HP Labs Singapore aims for the clouds:
Research focuses on customer co-innovation and democratizing the cloud

Christopher Whitney, Director of HP Labs Singapore

Christopher Whitney,
Director of HP Labs Singapore.

It was a busy 2010 for Chris Whitney, Director of HP Labs Singapore. Dispatched in late 2009 to get HP Labs Singapore up and running, Whitney describes a year in which he attracted a cadre of international researchers, forged strategic relationships with Singaporean government agencies and universities, and most importantly, advanced HP’s Customer Co-innovation program and efforts.

“Every project we work on involves a customer and HP business unit,” said Whitney. “So we are very focused on innovation and the transfer of technology research to solve real customer challenges.”

If there’s a predominant research theme for HP’s Singapore lab, it’s the cloud. This is in line with HP's recent strategy announcements during which CEO Léo Apotheker said that HP is building an open platform for the cloud "that gives developers a brand that is trusted by both the consumer and the enterprise, and all the tools they need to build, test, and deploy services."

“We’re working with HP business units and customers to explore ways in which the cloud can be used in several industries and applications, from healthcare and financial services, to energy, manufacturing, corporate IT and consumer markets,” said Whitney.

Whitney and his colleagues have developed relationships with several HP business units in the Asia Pacific region, and have established the Singapore lab as a valuable member of the local and regional research and development community.

“We want to be a research lab for the whole region,” says Whitney.

HP chosen as technology partner for “studio of the future”

One of several co-innovation initiatives HP Labs Singapore is involved in is Infinite Studios. With HP serving as its technology partner, Infinite Studios will offer a range of cloud-based, digital media solutions to tenants of Mediapolis, a real estate development project being led by the government of Singapore. The Singaporean government’s vision for Mediapolis is a digital media industry hub: a 47-acre campus community with 19 state-of-the-art buildings. A ground-breaking ceremony for construction of the first of these buildings took place February 11, 2011.

HP’s co-innovation partner in Infinite Studios is Infinite Frameworks (IFW), a Singapore-based media and entertainment company and anchor tenant at Mediapolis. Working with IFW, HP will make cloud-based IT and digital media services available to all of Mediapolis’ tenants. They will be able to buy, access and use cloud-based IT services such as email, compute power, storage and archival on a pay-per-use basis.

In addition, HP and IFW will work with major broadcasters and media companies to identify and offer additional digital media services, such as 3D digital content workflow, flexible storage services, and digital asset management, and offer them in phases to the tenants. The first set of cloud services is targeted for roll-out when Mediapolis phase I is completed in Aug 2012.

Christopher Whitney, Director of HP Labs Singapore

Sau Sheong Chang,
Director of Applied Research,
HP Labs Singapore.

A single view of multiple clouds

With public and private cloud services so easy to deploy, it’s not uncommon for corporate IT departments to now find different cloud services scattered throughout the enterprise, being used by different business units.

“If there’s no way to centrally govern these services, who can say what risks they might create?” said Sau Sheong Chang, Director of Applied Research, HP Labs Singapore. Chang and his team are hoping to solve this problem with Cloud Dashboard, which provides corporate IT departments a single interface for aggregating, managing and enforcing policies across multiple cloud services.

Keeping an eye on data in the cloud

Christopher Whitney, Director of HP Labs Singapore

Francis Lee,
Director of Exploratory Research,
HP Labs Singapore.

According to Francis Lee, Ph.D, Director of Research, HP Labs Singapore, data protection and security is a primary concern to many organizations considering the cloud. To address these concerns, Lee and his team of researchers in Singapore are working with HP’s Bristol, UK lab to develop a service they’re calling Trust Cloud.

Trust Cloud will allow users of cloud services to monitor any information or files they put in the cloud, so that they’re notified if any files are accessed, moved or modified by the cloud service provider they’re using,” said Lee.

In addition to leading exploratory research at HP Labs Singapore, Lee teaches computer science at Nanyang Technological University, one of Singapore’s leading universities for computer science and engineering. Lee’s appointment to lead HP Labs Singapore’s exploratory research reflects the lab’s commitment to fostering partnerships with Singapore’s academic institutions.

Opportunities in the consumer market

Regarding the consumer market, Lee believes there’s enormous potential for new cloud services and applications.

“Many consumer cloud services already exist, but we see a huge opportunity in providing a mobile cloud platform so people can create and customize their own apps,” said Lee. This would work, according to Lee, by giving consumers access to application components and “orchestrator” technology, which they could use to assemble applications on the fly. Some components would be accessed via the cloud, while others would reside locally on a phone or tablet device.

Personalizing the cloud

Looking to the future, Whitney has HP Labs Singapore focused on the intersection of the cloud, mobility and generation “Y.” He believes that the convergence of mobile technology and the ability to customize cloud applications represent a huge opportunity in the consumer market.

“We want to democratize the cloud and make it easier for people to build cloud services,” said Whitney.

“The generation born in the early 1990s is much more likely to access applications and the Internet from mobile phones and tablet devices, rather than desktop computers,” said Whitney. “They’re also the first generation to experience the Internet through self-publishing tools and platforms like personal blogs, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter. Therefore we intend to develop new mobile applications and cloud services that allow this generation to create and customize their own cloud experiences.”

To that end, HP researchers are working on applications that will allow everyday users to build cloud applications without having to know any programming languages, such as Objective C and .Net.

This is what Whitney means by “democratizing the cloud.”