Technology giant IBM has given the University of Montana’s big-data program a new super processor, allowing students to run a state-of-the-art platform powered by the company’s software.

Eric Tangedahl, director of information technology at the School of Business Administration, said the donation will enable students to analyze real-time data using IBM’s POWER8 processor.

“With this grant, our students will gain hands-on experience that not many other students will have access to,” Tangedahl said. “Now, they won’t be held back by hardware performance issues.”

Tangedahl described the POWER8 processor as the first designed to analyze big data, or a large quantity of perpetually streaming information.

The grant is part of IBM’s Shared University Research Awards. The awards represent a competitive, worldwide program designed to promote research in areas of mutual value and interest to both IBM and its partner universities.

Over the past two years, UM has pushed to enter the growing field of big data and cyber security as part of its Data Science Initiative – a track to train students to become data scientists, data architects and analysts.

In fall 2012, the university became the first in the nation to teach an undergraduate course on IBM’s InfoSphere Streams software. The new platform allows students to extract information from data as it moves in real time.

Tangedahl said the software’s applications include financial decision-making, such as tracking the purchase and sale of stocks as they happen. Applications also include monitoring streams of tweets to analyze public sentiment and anticipate group behavior.

“Existing Montana businesses, the vibrant entrepreneurial community and research at every level within the university will benefit from the talent this program develops,” said IBM Partnership Executive Mary Olson. “UM is building skills for the jobs of tomorrow.”

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