Windows Azure Looks to Host Cloud-Enabled Scientific Research for Free

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The cloud has transformed business applications, but it also has the potential to empower scholarly and scientific research that could help us conquer disease, manage resources better, and provide answers to some of humanity’s most pressing questions.

Since Fall 2013, the Windows Azure for Research program has been trying to help researchers in their work by soliciting proposals to use Windows Azure for scholarly research.

The upcoming deadline is February 15, marking the third period of proposals.

Proposal rounds close on the fifteenth day of even-numbered months (Feb., Apr., Jun., Sept. and Nov.), and winners are announced within two weeks. Accepted projects receive a one-year allocation of Windows Azure storage and compute resources.

Various projects have already been approved and are underway including projects from around the world.

For instance, researchers at the University of Notre Dame, in conjunction with VecNet, are using Azure to model malaria transmission to determine where malaria interventions will provide the greatest impact.

University of Illinois at Chicago researchers are using Azure to develop tools and models to trace and predict the movement of social animals.

And Korean researchers are using Azure to expand their a genetic disease search engine, giving researchers working on various types of diseases the ability to search which genes relate to the disease and what’s happening in bodies and cells.

Science VMs for Research

Microsoft is also initiating a new set of calls focused on specific cloud-based research topics. The first special call “Science VMs for Research” is seeking proposals to build virtual machine images that can be easily shared with other researchers.

Proposals for Science VMs for Research projects are due March 15, 2014.

Science VMs for Research solve a few problems for researchers. Instead of having to deal with complex installation procedures or the resolution of library conflicts, Science VMs for Research will attempt to give other researchers a complete operating system image, pre-installed with all the tools needed. Approved Science VMs will be made available on VM Depot, a catalog of preconfigured operating systems, applications, and development stacks.

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