The project will provide education and resources to universities that wish to teach courses on software-as-a-service (SaaS).
SaaS applications provide access to remotely-hosted software via the web such as Google's search engine, Google Apps or IBM's upcoming hosted services platform.
Students do not typically have access to the large server grids used to run online applications, the companies claim, and are graduating without the skills needed to write internet-scale applications.
"It is no longer enough to program one machine well," argued Google senior software engineer Christophe Bisciglia.
"To tackle tomorrow's challenges, students need to be able to program thousands of machines to manage massive amounts of data in the blink of an eye. "
IBM and Google will offer a pilot programme for a new education-only data centre, and provide the hardware to build a cluster of several hundred computers.
The two companies estimate that the data centre will contain more than 1,600 processors.
The machines will use Linux with the open source Xen virtualisation technology, as well as an open source implementation of Google's MapReduce and Google File System.
Both of these are designed to handle tasks and data spread out of a large number of compute nodes.
Students will be able to log into the data centre remotely to test their cloud computing projects.
The system has been tested through the University of Washingto, and the pilot will add students and professors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Melon University, University of Maryland, Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley.
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