Two years ago, Jim O’neil and I developed a quick Azure training program called “@home with Windows Azure” – a way to learn Windows Azure and have some fun contributing to a well known distributed computing effort, Folding@home

A few months later, Peter Laudati joined the cloud team and we developed the game RockPaperAzure.   RockPaperAzure was a lot of fun and is still active, but we decided to re-launch the @home with Windows Azure project because of all of the changes in the cloud since that effort in 2010.

So, having said all that, welcome to our “Learn the Cloud.  Make a Difference” distributed computing project!  It’s been updated, as you can see on the page – a much cleaner and nicer layout, maintaining our great stats from the 2010 effort where we had a cumulative 6,200+ virtual machines having completed 188k work units!   (Of course, as happy as I am with the numbers, the Folding@home project has a over 400k active CPUs with over 8 petaFLOPS of processing power!

Stanford University’s Pande Lab has been sponsoring Folding@home for nearly 12 years, during which they’ve used the results of their protein folding simulations (running on thousands of machines worldwide) to provide insight into the causes of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Mad Cow disease, ALS, and some cancer-related syndromes.

When you participate in @home with Windows Azure, you’ll leverage a free, 3-month Windows Azure Trial (or your MSDN benefits) to deploy Stanford’s Folding@home application to Windows Azure, where it will execute the protein folding simulations in the cloud, thus contributing to the research effort. Additionally, Microsoft is donating $10 (up to a maximum of $5000) to Stanford’s Pande Lab for everyone that participates.

We’ve provided a lot of information to get you started, including four short screencasts that will lead you through the process of getting an Azure account, downloading the @home with Windows Azure software, and deploying it to the cloud. And we won’t stop there! We have a series of webcasts also planned to go into more detail about the application and other aspects of Windows Azure that we leveraged to make this effort possible.

Here is the schedule for webcasts, and of course, you can jump in before at any time:

3/15/2012 12pm EDT  @home with Azure Overview

3/22/2012 12pm EDT  Windows Azure Roles

3/29/2012 12pm EDT  Azure Storage Options

4/05/2012 12pm EDT  Debugging in the Cloud

4/12/2012 12pm EDT  Async Cloud Patterns