Seattle’s cloud computing prowess just got another boost.
The University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering unveiled a new hub called the Center for the Future of Cloud Infrastructure, or FOCI.
The goal is to create a stronger bridge between industry and academia as it relates to current and future cloud computing technologies.
“It will help us spot long-term pain points quicker and develop solutions in a way that are easier to adopt by industry,” said Ratul Mahajan, co-director of the FOCI Center. “It will also help ensure that our students are up-to-date with where the industry is at present and become the force that drives the industry forward.”
The center, which is hosting a launch event Friday, has established a technical advisory board with representatives from Alibaba, Cisco, Google, Microsoft and VMware. It is funded by industry commitments totaling $3.75 million over three years.
The center was created based on the belief that cloud computing will evolve as demand for machine learning, edge computing, 5G, and other technologies increases. That means rethinking how the cloud remains resilient and secure, and also sustainable given the energy demand for computation.
“There are a set of systems issues related to cloud computing that are five or seven or 10 years out, both in terms of when they are likely to hit, and how long it will take to develop and deploy solutions,” said Ed Lazowska, a longtime Allen School professor and former chair of the computer science department. “Companies are scrambling to deal with the challenges they face next week and next month and next year. Looking five years out is not something they can do.”
The center adds even more cloud computing credibility to the Seattle region, often referred to as “Cloud City” given that industry leaders Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure are based in the area, along with others including Google Cloud and VMware, which have regional offices.
It’s the latest connection between the UW and tech industry partners. Earlier this year the Allen School launched the Meta AI Mentorship Program, allowing PhD students to collaborate with Meta researchers. Amazon and the UW announced in February that they would partner on a new “Science Hub” funded with an initial $1.9 million investment from the company. And Microsoft is a big backer of computer science buildings and programs.
There are also a number of computer science professors that split their time on campus and at tech companies or organizations, including Yejin Choi, a senior research manager at Seattle’s Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) who just won a $800,000 “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation.
Mahajan, an associate professor at the UW’s Allen School, previously co-founded and led a Seattle startup called Intentionet that recently signed a licensing deal with Amazon Web Services. He is leading the FOCI with two other co-directors: Arvind Krishnamurthy and Simon Peter, who are also Allen School professors.