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Australian Researchers Gain Access to Microsoft Cloud

Microsoft is providing cloud computing grants for three of Australia's research organizations. National ICT Australia, the Australian National University, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation will receive three years of free access to Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud computing platform, as well as technical support and client tools under development.

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced similar partnerships with European, American, and Japanese institutions.

The arrangement enables researchers to access the computing power of the cloud from their desktops. The opportunities and challenges of cloud computing were the topic of a report issued in September 2010 by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. According to one of the authors of that report, Craig Mudge, a professor at the University of Adelaide, the Microsoft cloud technology "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."

National ICT Australia, a research center founded and funded by a consortium of government agencies and universities, will use Azure 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," said Anna Liu, cloud computing research project leader. "The results will potentially enable businesses to adopt more effective strategies and ultimately enhance collaboration and productivity in the workplace."

Australian National University and its National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) expects to apply the cloud resources to "solving data-intensive research problems in novel ways, increasing the diversity of tools available to researchers, and allowing NCI to explore ways of migrating advanced computational services into the cloud," according to Lindsay Botten, NCI's director.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia's national science agency, will use Microsoft's resources to support a project focusing on transport and logistics. "Having this staggering computing power available to us in one spot is a wonderful opportunity for our scientists," said Ian Oppermann, director of the agency's computing center. "I can't wait to see what our imaging, modeling, and simulation researchers will do with this much raw power at their fingertips."

Microsoft's director of the eXtreme Computing Group, Dennis Gannon, agreed, adding, "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."

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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