Introduction backarrow

There is a critical need to securely store, manage, share and analyze massive amounts of complex (e.g., semi-structured and unstructured) data to determine patterns and trends in order to improve the quality of healthcare, better safeguard the nation and explore alternative energy. The emerging cloud computing model attempts to handle massive amounts of data. Google has now introduced the MapReduce framework for processing large amounts of data on commodity hardware. Apache’s Hadoop distributed file system (HDFS) is emerging as a superior software component for cloud computing combined with integrated parts such as MapReduce. However, state of the art cloud computing systems are not sufficient due to the fact that (i) they do not provide adequate security mechanisms to protect sensitive data and (ii) they do not have the capability to process massive amounts of semantic web and geospatial data.

To address the limitations of current cloud computing platforms, at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), we have utilized state-of-the-art hardware, software and data components based on Hadoop and MapReduce technologies and are developing a secure cloud computing framework for multiple agencies including the Air Force Office of Scientific Research since 2007. In particular, we have used modern hardware parts (e.g., secure coprocessors) to improve the performance due to incorporating additional security functionalities, integrated open source software parts, as well as custom developed software parts to support secure cloud query operations on complex data, provide fine-grained access control and reference monitor support as well as provide strong authentication mechanisms.

We have also established a strong education program in Information Assurance (IA) since 2000 at UTD. We were designated an NSA/DHS Center for Excellence in Education in 2004 and for Research in 2008. We received the NSF SFS award in 2010 and are training students to obtain Masters Degrees in IA. Our course offerings include Systems Security,Network Security, Data/Applications Security, Trustworthy Web Services/Semantic Web, Cryptography, Data Mining for Security and Digital Forensics.

To enhance our research efforts in assured cloud computing with a strong education program, we have obtained a capacity building grant from NSF in September 2011. The object of our NSF project is to leverage the extensive investments we have made in assured cloud computing research and IA education at UTD to develop courses in Assured Cloud Computing. In particular, we are developing new courses related to building and assuring the cloud as well as enhancing our existing courses on Network Security, Data and Applications Security, Data Mining for Security Applications, Systems Security and Digital Forensics by introducing a major component in secure cloud computing for each of these courses. We are also enhancing the current cloud computing framework that we have developed so that students (i) utilize this framework for their course projects and (ii) build features to this framework as part of their class programming projects. Our courses on assured cloud computing are included as part of the curriculum for the SFS program. In addition, we are also participating in a number of cloud computing initiatives including the DFW Metroplex Technology Business Council (MTBC) SIG (Special Interest Group) in cloud computing. Our book on Building and Securing the cloud is expected to be published in late 2012 and will be used as a text book for our Flagship Assured Cloud Computing Course to be taught in 2013.