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April 02, 2012

Inside Illinois’ Big Data Research Facility


The University of Illinois has become the recipient of a new data-intensive teaching and learning center with the help of an analytics company.

The school, which is already home to one ultra-analytics claim to fame, the Blue Waters supercomputer, has partnered up with Neustar to create a facility that focuses on data intensive research.

At the University’s Urbana-Champaign campus, the appropriately named Neustar Innovation Center will look to answer end-user related problems. A recent statement claims that researchers will tackle issues surrounding security, fraud detection and large-scale networking.

In a short interview just before the opening event, Mike Peterson, Senior Director of Enterprise Infrastructure at Neustar, delivered some details about the facility’s data capabilities. “Our big data initiative at Neustar is currently centered around Hadoop. We’re using a variety of hardware, but mostly HP.”

He continued, “We are using a couple things around that, like Hortonworks, Hive and a lot of the Apache open source tools”. Final decisions have not been made regarding visualizations tools.

Chancellor Phyllis Wise, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said “The launch of the Neustar Innovation Center will provide our students with the opportunity to mold the next frontier of technology, furthering their education with real-life experiences and professional connections,”

One of those connections has been made through Neustar’s choice for the Innovation Center’s director. The company tapped industry vet Ken Taylor for the position. With a rich background in technology, Taylor worked in large-scale data processing at Yahoo and held positions at Motorola and Amdocs.

It’s clear at this point that Neustar is interested in much more than their founding purpose and it’s easy to see their attraction to work with UI. The campus has a new supercomputer and their graduate school of library and information sciences has received grants from the NSF and Google for research in data conservancy, microblog searching and machine translation.

Peterson mentioned that this is a multi-year commitment from Neustar and sees the partnership as an opportunity to recruit talented students for their east and west coast operations.

Even though the facility has not officially announced specific projects, they will be focused on big data using Hadoop and analytics tools. A look at Neustar’s offerings may provide some further insight into future research.

The company has an application called webmetrics, which provides advanced web analytics focused to the enterprise market. Also, they developed the UltraViolet digital rights locker for the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), a technology that allows end users to pay for content once and receive it anywhere.

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