lab.