Microsoft Corp has announced new partnerships with three of Australia’s top research organizations as part of the company’s Global Cloud Research Engagement Initiative launched earlier this year. Representatives from National ICT Australia (NICTA), The Australian National University (ANU), and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) attended a launch event today in Sydney to show their support for the program that will provide scientific researchers across the continent with access to advanced client plus cloud computing resources and technical support. Each grant will provide researchers supported by these organizations with three years of free access to Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud computing platform, as well as access to technical support and client tools being developed by Microsoft. This will enable researchers to easily access the power of the cloud from their desktops. The supported projects will explore a range of topics, including the analysis of online social networks, a cloud-based geophysical imaging platform, computational chemistry and other e-science applications.
The Microsoft program will help Australia’s university research infrastructure better align with recommendations of ‘Cloud Computing: Opportunities and Challenges for Australia,’ a study by the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. ‘It will also make a contribution to innovation as enterprising researchers launch new forms of business, namely, those competing on ideas rather than sizes of capital budgets,’ said professor Craig Mudge, one of the report’s authors. ‘We are seeing a dramatic shift in how the power of the cloud can empower researchers. With access to the Windows Azure platform, scientists around the world can tap into increased computing power with their own familiar desktop tools to more easily explore and share their complex research,’ said Dr Dennis Gannon, director of the eXtreme Computing Group at Microsoft. ‘The grants being distributed through this global initiative will make powerful, simple cloud computing tools available to researchers worldwide, empowering diverse communities of academics and scientists whose work ultimately benefits all of us.’
The first partnership is with NICTA, Australia’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Research Centre of Excellence. Dr. Anna Liu, Cloud Computing Research Project Leader at NICTA, said, ‘NICTA will use the Windows Azure platform to study patterns in social network usage and to explore reasoning of structured data on the Web. This is a unique opportunity for us to conduct these studies at an unprecedented scale, so that we can address difficult real-world problems, such as those associated with the collection, management and sharing of information in large e-health systems. The results will potentially enable businesses to adopt more effective strategies and ultimately enhance collaboration and productivity in the workplace.’ The second grant will benefit the mission of ANU and the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI): to provide Australian researchers with world-class high-end computing services. ‘NCI welcomes the opportunity to participate in this initiative and make available Windows Azure services to Australian researchers,’ said professor Lindsay Botten, director of NCI. ‘These new resources will open up exciting opportunities for solving data-intensive research problems in novel ways, increase the diversity of tools available to researchers and allow NCI to explore ways of migrating advanced computational services into the cloud.’
The third partner, CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, will receive resources to support a project focusing on transport and logistics. Dr Ian Oppermann, director, CSIRO ICT Centre, said, ‘Having this staggering computing power available to us in one spot is a wonderful opportunity for our scientists. I can’t wait to see what our imaging, modeling and simulation researchers will do with this much raw power at their fingertips.’ These new partnerships further showcase Microsoft’s continuing support of researchers and academics by extending the capabilities of powerful, easy-to-use PC, Web and mobile applications through cloud services. The company ultimately seeks to broaden researcher capabilities, foster collaborative research communities, and accelerate global scientific exploration and discovery for the benefit of all.
Earlier this year, Microsoft announced similar partnerships with the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the US, the National Institute of Informatics (NII) in Japan, and in Europe with the European Commission’s VENUS-C project, INRIA in France and the University of Nottingham in the UK.