Microsoft Research Connections Blog

The Microsoft Research Connections blog shares stories of collaborations with computer scientists at academic and scientific institutions to advance technical innovations in computing, as well as related events, scholarships, and fellowships.

Resources abound for researchers wanting to use cloud computing

Resources abound for researchers wanting to use cloud computing

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Cloud computing offers tremendous advantages in terms of scale and compute power—not to mention costs—to those grappling with today’s data-intensive research. The Windows Azure for Research program is designed to help scientists reap these cloud-computing benefits in their research work.

As part of the program, our series of worldwide training seminars are now in full swing; we’ve hosted two-day, in-person training events in Cape Town, Paris, Zurich, Seoul, Guangzhou, Beijing, Campinas, and Seattle. If you couldn’t attend one of these events don’t despair: many more are planned across the globe.

Helping scientists use cloud computing in their research

In addition, we’ve released the training material online, along with a set of technical papers designed specifically to help researchers quickly get started with Windows Azure. These papers cover a range of topics, including application migration; best practices in scaling, compute, storage, web applications, and services; processing of big data; and utilization of high performance computing (HPC), Microsoft Excel, Microsoft business intelligence aids, and other open-source and Microsoft tools—all from a technical computing user’s perspective. We will also feature case studies of successful projects, to illustrate the architecture and technologies used to solve cloud-scale problems in various research fields.

The information in these papers is applicable to Windows, Linux, and Mac operating systems. If you have attended the Windows Azure for Research training, have received an award through the RFP program, or are just curious about Windows Azure, we believe you will find this content useful.

We suggest that you read the technical papers in order, starting with the overview. If you have applications you’d like to migrate to the cloud with minimum effort, we suggest you review Getting Started with Windows Azure Virtual Machines. If you want to contribute virtual machines (VMs) for your community, Using and Contributing Virtual Machines to VM Depot provides detailed instructions.

Windows Azure provides the Windows Azure software development kit (SDK), and Python is now a first-class citizen in Visual Studio 2013. This powerful combination gives Python developers much needed features, including remote debugging even on Linux virtual machines. An Introduction to Using Python with Windows Azure explains how to place Python applications in the cloud.

Windows Azure for Linux and Mac Users provides information to help non-Windows users get started with Windows Azure quickly. We’ve also included a guide for high performance computing on Windows Azure. The new Power Query and Power Map tools in Excel 2013 can now be used to analyze data from Windows Azure Storage; Visualization with Excel Tools and Windows Azure offers a detailed walk-through of a sample.

In addition to these technical papers and the in-person training events, we also offer a three-part series of webinars on using Windows Azure cloud computing for research. The first two webinars have already aired, but you can watch them on demand: Accelerating Your Research with Windows Azure and Virtual Machines for Research on Windows Azure. The third webinar, Environmental Science on the Cloud with Windows Azure, will be streamed on December 17, 2013; tune in to learn how environmental scientists are using Windows Azure to easily collect, analyze, and share their data.

Lastly, the Windows Azure for Research Award program, which provides grants of Windows Azure to qualified labs, is in high gear. The recipients of first round of grants were announced in early November, and we are fast approaching the December 15, 2013 deadline for submitting proposals for the second round of awards. But no need to panic: the program is ongoing, with submission deadlines on the fifteenth of every other month. Just remember, applicants must be affiliated with an academic institution or a nonprofit research laboratory to qualify. Learn more and apply for a research award on the proposal submission site.

If you have questions or would like to suggest topics that we should cover, please let us know.

—Wenming Ye, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections

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