The Nigerian Scientist That Helped to Establish UK's First University-based Cloud Computing Facility
29 March 2020
Tell us about yourself and schools attended
I am Kabiru Muhammad Maiyama, a native of Maiyama local government, Kebbi State, Nigeria. I did my primary and secondary schools in Sokoto, where I grew up. My Bachelor's degree was also from Sokoto from the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, where I obtained a bachelor's degree (BSc Hons) in Computer Science from 2001 to 2005. After that, as usual for all Nigerian graduates, I went to the national service (NYSC) in Ilorin, Kwara State. Immediately after the service, I was one of the lucky candidates to be selected based on merit for Kebbi state oversea scholarship programme. The programme sponsored me to study Master of Science (MSc) in Distributed Computing Systems at the University of Greenwich, London – United Kingdom. I went back to Nigeria, where I secured a lecturing job at the Department of Computer Science of Usmanu Danfodiyo, University, Sokoto. After about four years lecturing, I was meritocratically awarded a PTDF oversea scholarship to study PhD in Computer Science at the University of Bradford. I am currently volunteering and mentoring both undergraduate and postgraduate students at the university and other small communities, mostly virtual, due to the current Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.
What is your area of research?
My PhD research focused on cloud computing, performance modelling and analysis, performance vs security trade-off. I am also working on developing machine learning models for cloud computing platform's performance, and performance vs security trade-off. Furthermore, I have an interest in a software-defined network (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV), among others.
In 2016 you led your colleagues to build a university-based cloud computing platform from the ground up. It was on the University of Bradford news. Can you tell us more about it?
Well, under the supervision of Dr Mariam Kiran and my colleagues, we decided to build the first university-based cloud computing platform using commodity hardware. This was reported in the University's news. We used the platform to run our experiments and also to serve as a testbed for many cloud-related use-cases and research. After an initial analysis, we decided to use the OpenStack open-source cloud computing platform, customised it and named it BradStack. We managed to assemble and upgrade the specification of available computing hardware, customised, networked and deployed the platform. The test was remarkable, and we run various experiments with excellent results. In addition to our PhD research experimentations as well as two technical papers, some MSc students utilised it, which resulted in first-class MSc dissertations. It was a challenging and exciting experience, which I am very grateful to have taken part in.
Is BradStack Open source?
Well, I will say No and Yes. No, because we customised it and locked-it if-you-like for the university community. Yes, because it was based on OpenStack, which is an open-source cloud computing and virtual infrastructure manager.
Have you published an article based on BradStack?
Yes, two technical papers were published and two first-class MSc dissertations in addition to our PhD research, which we reported in PhD theses of at least two students, including myself.
What excites you about your research area and which part do you enjoy the most?
My research, just like every research, has its exciting and challenging parts. I love the hands-on (practical) part of it. I also like reading articles to extract information, designing experiments or modelling and visualising the result. You configure the environment and run the experiment, or for modelling you analyse it. I enjoy the hands-on (practical implementation). For example, configuring the BradStack, writing code, executing the program, especially if it does what you expect it to do. As described earlier, I was very excited that other members of the university community, including students, used BradStack for their projects and obtain a first-class grade. Also, the application of Machine Learning models is fascinating, as it is the technology that is well harnessed today.
Do you think Cloud Computing technology and Cloud related research can be done in Nigeria?
Off course, cloud computing and cloud-based research can be done in Nigeria; in fact, it will be more profitable to do it in Nigeria and any third world country. This is because, most of the African and third world countries, in general, share common problems of infrastructure deficit. The deficit includes lack of technology hubs, data centres, and even fundamental resource such as electric power. With cloud computing, users, including researchers, can move their servers, systems, software and platform to the cloud computing centres and use the internet to connect, configure and use it. Researchers from various universities and collaborate, build one platform and all their communities and use it for research which will enhance more collaborative research.
Why do you choose to be a scientist, is it your initial interest, or did you develop an interest in it later?
Well, I always love science and technology since I was a small boy. I remember asking my uncle so many questions about how things are made. I later realised I found mathematics easier, exciting and more engaging to do. I was very good at Math since primary school days. I also enjoy physics, especially practical physics, where experiments are carried out with physical objects. I also remember developing an interest in computers when I took my work to the computer business centre for typesetting. After it was typed, the person asked me to sit and go through it, and I realised you could edit the work on the screen and then print it later. That part got me really excited about computing. Using the computer for calculations also consolidated my interest in becoming a computer scientist. When I did some research and realised it is related to mathematics, it became even more exciting, and so, I chose to pursue it as my career.
Who is your inspiring scientist?
Well, I would say that my hero scientist, in general, is Neil deGrasse Tyson, an American Astrophysicist. I love his quest, his wisdom and his ability to explain complex concept into a simple and understandable way. I remember one of his quotes that I like, which says "The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it". In computing, I will say, Linus Torvalds, the developer of the first version of Linux operating systems and Tim Berners-Lee known as the mastermind and inventor of the worldwide web. Both still alive inspire me, and I love to hear them speak.
What is your advice to the young and aspiring scientist, including science students?
What I will say is, to be proactive, plan well and work hard. It is also vital to have passion and love what they do. Similarly, delay gratification, as well as perseverance, are proven elements for success. They should ask questions, learn as they begin and develop their skills or career. They should also remember to start doing something even with minimum essential resources and continue to learn as they go. They should remember all discoveries and inventions happen with ideas, action, persistence and hard work.