American University of Beirut

Big Data and Cloud Computing Research Cluster (BDC3)

​​​​This cluster was formed in 2009 to put together a coherent team with complementary skills, and members with rich industrial experiences in computer hardware design, middleware design, embedded computing, and machine learning applications. The members have been working continuously together since the inception of the group, and have already produced tangible results that are published in top‐tier journals and conferences. 

The members are:

  • Haitham Akkary, ECE, Associate Professor. He specializes in computer hardware design,architectural solutions, and interfacing to middleware.
  • Hassan Artail, ECE, Professor. He specializes in middleware design and architecture.Themiddleware is the software that sits between the hardware and the applications.
  • Mariette Awad, ECE, Associate Professor. She specializes in deep learning, artificialintelligence, and data analytics; and works on improving the speed of related algorithms.
  • Hazem Hajj, ECE, Associate Professor. He specializes in machine learning and data mining.His expertise helps in targeting state of the art algorithms with computational challenges.
  • Mazen Saghir, ECE, visiting Associate Professor. He specializes in embedded andconfigurable computing, and in accelerated processing technologies.

This cluster has worked and is still working on designing and developing complete systems for accelerating data analytics, cloud computing, and processing big data. It aims to continue​ working on solutions for local, regional, and global problems pertaining to such areas. This includes doing research in data mining, deep learning, hardware‐accelerated computation, and applying developed solutions in areas such as computer security, homeland security, social networking, cloud computing, and seismic texture analysis for petroleum and gas discovery.

Our cluster is unique in its composition. Each member is a domain expert in an area that is critical to the holistic design of computationally powerful, energy efficient, and self‐managing data ​centers for emerging and future applications in deep machine learning and data analytics.

Our expertise spans computer architecture, middleware software design, data networks, hardware accelerators, and deep machine learning and data mining algorithms. Members of our cluster also have extensive industry experience and ties to the microprocessor, semiconductor, data networking, and automotive industries, enabling us to focus on timely, relevant, and applied research problems. Our cluster was among the first to propose and study the integration of FPGA‐based hardware accelerators in the Apache Hadoop cloud computing platforms. We are currently building on our expertise by extending the Apache Spark framework to support hardware accelerators, enhance energy efficiency across a data center, and offer new services such as hardware‐acceleration‐as‐a‐service (HAaaS).

This group was able to attract sizable funding from the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) in the amount of $370K, and from Intel in the amount of $810K. These amounts were used for 
research assistant salaries and to purchase lab computing equipment. Additionally, there were numerous students who benefited from the associated internships.


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