Microsoft and the National Science Foundation Enable Research in the Cloud
Feb. 04, 2010
Agreement will offer free access to new computational and collaborative services to accelerate scientific discovery for research communities.

REDMOND, Wash., and ARLINGTON, Va. — Feb. 4, 2010 — Microsoft Corp. and the National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced an agreement that will offer individual researchers and research groups selected through NSF’s merit review process free access to advanced cloud computing resources. By extending the capabilities of powerful, easy-to-use PC applications via Microsoft cloud services, the program is designed to help broaden researcher capabilities, foster collaborative research communities, and accelerate scientific discovery. Projects will be awarded and managed by NSF. More details about funding opportunities are available at http://www.nsf.gov/dir/index.jsp?org=CISE.

Microsoft will provide cloud computing research projects identified by NSF with access to Windows Azure for a three-year period, along with a support team to help researchers quickly integrate cloud technology into their research. Windows Azure provides on-demand compute and storage to host, scale and manage Web applications on the Internet through Microsoft datacenters. Microsoft researchers and developers will work with grant recipients to equip them with a set of common tools, applications and data collections that can be shared with the broad academic community, and also provide its expertise in research, science and cloud computing.

“Cloud computing can transform how research is conducted, accelerating scientific exploration, discovery and results,” said Dan Reed, corporate vice president, Technology Strategy and Policy and eXtreme Computing at Microsoft. “These grants will also help researchers explore rich and diverse multidisciplinary data on a large scale.”

Today, scientists are operating in a world dominated by data, thanks to increasingly inexpensive sensors and a growing trend toward collaborative data projects. Analyzing and synthesizing this mass of data remain a challenge. The goal of the new program is to make simple yet powerful tools available that any researcher can use to extract insights by mining and combining diverse data sets.

“We’ve entered a new era of science — one based on data-driven exploration — and each new generation of computing technology, such as cloud computing, creates unprecedented opportunities for discovery,” said Jeannette M. Wing, assistant director for the NSF Computer and Information Science directorate. “We are working with Microsoft to provide the academic community a novel cloud computing service with which to experiment and explore, with the grander goal of advancing the frontiers of science and engineering as we tackle societal grand challenges.”

About the National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2010, its budget is about $6.9 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives over 45,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes over 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

About Microsoft Research

Founded in 1991, Microsoft Research is dedicated to conducting both basic and applied research in computer science and software engineering. Its goals are to enhance the user experience on computing devices, reduce the cost of writing and maintaining software, and invent novel computing technologies. Researchers focus on more than 55 areas of computing and collaborate with leading academic, government and industry researchers to advance the state of the art in such areas as graphics, speech recognition, user-interface research, natural language processing, programming tools and methodologies, operating systems and networking, and the mathematical sciences. Microsoft Research currently employs more than 850 people in six labs located in Redmond, Wash.; Cambridge, Mass.; Silicon Valley, Calif.; Cambridge, England; Beijing, China; and Bangalore, India. Microsoft Research collaborates openly with colleges and universities worldwide to enhance the teaching and learning experience, inspire technological innovation, and broadly advance the field of computer science. More information can be found at http://www.research.microsoft.com.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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Quote Sheet: Microsoft and the National Science Foundation Enable Research in the Cloud

“The work Microsoft is doing with the NSF is quite a novel arrangement and is really an excellent example of a way for the federal government, private-sector industry and academia to work together for common good.”

Daniel Atkins
W.K. Kellogg Professor of Community Information
Professor of Information and EECS
Associate Vice President for Research Cyberinfrastructure
University of Michigan

“We view cloud computing platforms such as Windows Azure as critical in addressing some problem areas in our computational portfolio. The ability to build tools that reside on the workstation of a domain scientist yet harness significant amounts of computational power, all the while utilizing a more accessible programming paradigm, has the potential to provide a positive disruption to the way in which scientific problems are solved.”

Rob Gillen
Researcher
Scientific Computing and HPC
Oak Ridge National Labs

“We receive an enthusiastic response from the National Cancer Institute cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid end users and developers whenever we demonstrate how Windows Azure can change the paradigm for data and/or computations in cancer research.”

Marty Humphrey
Associate Professor of Computer Science
University of Virginia

“Academic research computing centers are actively looking for better ways to support computation-intensive and data-intensive computing by identifying optimum economies of scale on or off campus. Cloud computing offers a great deal of promise for many types of research applications, but one important factor will be how easy it is to develop, deploy and control cloud applications from the average scientist’s workstation without requiring them to have advanced systems administration skills. Microsoft’s Azure platform is an exciting step in the right direction, providing a completely integrated end-to-end solution.”

David Lifka
Director
Cornell University Center for Advanced Computing

“If you want to collaborate with people, especially people across distances, it makes a lot of sense to keep your data in the cloud rather than in your own ivory tower. The next step is the sharing of programs to manipulate the data in the cloud and the sharing of computer simulations. Sharing is trivial once a researcher gets it working in the cloud compared to shipping files and then to try to get data and programs installed in and working in other places. The way cloud computing works, if I’m getting my work done, there’s no reason everybody else can’t use it as well.”

Dave Patterson
Pardee Professor of Computer Science
University of California, Berkeley

“Cloud computing gives scientists the computational resources they need, when they need them. It means that researchers can have a good idea on their way into work in the morning, and when they get there immediately grab the compute power and storage capacity they need to pursue it. Therefore, clouds can shorten the time from idea to realization, and so accelerate the rate at which science progresses. At Newcastle University we have integrated our e-Science Central ‘science as a service’ platform with Azure. Moving from our own servers to Azure allows us to deliver the processing power our users need, when they need it. As a result we can support a greater number of users, running more complex scientific analyses.”

Paul Watson
NE e-Science Center Director
University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne U.K.

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