Contribute to the cause!My colleagues, Brian Hitney and Peter Laudati, and I – AKA the RockPaperAzure guys - have been busy working another on-line activity to highlight what Windows Azure can do and to offer a little added incentive to give the cloud a spin.

Today, we’re launching @home with Windows Azure. 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.

Sound familiar?  Well, it’s kind of like cloud computing: leverage lots of commodity hardware to process a given job. That coincidence was too much for us to ignore, so we’ve “cloud-ified” 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.

Folding@home fun facts

400K active CPUs (March 3, 2012)

over 8 petaFLOPS (March 3, 2012)

recognized in 2007 by Guinness Book of World Records as the most powerful distributed computing cluster in the world

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.

It’s a great cause and a great use-case for cloud computing, so we do hope you join us in making a difference!