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Australian Research Organizations Receive Free Access to Cloud Computing

Mon, 12/13/2010 - 6:36am

Australian Research Organizations Receive Free Access to Cloud Computing

Microsoft 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 to accelerate scientific discovery. Representatives from National ICT Australia (NICTA), The Australian National University (ANU), and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) attended a launch event 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 U.S., 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 U.K.

About NICTA

National ICT Australia Ltd (NICTA), Australia’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Research Centre of Excellence, is developing technologies which will meet the current and future needs of the community in fields which will lead to large economic, social and environmental benefits for Australia. NICTA has five laboratories around the country. Since NICTA was founded in 2002, it has created five new companies, developed a substantial technology and intellectual property portfolio and continues to supply new talent to the ICT industry through the NICTA-enhanced PhD program.

NICTA is funded by the Australian Government as represented by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and the Australian Research Council through the ICT Centre of Excellence program. In addition to federal funding NICTA is also funded and supported by the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland and Victorian Governments, The Australian National University, Griffith University, University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales, University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology and The University of Sydney. For more information: http://www.nicta.com.au

About ANU/NCI

NCI is hosted by The Australian National University (ANU) and it builds upon the work of its successful antecedent — the Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing Program (APAC) National Facility Program. NCI is funded by the Australian Government, through its National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (Platforms for Collaboration) and through substantial co-investment by a number of partner organizations, the two most prominent of which are ANU and CSIRO. For more information: http://nci.org.au

About CSIRO

CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse in the world. Working from sites across Australia and around the globe, its staff of more than 6000 delivers solutions for agribusiness, energy, transport, environment and natural resources, health, information technology, telecommunications, manufacturing and mineral resources. CSIRO’s ICT Centre is the hub for information and communication technologies in the Organisation. The ICT Centre seeks to transform Australian industries and society through the application of innovative research on national needs. For more information: www.csiro.au/ict

About Microsoft Research

Founded in 1991, Microsoft Research is dedicated to conducting both basic and applied research in computer science and software engineering. Researchers focus on more than 55 areas of computing and collaborate with leading academic, government and industry researchers to advance the state of the art. Microsoft Research has expanded over the years to eight locations worldwide and a number of collaborative projects that bring together the best minds in computer science to advance a research agenda based on their unique talents and interests. Microsoft Research has locations in Redmond, Wash.; Cambridge, Mass.; Silicon Valley, Calif.; Cambridge, England; Beijing, China; and Bangalore, India, and also conducts research at the Cairo Microsoft Innovation Center in Egypt; European Microsoft Innovation Centre in Aachen, Germany; and the eXtreme Computing Group in Redmond. Microsoft Research collaborates openly with colleges and universities worldwide to enhance the teaching and learning experience, inspire technological innovation, and broadly advance the field of computer science. More information can be found at http://www.research.microsoft.com.

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