Microsoft Research Blog

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Windows Azure for Research

September 9, 2013 | By Microsoft blog editor

Microsoft Research is pleased to announce a new initiative to help the research community use the cloud to advance scientific discovery. Three years ago, we partnered with researchers to experiment with cloud computing on Windows Azure. The results from these early efforts—many of which are described on our website—have been outstanding. These pioneering projects have cut across disciplines, from bioinformatics to ecology, social network analysis, civil engineering, mobile computing, natural language processing, and more.

Bringing cloud computing to researchers

The successes of our early efforts have convinced us of the immense value of using Windows Azure in scientific research. Moreover, they made us determined to do all we can to bring “cloud power” to the broader community of researchers. One reason for our confidence is that the Windows Azure platform has expanded to include a number of fantastic new capabilities. The original Platform as a Service capabilities remain, but Windows Azure now supports persistent Windows and Linux virtual machines; Hadoop services through HDInsight; mobile services support for Windows, Android, and iOS clients; virtual networks and identity management; various database services; Windows Media Services; and programming support for C++, C#, F#, Java, Python, Ruby, and R.

By taking advantage of the same platform that thousands of our commercial customers—and we at Microsoft Research—rely on, scientists can accelerate the speed and dissemination of scientific discovery.

Science is at an inflection point where the challenges of dealing with massive amounts of data and the growing requirements of distributed multidisciplinary collaborations make moving to the Windows Azure cloud extremely attractive. This is true for the individual researcher who does not want to manage local physical infrastructure and for large teams that need to share their discovery resources and services with the larger research community.

Many researchers from many scientific disciplines are ready to benefit from the flexibility and convenience of the cloud. We look forward to supporting them by launching a program called Windows Azure for Research.

Windows Azure for Research has four components:

  • Windows Azure for Research Awards Program: We will be accepting proposals for sizable grants of Windows Azure resources. We expect to make up to 100 of these awards each year. The awards will be for individual projects or for community efforts to host scientific data and services. There will be calls for special topics that we will publish periodically on the website. We will be accepting proposals continuously and making awards six times a year. The first deadline is October 15, 2013, and the first set of awards will be announced two weeks after that date. Learn more.
  • Training: Starting September 2013, we will begin a series of 20 or more worldwide training events designed specifically for scientific researchers. Learn more.
  • Technical resources and curriculum will be available online and we have additional programs for professors to teach cloud computing in their classes.
  • Research community engagements: We will sponsor an annual Windows Azure for Research workshop and will participate in existing scientific gatherings. We believe that building community is the best way to encourage people to share techniques, ideas, and discoveries.

Microsoft Research’s commitment is to support the scientific community to build and use cloud-based data collections and tools that will drive new discoveries and create new and innovative scenarios for using cloud computing. We are encouraged by many of the new open-source scientific tools that are now available on Windows Azure and we are eager to see more being built and distributed in the year ahead. In short, we are extremely excited to engage with the research community on this endeavor.

Dennis Gannon, Director of Cloud Research Strategy, Microsoft Research Connections

Learn more