Press release
October 14, 2010

BU, Brown and UC Irvine receive $3 million NSF grant to study security, privacy, and economic utility of cloud computing

BOSTON – Computer scientists from Boston University, Brown University and the University of California, Irvine will collaborate on a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the anticipated amount of $3 million to investigate “trustworthy interaction in the Cloud.” The Cloud refers to Internet-based outsourced computation (popularly know as cloud computing), whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand.

As one of the most promising emerging concepts in Information Technology, outsourced computation is transforming how IT is consumed and managed, yielding improved cost efficiencies and delivering flexible, on-demand scalability. However, despite the relatively fast growth and increased adoption of clouds, aspects related to their security, privacy, and economic value proposition remain largely unanswered and are regarded by some technology experts as impediments to broader acceptance of this approach to computing.

“As more and more data is being stored in the cloud, keeping that data private is becoming critical, especially for applications in finance and medicine,” says Michael Goodrich, principal investigator and Chancellor’s Professor at the University of California, Irvine.

The project supported by the NSF grant will address these concerns by examining the feasibility of extending cloud service-level agreements to cover aspects such as integrity of outsourced services, information leakage control, and fair market pricing. The project also will explore mechanisms that verify trust-enhancing service-level agreements are being followed and develop “trustworthiness” guarantees and tradeoffs to cloud customers and system integrators that are both practical and useable.

“We envision a new generation of trusted cloud computing services where users will be able to verify the integrity of their data stored in the cloud and the correctness of computations performed in the cloud,” says principal investigator Roberto Tamassia. Tamassia is chair and Plastech Professor of Computer Science at Brown University.

“Developing the right mechanisms for the specification and verification of trust-enhancing service-level agreements in the cloud will avert conflicts among cloud market stakeholders,” says Azer Bestavros, lead principal investigator and professor of computer science at Boston University. “Doing so will also improve the utility and hardness of our cyber-infrastructure, with significant benefit to our economy and society.”

The project’s co-principal investigators include Leo Reyzin, associate professor, Jonathan Appavoo, assistant professor, and Nikos Triandopoulos, research assistant professor, at BU and Anna Lysyanskaya, associate professor, and Rodrigo Fonseca, assistant professor, at Brown.

In exploring these cloud computing-related issues, the team will collaborate with researchers at leading IT industrial labs at IBM, Microsoft, NetApp, RSA (the security division of EMC) and VMware. The project also will involve BU’s Center for Reliable Information Systems and Cyber Security (RISCS) and the new Massachusetts Green High-Performance Computing Center (MGHPCC) to examine broader implications and impacts of cloud technology on society.

The project’s ultimate goal is to define a viable marketplace for cloud computing resources in which users are assured that the services they acquire meet their performance, security, and privacy expectations.