Feds could get access to advanced cloud-computing technologies

Federal workers and the science community will soon be able to access advanced cloud-computing resources for free, thanks to an agreement between Microsoft Corp. and the National Science Foundation.

Qualified individual researchers and research groups – selected through NSF’s merit review process – will have free access to the technology. The project is aimed at accelerating scientific discovery by broadening researcher capabilities and fostering collaborative research communities.

“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 Wing, assistant director for the NSF Computer and Information Science and Engineering directorate.

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The cloud tools will enable scientists to better and more easily analyze, synthesize, mine and combine diverse data sets, a challenge with ever increasing amounts of data and a growing trend toward collaborative data projects, both of which are transforming the needs of the typical scientific research program.

Researchers will have 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 hosts, scales and manages web applications through Microsoft data centers. 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.