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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.

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    VENUS-C Open Call Invites Research Groups to Innovate in the Cloud

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    Virtual multidisciplinary Environments USing Cloud infrastructuresInterest in cloud computing is growing at a rapid pace, particularly in commercial environments. We believe there is a real opportunity to fulfill the potential of cloud computing—and we're working to bring about that full potential. We have partnered with the European Union to develop the VENUS-C (Virtual Multidisciplinary EnviroNments Using Cloud Infrastructures) project, which is designed to develop, test, and deploy an industry-quality cloud computing service for industry and research firms.

    On January 11, 2011, we announced an open call for proposals to develop applications that are suited to the cloud. We intend to engage with research groups that have operational and scientifically productive application software that is already running on platforms—whether they are commodity clusters, grids, or cloud platforms. The call is open to European public and private research organizations that are involved in research and technology development from the 27 member states and the 13 associated countries.

    The VENUS-C Open Call application areas include:

    • Arts and humanities
    • Engineering
    • Health and life sciences
    • Economics and financial services
    • Natural sciences
    • Math, biology, and chemistry
    • Physics with application characteristics (for example, dynamic scaling requirements, peak demands, and ubiquitous availability)

    We will work closely with new pilot projects to identify the features and capabilities that cloud computing environments must have to support the type of computing exemplified by the selected pilot projects, and to validate the VENUS-C infrastructure. All successful candidates will join the VENUS-C project as subcontractors. We will provide technical support throughout the project and ensure that participants gain visibility through focused VENUS-C dissemination activities. In addition, we will provide the following support and resources:

    • Access to the compute and storage resources of VENUS-C providers. VENUS-C is underpinned by Windows Azure and its European data centers, the Engineering Informatica data centers in Italy, and two other European high performance computing centers: The Royal Institute of Technology (KTH, Sweden) and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC, Spain).
    • Access to the VENUS-C infrastructure. All pilot prototypes will have access to the VENUS-C infrastructure between July 2011 and May 2012. Access to the Windows Azure and other project platforms will continue through May 2013.
    • Seed money to get started. A total of €400,000 (approximately US$538,000) will be divided among the successful candidates.
    • Intellectual property rights. Proposers will retain all intellectual property rights to the work they develop during the project.

    Complete information about the Open Call, including a complete list of scientific areas; eligible countries; an FAQ; and details about the procedures, requirements, and evaluations can be found on the VENUS-C Open Call webpage. Completed applications may be submitted online or via email.

    The next major milestone dates are as follows:

    • April 11, 2011: Open Call closes
    • May 2, 2011: Evaluation notifications are sent to applicants

    Cloud computing might not play a role in every facet of scientific research that requires some form of distributed computing. Nor is cloud computing likely to replace any other form of distributed computing across the board, at least in the near future. Where cloud computing in general—and VENUS-C in the European landscape in particular—will make a difference is in pushing its potential to tackle real-world challenges more quickly and more cost-effectively without the need for complex technical know-how and constant support. New, more environmentally friendly data centers can help scientific organizations address pressing technical issues and rising energy costs. The VENUS-C project is poised to take advantage of these cost savings to help reduce spending in both scientific and commercial settings.

    Proposals will be accepted through April 11, 2011. For more information or to submit an application, please see these resources:

    —Fabrizio Gagliardi, Director of EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa), the External Research division of Microsoft Research

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Microsoft Research Project Hawaii Launches New Cloud Services

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    Microsoft Research Project HawaiiInnovations 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.

    • The Hawaii Relay Service provides a relay point in the cloud that mobile applications can use to communicate. It provides an endpoint naming scheme and buffering for messages that are sent between endpoints. It also allows for messages to be multicast to multiple endpoints.
    • The Hawaii Rendezvous Service is a mapping service from well-known human-readable names to endpoints in the Hawaii Relay Service. These names may be used as stable rendezvous points that can be compiled into applications.

    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.

    University Engagement

    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.

    Learn More

    For more information about Project Hawaii, please see these resources:

    —Arjmand Samuel, Research Program Manager, the External Research division of Microsoft Research

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Join the Microsoft Biology Foundation v2.0 Development Preview

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    Microsoft Biology FoundationYou 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:

    • BAM extension scenarios and paired end support
    • Object model changes to use ISequence : IList<byte>

    We also optimized some features for MBF v2.0, including:

    • Memory profiling and analysis on MBF
    • Parallel de Novo Assembler (PaDeNA) memory optimizations
    • Sequence optimizations (including non-string and non-character)
    • MUMmer optimization based on sequence
    • Object model optimizations
    • Additional scenarios for the collection of memory and performance profiles

    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 DLL version of MBF is incorrectly reported as 1.0.0.0
    • The installer installs MBF in a directory named 2.1; it should be 2.0

    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

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