Intel, MIT Team Up To Tackle Big Data

Intel and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) jointly announced Wednesday a research initiative to drive the development of new technologies for managing, storing and analyzing big data.

Susan Hockfield, MIT President; Sam Madden, associate professor at MIT; Justin Rattner, Intel CTO; Governor Deval Patrick

The program will be spearheaded by MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and has been coined "bigdata@CSAIL."

For Intel’s part, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip maker is establishing the new Intel Science and Technology Center (ISTC) for Big Data within CSAIL, contributing to its research efforts. ISTC for Big Data will receive $2.5 million a year for up to five years and will be headed by Sam Madden, associate professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, along with Michael Stonebraker, an adjunct MIT professor and principal investigator at CSAIL.

The aim of bigdata@CSAIL is to accelerate the discovery of new solutions that can help organizations better store and make sense of big data, an industry buzz word referring to the massive data sets pouring into today’s IT infrastructures from social media, smartphones and other next-gen technologies.

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"We are witnessing an unprecedented period of growth of unstructured digital data on the Web," explained Intel CTO Justin Rattner at an MIT-hosted event Wednesday. The "internet of things" -- or the growing trend of objects housing sensors that allow them to digitally communicate with one another -- will only add to these massive heaps of data over the coming years, Rattner continued.

"There will be a mountain of data as we continue to extend our ability to sense the physical world around us," he told the crowd.

Rattner said that Intel currently operates five other ISTCs around the country, and that, for this particular center, CSAIL’s big data proposal was competing against 157 other abstracts from over 50 other schools. The timeliness and sheer "strength" of CSAIL’s proposal was what ultimately prompted the chip maker’s decision, he said.

MIT's Madden said there are four primary goals of bigdata@CSAIL: to discover more scalable processing platforms that can support big data; to develop applications or algorithms to better analyze big data; to define security parameters around stored big data; and, lastly, to design user interfaces that will facilitate the exploration of big data.

"With our investor collaborators, we want to define and explore the big data space," Madden said.

He also explained that there will be a concerted effort on the researchers’ part to discover industry- or domain-specific big data solutions. In medicine, for example, CSAIL will explore how big data tools can be leveraged for more accurate diagnostics and ultimately for more effective patient care.

NEXT: Massachusetts: The 'Hub' Of Big Data

The bigdata@CSAIL program was launched side-by-side the new Massachusetts Big Data Initiative, as proposed by State Governor Deval Patrick. As part of the initiative, a state-wide Big Data Consortium is being established, supported by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, which will take part in a matching grant program for big data research and development.

"I’m here just to proclaim what you already know, which is the hour of big data has arrived in Massachusetts and it’s a very exciting time," Governor Patrick said during Wednesday’s event at MIT.

Positioning Massachusetts as a big data hub will not only propel the tech industry forward, but could ultimately spur job creation with the state, Patrick continued. Today, Massachusetts has approximately 100 companies, employing more than 12,000 people, dedicated to big data. It’s estimated that as many as 50,000 jobs related to big data will be created over the next six years.

Patrick first showed an interest in big data last year, when he joined forces with Massachusetts-based storage giant EMC to showcase the company’s new big data facility in the Federal University in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Governor Patrick made note that EMC will also serve as a founding member of both the Massachusetts Big Data Consortium and the bigdata@CSAIL initiative.

Other business and tech giants including SAP, AIG, and Thompson Reuters were also said to be on board.