1 August 2018 | by Bridgette Ruck-Jessome


Focused on Cybersecurity: New Brunswick, An Example of Collaboration and Partnerships

Dr. Kenneth Kent is a professor at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) in the Faculty of Computer Science. He is also the Director for the IBM/UNB Centre for Advanced Studies — Atlantic (CASA). Kenneth Kent sat down with CyberNB to speak about how CASA and their cloud service is providing assistance to startups and students here in New Brunswick.

Photo credit: Cameron Fitch, UNB Photo

Cyber NB: Can you give some background on the IBM/UNB Centre for Advanced Studies — Atlantic (CASA)?

Kent: In 2009, IBM approached the Faculty of Computer Science at UNB and said, “We tend to be hiring a lot of your students to come work in our Java runtime team; why?” I then became connected with the Java runtime development team that was based in Ottawa. It was a skillset that I was teaching from my virtual machine research and it was also a skillset IBM wanted, so we decided to form a partnership. That is how we started to collaborate and decided to create CASA at UNB. The purpose of CASA was to conduct research in Java technology with IBM, to train and engage students in virtual machine (runtime) technology, as well as to try and build a cohesive group, a strength at UNB, in that technology, where we could then take it to the local community, could be leveraged for further engagement and growth.

We have had many projects with IBM, as well as contracts with other startup companies and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the area. We have trained many graduate students, who are now working with a number of startup companies, and some of the more established companies in the local area; companies like Green Imaging Technologies, LuminUltra, Siemens, IBM security, WEnTech Solutions, and Blue Spurs. These companies all have people working there who have come out of our lab.

CyberNB: What kind of projects are taking place at CASA right now?

Kent: Right now, we have two Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) collaborative research development projects in progress with IBM. One project is with the runtimes team. We are looking at improving performance in a runtime by organizing data more efficiently in memory.

The other NSERC project is with the IBM Node.js team. They provide the technology and support for applications in JavaScript. We are looking at trying to improve the performance of that environment by improving scalability.

CyberNB: What is your main role within CASA?

Kent: As the Director within CASA, I am responsible for engaging with local companies. We are  talking to a couple of companies about how we can provide services to them, to help them solve some of their problems. I am responsible for engaging with startups about how we can help kickstart the development of their products. I’m also responsible for working with IBM and others to identify collaborative research projects.

CyberNB: CASA wants to provide technical services to startups in New Brunswick. Why is the cloud important for that?

Kent: For many startups one of the bigger issues is scalability. You want to have a solution whereby going from 10 customers to 100 customers to 10,000 customers is not a challenge. You want it to be something that can happen seamlessly and does not require redesigning or redeveloping the product to do it. Cloud-based services help you do that because you can provision the computing resources you need, as you need them.

The issue for startups is the number of cloud services out there. They are typically not very cheap and you need to have a fair amount of capital to get access to these services and run your company from them. In our case, in collaboration with IBM, we have a mainframe (Z platform LinuxONE Rockhopper). This mainframe is used by IBM for the cloud resources that they offer. We have the ability to work with startups and help them launch effectively using our mainframe as a cloud resource.

CyberNB: How will this cloud service and the Z platform LinuxONE Rockhopper allow students at UNB to practice their cybersecurity skills?

Kent: Cybersecurity is part of every product that is developed now. You must consider the security aspects of it. We are no different. The Rockhopper itself has some specific cybersecurity features as part of the hardware. The platform and those features will be accessible to students working in CASA.

CyberNB: Any final notes to add about CASA?

Kent: We are using the resources, the students, and the expertise that we are developing to help local industry. Hopefully, we can play a part in growing the local IT sector and also growing CAS-Atlantic to help more local companies.

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