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Windows Azure Bandwidth Fees Waived for Internet2 Research Universities

Microsoft and Internet2 have struck an agreement to open up the Windows Azure cloud computing platform to Internet2 member universities. Internet2 is a networking consortium led by research and education organizations in the United States. This agreement will enable researchers and instructors to take advantage of the cloud for collaboration on projects.

Cloud collaboration capabilities are essential for researchers working under grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF's Data Sharing Policy places expectations on its researchers to share their primary data, samples, physical collections, and other supporting materials with other researchers in a timely and cost-effective manner. Through this agreement, Microsoft will waive data egress and ingress charges for Internet2 member universities through their institutions' Enrollment for Education Solutions licensing agreement with Microsoft, making it easier for researchers to share their data with each other.

“Microsoft recognizes the vital role research plays in spurring innovation and economic recovery in the [United States],” said Sig Behrens, general manager for U.S. education at Microsoft, in a prepared statement. “Moving petabytes of data in the cloud can be cost-prohibitive, so universities are not able to easily collaborate and share knowledge. With the elimination of data connectivity charges for Windows Azure, and the ability to leverage Internet2’s backbone, universities can save millions of dollars and achieve critical access to big data. This will not only break down silos, but also allow for more people to participate in the world’s largest cloud research community.”

As part of the agreement, Microsoft, Internet2, and university researchers are also working together to pilot several research projects in the cloud using Windows Azure. The goal of these pilot projects is to demonstrate Windows Azure's research data management lifecycle capabilities.

The pilot projects focus on the following key areas:

  • A genomics project to demonstrate Windows Azure's capabilities as a repository for public data sets;
  • A "long tail of science" project to provide desktop and mobile tools and services to enable researchers to connect to the cloud to access large data stores; and
  • A high performance computing project to connect HPC computational tools to large data repositories in the cloud.

Microsoft has granted $50,000 in Windows Azure resources to Internet2 to help drive these pilot projects, and Internet2 will administer the grants, which will be awarded to individual Internet2 member universities beginning in the third quarter of 2012.

Microsoft is also looking into Shibboleth authentication for Windows Azure, which would enable cross-domain single sign-on to simplify maintenance and make it easier for researchers at different universities to collaboration with each other.

Further information is available on the Internet2 site.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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