UC Berkeley News
Press Release

UC Berkeley Press Release

Google, Microsoft and Sun fund new UC Berkeley Internet research center

– In a bold effort to revolutionize Internet service technology, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are teaming up with Google, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems to launch a new Internet research laboratory on the campus.

The three companies will provide $7.5 million over five years to fund research at the Reliable, Adaptive and Distributed systems laboratory, or the RAD Lab, UC Berkeley researchers announced today (Thursday, Dec. 15).

"Our goal is to create technology that will enable individual inventors and entrepreneurs to provide new services of value similar to large Internet services people use every day," said David Patterson, UC Berkeley professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences and founding director of the RAD Lab. "The companies benefit by witnessing ideas in pre-competitive technologies at the early stages of development, and they will help point out the real-world obstacles that must be overcome."

Other UC Berkeley professors in electrical engineering and computer sciences co-founding the RAD Lab are Michael Jordan, Randy Katz, Scott Shenker and Ion Stoica. Another lab co-founder, Armando Fox, is currently an assistant professor of computer science at Stanford University, but is expected to join UC Berkeley in July 2006.

RAD Lab researchers will focus on developing alternatives to traditional software engineering, which follows a "waterfall" model of development. In such a traditional system, work is completed in orderly stages starting from system concept to development, assessment or testing, deployment and operation.

Critics say the traditional waterfall model is often too slow and therefore obsolete for the high-paced Internet era. Instead of infrequent, well-tested upgrades, code for Internet services is continually being modified on the fly as the product is scaled up to accommodate millions of users. This fix-it-as-you-go feedback loop enables speedier deployment, but it also requires a large technical support staff to make sure operations are not disrupted as bugs are resolved.

"Right now, it takes a large company employing hundreds of really smart people to support Internet services," said Patterson. "Our goal with this center is to develop technology that eliminates the need for such a large organization, opening up innovation opportunities for small groups or even individual entrepreneurs. We can help do this by applying statistical machine learning - the same technology used successfully in the recent autonomous vehicle grand challenge - to the development of computer systems."

Google, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems are considered foundation members of the RAD Lab, each donating to it an average of $500,000 per year. Along with additional smaller contributions from other affiliated companies, the research laboratory is expected to receive as much as 80 percent of its support from industry.

Grants from the National Science Foundation and the UC Discovery and the Microelectronics Innovation and Computer Research Opportunities (MICRO) programs will make up the remaining proportion of the funding for the center.

The researchers emphasized that any software and applications emerging from the RAD Lab will be made freely and openly available to the public, with source code distributed using the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) license. "We are following in the grand tradition of Berkeley engineering, as with Berkeley's BSD Unix operating system, in making our innovations freely available and unencumbered for research and possible commercialization in source code form," said Katz.

The founders emphasized that making this research as widely and openly available as possible will maximize the impact of the work, and so further the reputation of the university in its mission to create new industries and new jobs.

The RAD Lab will start off with the six UC Berkeley faculty co-founders and with 10 computer science graduate students. The number of graduate students participating in RAD Lab research is expected to grow to 30 over the years.

"Another reason companies are supporting the RAD Lab is to help UC Berkeley continue to produce new generations of young leaders in information technology," said Katz.

Representatives from the companies will act as consultants and provide advice for the center's participants, but they will not work at the RAD Lab.

More information on the RAD Lab can be found at: http://radlab.cs.berkeley.edu.