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Cloud Infrastructure Soars in Europe

August 10, 2011 | By Microsoft blog editor

It was barely a year ago that European scientific and industry leaders came together with the goal of developing, testing, and deploying a high-quality, interoperable cloud platform for industry and research. The result was VENUS-C, which stands for Virtual multidisciplinary EnviroNments USing Cloud infrastructures.

Jointly sponsored by the European Commission and a consortium of 14 partners, among them Microsoft Research, VENUS-C was conceived to meet the needs of seven different research and commercial areas: bioinformatics, systems biology, drug discovery, civil engineering, civil protection, civil emergencies, and marine biodiversity. VENUS-C has since developed into a functional, operational platform, and is being used for 15 new pilots that received seed funds after an open call elicited 60 proposals from across Europe.

Conceived to meet the needs  of seven research and commercial areas, VENUS-C is now a functional platform that is being used for 15 new pilot programs in various fields.

Conceived to meet the needs  of seven research and commercial areas, VENUS-C is now a functional platform that is being used for 15 new pilot programs in various fields.

The success of VENUS-C is hardly surprising, since it offers powerful computing resources, open solutions, and a user-centric focus—all without the upfront costs of expensive IT installations. What’s more, VENUS-C’s massive computing power helps expedite research, speeding the time from hypothesis to result.

Vladimir Sykora, co-founder of Molplex, a small U.K. company working on drug discovery, and recipient of one of the 15 pilot grants, remarks, “Thanks to the VENUS-C platform, we will be able to do in a few weeks molecular computations that would have taken a year to complete on our own servers. This application allows us to quickly estimate the activity in the human body of new chemical compounds.”

VENUS-C also offers the cloud advantages of scalability, providing resources as and when needed. This is enormously valuable in many areas of scientific research when peak computing needs occur sporadically and often unpredictably.

As Costas Papadachos of the Geophysical Laboratory at Aristotle University notes, “Geoscientists involved in the difficult territory of earthquake impact assessment have much to gain from initiatives like VENUS-C. Our involvement offers a prime opportunity to access unprecedented resources, only when and where necessary for earthquake impact estimation and related information dissemination, without worrying how to build and maintain the corresponding infrastructures and operational tools.” Papadachos heads one of the 15 new pilot experiments on the VENUS-C cloud platform.

Cloud computing can provide new approaches to data collection and management, too. Using the VENUS-C platform, Collaboratorio, an Italian-based micro-enterprise that is managing one of the civil engineering scenarios, is collecting data on the performance of new buildings, creating a database of qualitative and statistical information that can be used to find the designs that best fit specific environmental and urban contexts. The cloud will help Collaboratorio’s researchers mine the data to identify trends, perform extrapolation studies, and address common challenges that are related to building and environmental impact.

As VENUS-C embarks on its second year, we look forward to the platform performing even bigger and more complex applications. This is a very precocious one-year-old!

Fabrizio Gagliardi, Director, Microsoft Research Connections EMEA

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