Massachusetts’ New Big-Data Initiative to Include MIT, Intel, and HackReduce

5/29/12Follow @gthuang

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so that local developers and entrepreneurs have access to large computing clusters with which to test their code. “From that, awesome stuff will emerge,” he says.

To that end, the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke will provide some of the computational resources for HackReduce (and presumably the state’s new initiative, more broadly). The Holyoke effort, which dates back to 2009, is run in partnership with a number of universities and companies including EMC and Cisco Systems. IBM and Microsoft have also agreed to provide IT resources for HackReduce.

“You can’t do big data on a laptop,” Lalonde says. In fact, that’s one of the things that differentiates the field from other trendy buzzwords in information technology.

The broader goal here, Lynch says, is to take “data, which is the new black, and make it information, which is the new gold.” As for who will get access to potential deals and new companies in the HackReduce facility, he says, “It’s a contact sport. Let the best man, or venture firm, or vendor win.”

So far, HackReduce has garnered support from a half-dozen venture firms, each to the tune of $50,000 over two years. The participating VC firms are Atlas Venture, North Bridge Venture Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, Bain Capital Ventures, General Catalyst Partners, and Brightspark Ventures; it was previously reported that other venture firms also had committed money, but either that was premature or some have backed out. Nevertheless, the nonprofit has secured more than $500,000 in initial funding. Its other financial supporters include IBM, Microsoft, and law firm Goodwin Procter.

The Boston area has a pretty rich history of companies in “hard tech” fields like data storage, networking, analysis, and IT infrastructure. So you’d think it should be well-positioned to become a leader in big data. “That’s got to be in the DNA of this town,” Lalonde says.

But it’s going to take a lot of work. In any case, the state’s new initiative certainly looks like an effort to ride what could be the next big tech wave. “Now Boston has at least put a shot over the bow to own big data,” Lynch says. “We’ve been able to galvanize venture, industry, government, and universities to go after this. Whether it succeeds or not, this is a pretty compelling message.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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