Article Last Updated: 12/15/2005 03:46 AM

University to get new open source lab

By Barbara Grady, BUSINESS WRITER

The University of California, Berkeley's College of Engineering is expected to announce today the opening of a new Internet research lab and collaboration with Google, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems that will pump $7.5 million into the lab.

The new RAD Lab, to be located in Soda Hall, will focus its research on open source development of software for Internet services, according to the university. Technically, it will work on so-called Reliable, Adaptive and Distributed (RAD) systems, thus the name RAD Lab.

Open source refers to a method of software development in which software developers anywhere can contribute code, or improvements and variations, to existing software as a way to bring the software to its next generation and develop it more rapidly.

The UNIX operating system is open source software the first iterations of which were developed at UC Berkeley.

"We are trying to create technology that will allow a million new Internet entrepreneurs" to come forward, said David Patterson, professor of electrical engineering and head of the RAD Lab.

By creating technology that facilitates software development by individual entrepreneurs, he said, the next big Internet technology should come along sooner. He hopes for something as big as search technology or e-mail.

The lab aims to develop alternatives to traditional software engineering, which requires many hands and follows sequential steps from concept to development, testing, deployment and then operation.

Patterson said that collaborating with industry has become the way to make up for cuts in research funding from the federal government. "DARPA cut $100 million a year from academic funding," he said about the agency that funds Internet and computer research.

Along with Patterson, UC Berkeley professors Michael Jordan, Randy Katz, Scott Shenker and Ion Stoica are co-founders, as is Stanford University assistant professor Armando Fox, who is expected tomove to UC Berkeley next summer.

Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are setting aside their bitter animosity to back this new Internet research laboratory aimed at helping entrepreneurs introduce more groundbreaking ideas to a mass audience.

Santa Clara-based Sun, Mountain View-based Google and Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft will dole out $1.5 million annually over five years, with each company contributing about $500,000 a year.

Staffed initially by the six UC Berkeley faculty members and 10 computer science graduates, the lab plans to develop an array of Web-based software services that will be given away to anyone who wants them.

Conceivably, the lab's services could help launch another revolutionary company like online auctioneer eBay Inc. or even Google, which has emerged as one of the world's most valuable companies just seven years after its inception in a Silicon Valley garage.

"It's interesting to have Google as one of the founding investors because one of the big questions (the RAD Lab is trying to address) is, 'How do you get the next Google out there?'" said Greg Papadopoulos, Sun's chief technology officer.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.