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Today’s world is more interconnected than ever. The digital revolution has made it possible to collaborate with colleagues worldwide—which is good news not just for businesses, but also for all fields of scientific research. We’ve also witnessed a tremendous rise in big data analytics—which is making a big impact on how research is conducted.
These changes have been particularly rapid and powerful in Asia. Today, researchers in Asia are awash in the data deluge, as they, like their counterparts in other parts of the world, strive to organize, analyze, and utilize big data in genetics, urban planning, ecology, and economics, just to name a few areas.
The computing resources required to handle big data can be enormous, often stretching beyond what is available in even a large standalone data center. This is where the computational power and scalability of cloud computing really shines. To help scientific researchers learn how to take advantage of cloud computing, Microsoft Research developed the Microsoft Azure for Research program, which helps researchers harness the power of Microsoft Azure, Microsoft’s cloud-computing platform.
For Microsoft Research Asia, it has been an exciting and inspiring journey to promote Microsoft Azure in the Asia-Pacific region during the past year. One of the most compelling components of the Microsoft Azure for Research program is a series of free training events that are being offered at sites throughout the world. These classes, which are open to researchers and students from universities and nonprofit research laboratories, provide hands-on training on how to use Microsoft Azure to conduct data-intensive science. Participants access Microsoft Azure through a browser on their own laptop (regardless of operating system), as experts guide them through the ins and outs of performing data-intensive research in the cloud. The training content starts with the basics of cloud computing and progresses to advanced topics on the use of Microsoft Azure for research.
To date, we have held nine of these two-day events in Asia: two in Beijing, two in Taiwan, and one each in Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Nanjing. Attendees have included more than 420 of faculty members and graduate students representing a spectrum of scientific disciplines, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. One of the participants, Dr. Guangjun Zhang of Peking University, observed, “the Azure for Research training guided us in becoming familiar with web sites, virtual machines, cloud services, and related topics. It also gave us the opportunity to get answers and advice from experts from Microsoft Research. The training imparted a lot of positive inspiration.” Yohan Chon, a PhD candidate from Yonsei University who attended the training in Korea, commented that the training “was very practical and useful.”
We plan to hold more Microsoft Azure for Research training events in additional locations in the future. Meanwhile, we are working on the Microsoft Azure for Research Award program, which offers sizable grants of Microsoft Azure resources for worthy proposals. As of now, 34 research proposals from Asia have been selected by the Microsoft Azure global team. We anticipate positive outcomes from these proposals and look forward to continuing to help researchers in the Asia-Pacific region use Microsoft Azure for their research. The deadline for the current round of proposals for Microsoft Azure for Research Awards is Tuesday, April 15; the next submission deadline will be June 15.
Microsoft Azure is a powerful and highly reliable tool for data-intensive scientific research, and we are extremely pleased to be offering these training events and grants to help researchers tap into the power and efficiency of cloud computing.
—Tim Pan, UR Director, Microsoft Research Asia