My teammates Peter Laudati, Brian Hitney and Jim O’Neil have been hard at work on a very cool project! It is not really a new project but they have done a lot of work to bring back the “@home with Windows Azure” project.
The @home ‘brand’ has been applied to a host of distributed computing projects (like SETI@home) which typically involve installing a small application on your machine (“at home”) that runs when the machine is idle. The application executed depends on the nature of the project, but generally it downloads some “task” from a given project’s server, executes it locally, and reports results back to the project server. Essentially, everyone that downloads the application creates a node in a large cluster of computers all working toward a common goal.
That sounds like cloud computing to me: leverage lots of commodity hardware to process a given job! It was the inspiration we had to “cloud-ify” one of those distributed projects, namely Folding@home.
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.
Microsoft currently provides a 90-day free trial of Windows Azure where you can learn to kick the tires and run an application in the cloud 24x7 cost-free. When you participate in @home with Windows Azure, you’ll leverage those 90-days of free compute time (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. In essence, your participation is a donation of your free compute time to the Folding@home project!
How Can I Get Started?
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.
Below is the schedule for webcasts. Of course, you can jump in before at any time on your own.
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
Hope to see folks on our webcasts starting next week. Until then, start learning the cloud, and make a difference at home with Windows Azure!