Cloud computing testbed – new research centre announced by Yahoo, Hewlett Packard and Intel

A new research centre for cloud computing initiatives has just been announced by Yahoo, Hewlett Packard and Intel. The center will create “a global, multi-data center, open source test bed for the advancement of cloud computing research and education. The goal of the initiative is to promote open collaboration among industry, academia and governments by removing the financial and logistical barriers to research in data-intensive, Internet-scale computing.”

At CETIS we have started our first venture into cloud computing with our content packaging transcoder service. It will be interesting to see if any upcoming JISC projects and the eFramework will be able to utilise the new services announced by Yahoo et al.

More coverage of the announcement is available from Techcrunch including a live blog from a conference call about the announcement, and the BBC.

Packages from the cloud(s)

CETIS and Knowledge Integration are working together, with community input, to develop a content transcoder service prototype. What is being proposed is a web service which will convert content into a variety of standard packaging formats (e.g. IMS CP & CC and SCORM). The project also plans to look at the most frequently used proprietary formats such as those used by WebCT, Blackboard and Moodle and at significant UK application profiles such as NLN.

The first phase of the project will be looking at prioritizing which formats and platforms the service should use and general user interface issues. So, we are looking from input from the community to help us with:

*prioritising which formats to be transcoded
*supplying test-case packages
*verifying the quality of the transcoded results in your platform of choice.

If you’d like to get involved, or just find out a bit more about the project, detailed information including the project brief is available from the CETIS wiki.

I love sprouts!

And not just the green ones 🙂 David Sherlock in our Bolton office put me onto Sprout Builder, a very simple widget builder. I have had a play with some other so called simple widget building tools which lost my interest in about 5 minutes or when I realised that they didn’t work with macs, but I have to say this one has really got me hooked.

In about half an hour I had build a widget which displays the outputs for the JISC Design for Learning programme (just taking a feed from the programme delicious site), published it onto the Design for Learning wiki and in my netvibes page. I’ve now just created a widget for my last SIG meeting with audio/video files embedded and a location map which I put into facebook and the CETIS wiki.

Now I’m not claiming that these examples are anything unique, or particularly well designed. However, what I really like about this particular tool is the simplicity of it and the way it integrates services that I use such as rss feeds, maps, polldaddy polls, video, audio etc. Publishing is really straightforward with links to all the main sites such as facebook, beebo, netvibes, pagesflakes, igoogle, blogger . . . the list goes on. You can also make changes on the fly and when you republish it automatically updates all copies.

Tools like this really do put publishing (across multiple platforms/sites) and remixing content into the hands of us non-developers. There are many possibilities for education too, from simple things like creating a widget of a reading list/resources from a delicious feed to a simple countdown for assignments. (OK, that might be a bit scary, but heck a ticking clock works for most of us!). Simple tools like this combined with the widgets that the TenCompetence project are building (and showed at a recent meeting) are really starting to push the boundaries, and show the potential of how we can mix and match content and services to help enhance the teaching and learning experience.

Go Swurl yourself

Taking a break from ICALT 2008 I’ve just discovered Swurl a site that visualizes your digital life stream. You can add feeds from services like flickr, facebook, twitter, delicious, lastfm etc and it aggregates them and provides a timeline view of your online activities. Unfortunately my timeline is a bit twittertabulous at the moment as I’ve been at conferences for the last week or so, so it’s not that visually exciting. However if you do upload photos it’s probably a lot more visually appealing. I’m also thinking that it might be a good lightweight time-recording mechanism too.