Govwild, an open government project to use fluid Operations’ Information Workbench semantic technology to combine various data sources and discover relationships that exist between politicians in Germany and entities such as companies, was the first effort pairing up the vendor with the Hasso-Plattner Institute (HPI), University Center of Excellence in IT Systems Engineering. More projects – including those that will be focused on the relationship between semantic technologies and the cloud – are on the way. The two outfits recently joined up in a partnership to explore aspects of supporting complete semantic databases in the cloud and enabling scalable semantic data management in the cloud.

HPI, of course, was founded by Hasso Plattner, co-founder of enterprise application vendor SAP and chairman of its supervisory board, as a practice-oriented program for IT engineers and academic research center. The team that included Prof. Felix Naumann, head of the HPI’s Department of Information Systems and composed of two research assistants and three master students, took home a Billion Triples Challenge prize late last year.

fluid Ops is a start-up, founded in 2008, focused on large IT companies that want to apply the paradigm of cloud computing in an enterprise IT context, with a cloud manager product that provides single-pane-of-glass control of the enterprise cloud stack, and on its Information Workbench platform for semantic data management that supports the entire lifecycle of interacting with semantic data. Information Workbench includes data integration of RDF and legacy data sources, functions for semantic search and information access of structured, unstructured and hybrid data, a means for visual search and exploration, and collaborative generation of content through semantic wiki technologies. Fluid Ops cloud solutions have especially focused at the application layer on helping SAP customers deal with rapidly provisioning these landscapes in the cloud.

Dr. Peter Haase, who leads the research activities at fluid Ops, sees great potential for the semantics and the cloud to interface. “We are looking at how to exploit cloud technologies to improve semantic information management – using distributed cloud resources to improve the scalability of semantic data management,” he says. “We basically are looking at distributed semantic databases in the cloud, including aspects of distributed and federated query processing over these distributed resources. It’s all about using cloud technology for the scalability of semantic technologies.”

The other aspect on this front is the provisioning of linked data resources on demand as a service to make it easier for users to integrate new data sources. “We support users in identifying relevant data sources for particular information needs and put them in a position to, at the click of a button, provision data sources in terms of application, customize the sources and interaction of the data, and build applications on top of this paradigm of linked data as a service.” At the same time, semantic technologies can integrate data sources to provide a unified view of the data center – including the extended data center on the cloud – that was previously isolated.

So far, there’s a bit of a split between those businesses that want semantic data management and those who want enterprise cloud management. The former tend to be those industries already more advanced in applying semantic technologies at a large scale, such as life science and digital library projects. The latter tend to be those large companies hosting or running large enterprise application landscapes, such as SAP. But, says Haase, “I see a need on both sides for the respective other technologies. That’s exactly the reason we are active at that interface.”