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As we approached the holiday season in Colombia, we had already received one of the biggest gifts on our wish-list: on November 12, the government of Colombia officially committed to the establishment of the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology in the city of Manizales, an important academic hub located in west-central Colombia. The Center is an ambitious project that aims to provide scientific and technical support to businesses, public organizations, universities, and research centers throughout Colombia. It will offer much-needed technology for processing and storing data, and will strengthen the country's research capacity by providing computational capability to other centers of excellence in Colombia and, potentially, across Latin America.
The government's action confirmed the Center as a legal entity, which enables it to receive funding and to initiate the selection of the final site and begin the planning, design, and building of its infrastructure. The venture brings together government and private parties including the Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications (known by its Spanish initials, MINTIC) and the Administrative Department of Science, Technology, and Innovation (better known as Colciencias) from the government side; and Microsoft Colombia, Microsoft Research, and a group of prestigious universities including the University of Caldas, the Autonomous University of Manizales, the University of Manizales, Quindío University, the University of Technology of Pereira, and Tolima University.
Speaking at the commitment announcement, ICT Minister Diego Molano Vega underscored the significance of the Center's establishment: "This is an important step for the government, the consolidation of a project that we believe allows Colombia to position itself as a country that enhances the use of information technology in such strategic areas as biotechnology and biodiversity."1
With a government investment of 4.6 million Colombian pesos (US$2.5 million) for the first year, and a commitment to comparable funding for each of the next two years, the Center is well positioned to embark on its first major project. Since its main goals include research in biology and computer science, the Center intends to focus on Colombian biodiversity, with the goal of creating synergies and knowledge-sharing among researchers at universities, government agencies, and private industry.
Microsoft has been involved in the Center since its very beginning, helping to conceptualize the project with MINTIC, Colciencias, and a group of international experts. Microsoft Research has offered to support the Center in designing its technical architecture and to provide bioinformatics research tools based on high-performance computing (HPC) and the cloud.
Orlando Ayala, corporate vice president and chairman of emerging markets at Microsoft, said that "the creation of this Center is a great opportunity for the country to generate research and scientific development." Ayala emphasized Microsoft's commitment to the biodiversity research project, which will, he noted, "establish a direct bridge between Microsoft Research and the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology."1
Microsoft External Research's involvement in this project aligns perfectly with the group's charter to harness the power of science and technology by fostering collaboration worldwide among academia, industry, and governments.
—Jaime Puente, Director, Microsoft External Research, a division of Microsoft Research
1. "Nace primer Centro de Bioinformática y Biología Computacional," Dinero.com, accessed December 20, 2010. Machine translated as "Born first Center for Bioinformatics and computational biology."
Innovations in wireless networking technology are driving our increasingly connected world, with smartphones gaining acceptance for both professional and private use. In the future, we foresee a vast majority of smartphone apps relying on cloud services to enhance the mobile experiences. Project Hawaii, a research and academic outreach program by Microsoft Research, envisions the next generation of mobile experiences to rely heavily on cloud services—with services being a natural extension of the mobile platform.
New Cloud Services
Today, the Hawaii project team announced the release of two new cloud services: the Relay Service and the Rendezvous Service.
In the next month, the Hawaii project team will release additional cloud services, prominent among them are the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) in the Cloud and Speech to Text. We will be talking more about these in the future.
A key part of Project Hawaii is university engagement. We have partnered with universities worldwide to empower students to develop their own novel cloud-enhanced mobile apps. We provide the tools, services, and equipment that students need to create their mobile apps; students provide the imagination and talent. The Hawaii offering consists of a set of innovative cloud services, and Microsoft's newest mobile platform: Windows Phone 7. Project Hawaii participants also have access to both computation and storage in the cloud by using Windows Azure.
In the semester that started in August 2010, Project Hawaii was used in a spectrum of mobile computing courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, with approximately 60 students participating at six schools: Michigan State University, Singapore Management University, University of Arkansas, University of California Santa Barbara, University of Maryland, and University of Michigan. By using a combination of services, students developed cloud-enhanced mobile apps to address a large number of interesting and important scenarios. A sampling of these projects is available at the Project Hawaii student project webpage.
In the semester that started in January 2011, Project Hawaii is being offered to 20 universities worldwide. These include Stanford University, Purdue University, Duke University, University of Illinois at Urbana Champagne, University of Minnesota, University College London, University of California Santa Barbara, and University of Leipzig. For more details, see the Project Hawaii website.
For more information about Project Hawaii, please see these resources:
—Arjmand Samuel, Research Program Manager, the External Research division of Microsoft Research
You may be familiar with the Microsoft Biology Foundation (MBF), an open source bioinformatics .NET library that is designed to provide core functionality for genomics research from commonly-used file parsers to algorithms and web connectors. We're pleased to announce that we are continuing to invest in the project in the coming year.
We recently posted a preview of MBF v2.0, which can be downloaded for development evaluation purposes. (Please note that this release is limited to source code only.) This release resolves a number of previously reported and identified issues. We also implemented-and in some cases, improved-many new features, including:
We also optimized some features for MBF v2.0, including:
We are now in the process of implementing additional features. We will discuss those in greater detail at a future date. In the meantime, we invite you to participate in the MBF v2.0 development preview and provide feedback through our community forums.
For best performance and to avoid any conflicts, we strongly recommend that you completely uninstall MBF v1.0 before you install MBF v2.0. Also, please note that we have identified the following issues that may affect your ability to install the code:
The recommended (stable) MBF v1.0 code and corresponding v1.0 binaries are still available for download if you prefer to work with the earlier code. Either way, we encourage you to help us improve MBF by providing feedback in the forums.
For more information:
MBF download locations:
-Beatriz Diaz Acosta, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research