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Microsoft Lures Researchers to Azure Cloud in 3 European Deals

Microsoft is working with three organizations in Europe to broaden researcher access to cloud resources. The company has announced that it's working with Europe's VENUS-C (Virtual Multidisciplinary EnviroNments USing Cloud Infrastructures) consortium, France's National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA), and the University of Nottingham Horizon Institute.

Microsoft is heavily vested in the VENUS-C consortium, a project co-funded by the European Commission under the research-focused 7th Framework Programme. VENUS-C is currently developing a cloud computing service for research and industry communities integrated with the existing European grid computing system. Microsoft has contributed technology--Windows Azure--and expertise--teams of researchers, including one based at the European Microsoft Innovation Center in Germany. The use of cloud services will surface in research on biomedicine, civil engineering, and data for science.

"The VENUS-C project is one of the first attempts to prove that clouds and European research grids can interoperate and to demonstrate the sustainability of the scientific clouds," said Andrea Manieri, coordinator of VENUS-C. "We are proud to lead this consortium; Microsoft is the perfect partner to help make VENUS-C successful."

Microsoft is expanding its European partnerships with France's National Institute for Research and the U Nottingham Horizon project in the United Kingdom, which focuses on digital economy research. Both organizations will receive three years of free Windows Azure usage. Azure provides on-demand computing and storage to host and manage highly scalable Web applications through Microsoft datacenters. Microsoft experts will work with each recipient to help them master tools, applications, and data collections that can be shared with the broad academic community and will also provide subject matter expertise in research, science, and cloud computing.

"We are excited that our neuroscience imaging project will have access to this cloud resource and the continued collaboration," said Jean-Jacques Lévy, director of the Microsoft Research-INRIA Joint Centre. Founded by INRIA, Microsoft, and Microsoft Research Cambridge, the center pursues research in formal methods, software security, and the application of computer science research to other sciences.

"The University of Nottingham is delighted to be partnering with Microsoft on the use of cloud computing within our Horizon program," said Derek McAuley, director of Horizon. "Horizon is funded through the Research Councils U.K. Digital Economy program to investigate how new digital technologies can be designed that transform the way we live, work, and play, factoring in the essential human elements of privacy and behavior, together with an understanding of the emerging business models. Cloud computing is one of these technical advances that is already transforming business, and there is much more to come."

Microsoft announced similar partnerships with the United States-based National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Informatics in Japan earlier this year.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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