• Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Changing the World starts TODAY!

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    kinect1st feb

    Kinect for Windows Product Available February 1st

    The Kinect for Windows product group announced the upcoming release of their full commercial product in an official blog post on January 9. The new Kinect for Windows hardware and accompanying software will be available on February 1. It will be supported in 12 countries (United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, and United Kingdom) at a suggested retail price of US$249.

    Academics will still be able to use the Software Development Kit (SDK) with current Kinect for Xbox 360 sensors for non-commercial purposes and existing deployments that are licensed until 2016.

    You now also have a route to write commercial applications. Monitor the Kinect for Windows site for updates.

    kinectwindows-1lg

    • The announcement is here.

    As the Kinect for Windows blog states, many improvements to the SDK and runtime have been made these include:

    • Support for up to four Kinect sensors plugged into the same computer
    • Significantly improved skeletal tracking, including the ability for developers to control which user is being tracked by the sensor
    • Near Mode for the new Kinect for Windows hardware, which enables the depth camera to see objects as close as 40 centimetres in front of the device
    • Robustness improvements including driver stability, runtime, and audio fixes
    • Many API updates and enhancements in the managed and unmanaged runtimes
    • The latest Microsoft Speech components (V11) are now included as part of the SDK and runtime installer
    • Improved “far talk” acoustic model that increases speech recognition accuracy
    • New and updated samples, such as the Kinect Explorer, which enables developers to explore the full capabilities of the sensor and SDK, including audio beam and sound source angles, colour modes, depth modes, skeletal tracking, and motor controls
    • A commercial-ready installer which can be included in an application’s set-up program, making it easy to install the Kinect for Windows runtime and driver components for end-user deployments.

    The Channel 9 folks have some great content that went live today as well.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Windows Azure: Your Journey to the cloud FREE Training 2 May 2013

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    WinAzure_rgb

    Event Details FREE Training by Microsoft Cloud Experts

    If you have developed one of the new breed of beautiful, modern apps that runs on a tablet, smartphone or other mobile device you may well have used an infrastructure cloud service for the back-end. You can’t risk even a small chance of an outage of your cloud service at that kind of scale. Even though the app itself didn’t fail, your customers will perceive it that way. At the same time you don’t want to get in to the service management business: it’s got almost nothing to do with development. You’re caught – at massive scale like this you have no choice but to have an ultra-reliable service. This event shows you how to develop your cloud service so that it requires the absolute minimum of your time in doing service management and cloud development, but still gives outstanding reliability.

    Date Thursday, 2 May 2013 from 09:00 to 16:30

    Register here http://ukazure.eventbrite.co.uk

    Location

    Microsoft Ltd Cardinal Place
    80-100 Victoria Street
    SW1E 5JL London
    United Kingdom

    09:00 – 09:30 Coffee and Registration

    09:30 – 11:00 The Modern Developer and the Cloud

    Aimed at the mobile/tablet/laptop developer, this general session introduces three crucially important concepts concerning the back-end services their apps connect to:

    • Service management is tough. Service management at the massive scale of your successful app is really tough.

    • Infrastructure-as-a-Service

    • Platform-as-a-Service

    11:00 - 11:15 Coffee Break

    11:15 – 12:45 Copy what you already have in to the cloud

    The default option is to do it the way it’s always been done in your own data-centre. Install Operating Systems, Databases, Web Servers, Middleware and your own code, data and configuration on to Virtual Machines that run in a public cloud operator’s data-centre. Then simply manage it all to provide the high levels of reliability, scalability and availability your customers will expect from your app. It’s not the best way, but it’s at least a start and helps you to get going very quickly. In this session we show you how to do that.

    12:45 – 13:30 Lunch

    13:30 – 15:00 Slow down, think, be prepared

    Modern App developers tend to be attracted to the tangible parts of technology; the parts their customers can touch and feel: tablets, slates, smartphones, laptops, readers, desktops, TVs. This session shows you how to build a cloud infrastructure that just works, requires almost no service management at all and frees you up to concentrate on the user experience part of your app – the bit the users actually see and feel.

    15:00 – 15:15 Coffee Break

    15:15 – 16:15 Case Studies

    Let’s look at a few case studies of apps that have been released and learn the good, the bad and the ugly. These guys will tell you what works and what doesn’t. What’s worth concentrating on and what’s just a waste of time.

    16:15 – 16:30 Wrap-up

    A review of the day’s activities and suggestions of how you can progress your app and what next steps you could take.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Imagine Cup 2012 UK Results

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    On Wednesday 25h April at 16:00 BST, the UK hosted its local Imagine Cup finals webcast at the Microsoft Campus in Reading. The 6 finalists from the Software Design competition who were chosen from a round of preliminary judging were whittled down to the two top teams on 19th April through 5 hours of judging in a sealed room at our Microsoft offices in London Victoria. Through much deliberation over the next few days, we chose one team to represent the UK at the Imagine Cup worldwide finals in Sydney, Australia!

    Imagine Cup Software Design in the UK this year: A few stats

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    · We had 991 registrations for the Imagine Cup UK this year

    · 374 of them signed up to the Software Design competition

    · 49 teams were formed for the Software Design competition

    · 26 teams submitted a Round 1 entry

    · 6 teams were selected for the UK final

    · 1 team won and will go to the worldwide finals in Sydney to represent the UK

    The Judges

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    The Teams

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    Bazinga! From Motherwell College – were inspired to use smartphone technology to inspire students all about Science! “Professor Duffy’s Interactive Labs app” is a complete science Lab on the phone utilising various sensors on the phone to demonstrate the practical side of science in a fun and interactive way.

    Teesside 0x32: From Teesside University was inspired to develop Cloud Doctor – In Ethiopia for example there is 1 doctor to 50,000 patients. Cloud Doctor, as the name implies, harnesses Windows Azure and Cloud technologies combined with Windows Phone and Windows 8 tablets to deliver an on-demand, flexible and intelligent collaboration system – connecting healthcare workers in the developing world with specialists and doctors all over the world who volunteer their time to help patients on the ground.

    Team EyeWorks: From Northumbria University and Newcastle College were inspired to develop MIRA (a Mobile Intelligent Retinal Analysis platform). MIRA is a cloud based platform that utilises Smartphone technology coupled with a specialist lens attachment developed at Northumbria University to identify early stage sight loss in the developing world.

    WykeWare: From the University of Hull were inspired to develop a smartphone application to assist those people with a risk of falling be it the elderly or people prone to fainting. Their submission embraced cloud technology to match emergencies and responders to identify how to prioritise how best to help.

    Sentient Systems: From the University of Reading were inspired to develop “Sentience” a cost effective software solution designed to run affordable , advanced and customizable robot systems utilising cloud based distribution, plug-in architectures, commodity frameworks and low cost hardware specifically Kinect!

    Team Loading: From The University of Manchester were inspired to develop Project Sky High. Project Sky High is a Windows Phone application combined with a netduino hardware sensor to allow aid workers in the developing world to transform a smartphone into a cost effective portable ultrasound scanner and mobile blood pressure monitor. The patient data will be recorded in the cloud in Windows Azure and accessible by a medical professional.

    The Winners

    In 3rd place and winners of a pocket digital video camcorder each were…

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    In 2nd place and winners of a Windows Phone each were…

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    In 1st place and winners of a Windows Phone each, a trip to the Microsoft Technology Center in Reading to spend a day with the experts and also the grand prize of a trip to Sydney, Australia to compete in the worldwide finals were…

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    A huge congratulation to all teams who competed and this year the decision was made much harder than ever before as the entries this year far surpassed previous years.

    All teams who submitted a Round 2 video entry will be receiving feedback and teams who have won prizes will be hearing from the Academic Team very soon! Congratulations to Team EyeWorks and we will be seeing you in Sydney!

    Watch the Video of the Imagine Cup 2012 UK Live Web Cast relieving the Winners of the UK Imagine Cup entries

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    TouchStudio the first development tool on your phone for the phone

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    TouchStudio allows you to script your phone. TouchStudio is a new programming environment built around a single core idea: the programs are authored and executed on mobile devices. No other computers are needed. http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/projects/touchstudio/

    TouchStudio - TouchStudioApp

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    Script your phone! Write code for your phone, on your phone! TouchStudio is radically new software development environment on the Windows Phone, bringing the excitement of the first programmable personal computers to the phone.

    TouchStudio is now available on the Windows Phone Marketplace.

    Videos

    Watch the Channel 9 video "TouchStudio - Script Your Phone ON Your Phone!"

    What is the idea behind TouchStudio?

    The way in which we interact with computing devices is changing: instead of keyboards, advanced touchscreens become more common; mobile devices are often equipped with more sensors, such as location information and acceleration, and are always connected to the cloud.

    TouchStudio is a new programming environment and language built around this new reality. Its typed, structured programming language is built around the idea of only using a touchscreen as the input device to author code. It has built-in primitives which make it easy to access the rich sensor data available on a mobile device. In our vision, the state of the program is automatically distributed between mobile clients and the cloud, with automatic synchronization of data and execution between clients and cloud, liberating the programmer from worrying (or even having to know) about the details.

    The first beta version of TouchStudio, now available on the Windows Phone 7 marketplace, already realizes a large portion of our vision.

    clip_image003clip_image004

    TouchStudio comes with several sample scripts.

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    Each script consists of actions.

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    Each action has a structured editor for statements. Execute parameterless actions with the "run" button.

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    Edit a statement by tapping on it twice.

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    You edit expressions with a calculator-like editor.

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  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    YoYo GameMaker perfect for your first Windows 8 Application/Game

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    Yoyo

     

    With the launch of GameMaker: Studio Windows 8 

    Gamemaker

     

     

    GameMaker allows school and college students to become part of the App Generation with Windows 8 and GameMaker: Studio.

    By creating Windows Store ready applications, GameMaker: Studio allows you to integrate with the new fast and fluid Start screen, with access to Live Tiles, Snap View and Charms as well as allowing you to target multiple Windows 8 devices, from tablets to laptops to all-in-one devices.

    Windows is still by far the largest platform in the world. There are over a billion Windows PCs in current use, including 500m Windows 7 devices as of last December and with the majority of Windows Licenses sold with a new PC, Windows 8 offers developers a huge opportunity.

    From Tablets to Laptops to desktops and All-in-Ones, Windows 8 users get a unified experience across all devices and

    GameMaker offers developers a complete game development solution including support of Windows 8 features;  Live Tiles, Snap View and the Share Charm. 

    Several popular games in the Windows Store have been developed using GameMaker these include: Mr.Karoshi, Pulloshot, Froad, Reflexions, SimplySolitairePro.

    So Get Started with GameMaker http://www.yoyogames.com/gamemaker/studio/multiformat/windows8

    Or visit GameMaker site and dedicated Windows 8 resources http://www.yoyogames.com/gamemaker/studio/multiformat/windows8

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Managing Windows 8 Client Access to the Windows Store

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    IT Administrators can control the availability and functionality of Windows Store to client computers based on the business policies of their enterprise environment. clip_image001

    I have had a number of queries how Educational establishments can limit or manage Windows 8 Clients access to the store, the following TechNet articles cover some of the frequently asked questions which I have had in relation to managing aspects of client access to the Windows Store in an educational or enterprise environment.

     

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Getting Started with Microsoft Big Data, Hive & HDInsight Jump Start

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    Microsoft-and-Hortonworks-release-HDInsight

    This is the first of a three-Jump Start series tailored for those interested in a demo-heavy learning experience introducing Microsoft’s Big Data solution set.

    Live Event Details

    17:00 BST Friday, 21 June 2013 END 22 Jun, 01:00

    Register Now

    Microsoft Technical Evangelist Saptak Sen will start with setting up and loading data into Windows Azure storage and a Windows Azure HDInsight cluster. After covering Windows Azure Data Management concepts (e.g., SQL Machines, SQL Databases, Tables, Blobs), they will demonstrate using Hive to query Hadoop data using HiveQL commands and walk through how Hive leverages the entire Hadoop cluster.

    Finally, they will explore ways to pull data from HDInsight and other sources into Excel using tools like PowerPivot, Data Explorer, Power View and Geoflow to visualize data models with self-service analysis.

    Course Outline

    - Windows Azure Storage
    - Windows Azure HDInsight
    - HDInsight Hive Console
         - Create external table statements
         - Table partitions
         - Select statement syntax
    - Hive ODBC driver for connecting to ODBC consumers like Excel
    - Data Explorer Excel add-in
    - Excel PowerPivot and Power View
    - Windows Azure Marketplace, SQL Server and Windows Azure SQL Database
    - Geoflow Excel add-in

    For more details on Azure in Education see http://www.windowsazure.com/education

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Microsoft Windows Azure in Academia and what help can you get from Microsoft Research

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    windowsAzureLogo

    What is Windows Azure?

    Windows Azure is a platform for building scalable, highly reliable, multi-tiered web service applications. It is hosted on Microsoft’s large data centers in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Windows Azure has both compute and data resources. The compute resources are designed to allow applications to scale to thousands of servers and data resources. For more information on Windows Azure keep an eye on the Windows Azure team blog.

    Windows Azure as a Platform for Research in Cloud Computing

    What types of research projects are well suited to Azure?

    Windows Azure can be an excellent research platform for many types of research. However, it is designed to support scalable web services, so projects that play to this strength will have the most success. One area of particular interest is computational models and techniques that augment the capabilities of client devices, ranging from feature rich desktop and laptop computers to cell phones of other mobile devices with data and computation resources in the cloud. How can we make the cloud into a transparent extension and experience amplifier of our client-based research tools?

    Others interesting areas include:

    • Evaluation of cloud computing for a spectrum of algorithms, computational models, and programming patterns.
    • Programming abstractions for cloud platforms that offer higher level abstractions and guarantees to application developers.
    • Scaling conventional algorithms to cloud scale, coping with load, and dealing with faults.
    • Research into scientific data management, data analysis, and new services in the cloud to support data intensive research.
    • Data parallel program frameworks, going beyond the map reduce model.
    • Experimental platforms for distributed agent technology.
    • Compiling declarative and/or functional languages for cloud platforms.
    • Sustainable science gateways and virtual organizations in the cloud for web-based application and collaboration frameworks.
    • Research to support digital data libraries in the cloud that contain scientific data, not just the metadata, and support integration with published literature.
    • New techniques for data visualization of cloud scale data sets, including visual analytics.
    • Frameworks to support sensor-based science in the cloud, from services to process data streaming and from sensors to the storage and curation of raw and derived data products.
    • Machine learning techniques for data understanding and data generation.
    • Research to support intelligent interactions leveraging web data and domain knowledge.

    Will Hadoop or Dryad/LINQ be available on Azure?

    There is no port of Hadoop or Dryad/LINQ currently available. However, Windows Azure is an excellent platform for experimenting with new variations on large-scale map-reduce algorithms, as these patterns are easily coded as worker role networks.

    Can I run my MPI HPC applications on Windows Azure?

    Windows Azure is not designed to replace the traditional HPC supercomputer. In its current data center configuration it does not have the high-bandwidth, low-latency communication model that is appropriate for tightly-coupled MPI jobs. However, Windows Azure can be used to host large parallel computations that do not require MPI messaging, such as ensemble or parameter sweep studies.

    Can Azure be useful as an experimental host for distributed computing research?

    Yes. Windows Azure worker roles have access to standard TCP/IP sockets on each virtual machine (VM) in which they run. Hence it is possible to use a large number of worker roles to experiment with distributed computing algorithms and protocols.

    Can Azure be used to support collaborations and “science gateways”?

    Yes. Windows Azure is an excellent platform for sharing “community” data and data analysis tools. Most science gateways are built as web portals and Windows Azure is ideally suited for this task.

    What data collections will be made available?

    We will be very interested in suggestions from researchers about important community data collections and tools that can be hosted. We currently have data collections from the NCBI genome databases, oceanographic instrument data, and some MODIS satellite data. We also are providing access to web scale n-grams via a service. However, our goal is to let the research community help us define a sustainable collection of shared resources and analysis tools.

    Web N-gram Services

    The Web N-gram Services, provided by Microsoft Research in partnership with Microsoft Bing, will provide researchers access to large scale real-world datasets and benchmarks. Access to the Web N-gram Services will be made available to NSF awardees, with the following properties:

    • Content types: Document Body, Document Title, Anchor Texts
    • Model types: smoothed models
    • Highest order N: 5 (N=5 in N-gram)
    • Training size (Body): over 1.3 trillion
    • #of 1-gram (Body): 1 billion
    • #of 5-gram (Body): 237 billion
    • Availability: Hosted Services by Microsoft
    • Refresh: 2 data updates

    N-gram models can advance research in areas such as document representation and content analysis (for example, clustering, classification, and information extraction), query analysis (for example, query suggestion and query reformulation), retrieval models and ranking, spelling, and machine translation. They can also improve intelligent interactions with better dialogue modeling (for example, semantic relations and summarization).

    Windows Azure Software and Architecture

    What is the programming model?

    A Windows Azure program is a scalable, multi-tiered web service. The service consists of one or more “web roles,” which are standard web service processes, and “worker roles,” which are computational and data management processes. Roles communicate by passing messages through queues or sockets. The number of instances of each type of role is determined by the developer when the application is deployed and each role is assigned by Windows Azure to a unique Windows Server virtual machine (VM) instance. (Currently no more than one VM instance runs on an individual core.)

    What types compute instances are available on Windows Azure?

    Each Windows Azure compute instance (web role or worker role) represents a virtual server. Although many resources are dedicated to a particular instance, some resources associated to I/O performance, such as network bandwidth and disk subsystem, are shared among the compute instances on the same physical host. During periods when a shared resource is not fully utilized, you can utilize a higher share of that resource. Each Windows Azure data center server currently has 8 cores, 14 GB of memory, and 2 TB of disk space. An instance can be mapped to one or more cores with the memory and resources divided evenly. The table below describes the way the resources are partitioned on each server.

    Compute
    Instance Size

    CPU

    Memory

    Instance
    Storage

    I/O
    Performance

    Small

    1.6 GHz

    1.75 GB

    225 GB

    Moderate

    Medium

    2 x 1.6 GHz

    3.5 GB

    490 GB

    High

    Large

    4 x 1.6 GHz

    7 GB

    1,000 GB

    High

    Extra large

    8 x 1.6 GHz

    14 GB

    2,040 GB

    High

    Windows Azure Pricing Calculator

    What virtual machine (VM) types are available? Can I configure my own VM?

    Windows Azure automatically configures and manages Windows Server VM instances for your application. In the current version of Windows Azure, you cannot remotely connect and run a remote desktop on this VM instance. The VM instances are managed and deployed by the Windows Azure Fabric Controller and you interact with the Fabric Controller though the Windows Azure web interface.

    What types of data storage are available on Windows Azure?

    There are basically five storage systems. Blob storage is for long-term data. Blobs are binary objects together with <name, value> pair metadata. Each blob can be up to 50 GB and blobs are grouped into logical containers. Blobs are replicated three times in the data center for reliability purposes and they can be accessed from any server or by a URL over the Internet. Table storage is another type of persistent storage. A table can be very large (millions of rows and columns) and is partitioned by rows and distributed over the storage nodes in Windows Azure. It is also triply replicated. Tables are not full SQL tables because there is no join operator. Within the compute node there are two types of storage. Local disk is available to each Windows Azure role, but this is not persistent. If your role process goes down it may be restarted on another node, so the local disk is not for persistent data. However, XDrives are virtual drives that can be mounted on a Windows Azure VM instance and they are backed by the blob storage system so that they are persistent. The queue system is also part of the persistent Windows Azure storage model.

    Can I run the Windows Azure software stack on my own private cluster?

    Not currently. Windows Azure is a public cloud service and it is not available as a software product.

    Developing Applications for Windows Azure

    What languages/compilers are available? What IDEs can be used with Azure?

    Applications on Windows Azure are designed and debugged completely on the programmer’s local machine. So any compiler that generates a Windows binary can be used. Microsoft Visual Studio has a “plug-in” for Windows Azure that makes the construction of Windows Azure applications extremely simple. The plug-in allows the programmer to test the application on a local Windows Azure emulator. When the programmer is ready to deploy the application on Windows Azure, the binaries are uploaded through a web interface. This interface also controls deployment parameters such as the number of server instances to be used. Visual Studio is not required.

    The application program can also use a plug-in for the Eclipse software framework if that is preferred. Programmers can use Java, Ruby, Python, and C++. We have examples that illustrate how to deploy the Apache Tomcat server on Windows Azure for the web role.

    What scientific libraries will be available?

    We are working on a list of these currently.

    Can I run Matlab on Azure?

    Matlab can be used to “compile” a Matlab application and it is possible to upload this compiled code and libraries to Windows Azure. We have not yet installed a complete Matlab instance on Windows Azure, but it is a project currently under study.

    Can I run arbitrary applications as Azure workers?

    In general, any Windows binary that does not require modifications to the Windows operating system or registry can be loaded and run as part of a Windows Azure role. This includes compiled C, C++, or Fortran programs as well as Java, Python, PHP, and Ruby applications.

    How can I use custom libraries with my Azure applications?

    When you use the IDE to build the application, you simply include the libraries with the application. The IDE will roll these up into the binary that is uploaded to Windows Azure when you deploy your application.

    Can I manage collections of tasks (workflows) that involve local data and activities as well as Azure resident data and tasks?

    Yes. We have a sample Windows Azure service that can manage many concurrent tasks that run on Windows Azure as well as local compute resources. The tasks are arbitrary Windows executables that are wrapped as Windows Azure worker roles. The data that is used or produced can be in the Windows Azure replicated persistent storage or the local disk on each machine. This local storage is not persistent across deployments of your application; however, it is possible to mount a virtual disk that is part of the persistent storage.

    Are there hooks in Azure to enable systems-level research on scheduling and resource allocation?

    Unfortunately, no. Windows Azure applications are controlled by the Azure Fabric controller, which has the responsibility of resource allocation and quality of service for all the currently running applications. Consequently, Windows Azure is not well suited to many systems-level research projects.

    What dynamic scaling models are supported by Azure?

    The programmer must specify the number of each type of role to instantiate at deployment time. These numbers remain fixed until the application is de-deployed. However, it is possible to experiment with dynamic deployment in the application logic.

    What performance guarantees can I expect from my applications? What is the interference between workers?

    Performance will be variable depending on the load on the data center. We will provide basic benchmark tools to help guide application designers to optimize performance. At any given time, Windows Azure will be running many applications in the data center and many of these are commercial customers who demand high levels of service. The research engagement project will receive the same level of support as these commercial users.

    Will I be able to instrument my applications?

    Because you have no direct access to the Windows Server virtual machine instance, you will not be able to access instrumentation that requires administrator level authorization. However, you do have access to application logs and some performance counters, and application-level instrumentation is possible. A complete benchmark suite will be available that you can use to experiment with many performance features of Windows Azure.

    How can I get my data into the Azure storage?

    There are several ways to move data. The most direct method is through the web API to the Windows Azure blob storage. It is also possible to take data stored in Microsoft Office Excel or Matlab and, by using plug-ins we provide, save your data directly in Windows Azure tables. There are also free GUI tools to manage Windows Azure storage from your desktop, such as the
    Cloud Storage Studio. OpenDAP services will be available for loading and serving data and an FTP application can be used to pull data from FTP sites.

    Are there ways to connect desktop or mobile applications to Azure services?

    Windows Azure is a web service platform, so any web-based protocol can be used to build applications that fully integrate the cloud. This is how the plug-ins for Matlab and Office Excel were built.

    Are there data visualization tools available for Azure resident data collections?

    Both Excel and Matlab running on the desktop can be used to visualize data stored on Windows Azure. More sophisticated local
    and remote visualization tools will be made available.

    What will the Microsoft Research Cloud Research Engagement Team provide to the research community?

    The engagement team will support the community of researchers through the following:

    • Develop tutorials and white papers for a general overview of Windows Azure, identify best practices, and provide a benchmark suite as a guide for application architects and developers.

    • Host reference data sets in Windows Azure, selected based on research value/interest.
    • Host an internal kickoff workshop and annual all-hands meeting (invitation only) at Microsoft Research.
    • Field questions and provide technical consultation through our engagement team.
    • Regularly update a community web site with technical content, blogs, source codes, and examples—along with community-supplied content, questions and answers, and more.
    • Offer common services and tools that the research community finds useful.
  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Windows Azure announcements at MIX11

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    cloudpower

    Microsoft announced several updates to the Windows Azure platform today at MIX11 in Las Vegas. These new capabilities will help developers deploy applications faster, accelerate their application performance and enable access to applications through popular identity providers including Microsoft, Facebook and Google.

    New Services and Functionality

    A myriad of new Windows Azure services and functionality were unveiled today.

    These include:

    • An update to the Windows Azure SDK that includes a Web Deployment Tool to simplify the migration, management and deployment of IIS Web servers, Web applications and Web sites. This new tool integrates with Visual Studio 2010 and the Web Platform Installer.
    • Updates to the Windows Azure AppFabric Access Control service, which provides a single-sign-on experience to Windows Azure applications by integrating with enterprise directories and Web identities.
    • Release of the Windows Azure AppFabric Caching service in the next 30 days, which will accelerate the performance of Windows Azure and SQL Azure applications.
    • A community technology preview (CTP) of Windows Azure Traffic Manager, a new service that allows Windows Azure customers to more easily balance application performance across multiple geographies.
    • A preview of the Windows Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN) for Internet Information Services (IIS) Smooth Streaming capabilities, which allows developers to upload IIS Smooth Streaming-encoded video to a Windows Azure Storage account and deliver that video to Silverlight, iOS and Android Honeycomb clients.

    Windows Azure Platform Offer Changes

    Microsoft also announced several offer changes today, including:

     

    • The extension of the expiration date and increases to the amount of free storage, storage transactions and data transfers in the Windows Azure Introductory Special offer. This promotional offer now includes 750 hours of extra-small instances and 25 hours of small instances of the Windows Azure service, 20GB of storage, 50K of storage transactions, and 40GB of data transfers provided each month at no charge until September 30, 2011. More information can be found here.
    • An existing customer who signed up for the original Windows Azure Introductory Special offer will get a free upgrade as of today. An existing customer who signed up for a different offer (other than the Windows Azure Introductory Special) would need to sign up for the updated Windows Azure Introductory Special Offer separately.
    • MSDN Ultimate and Premium subscribers will benefit from increased compute, storage and bandwidth benefits for Windows Azure. More information can be found here.
    • The Cloud Essentials Pack for Microsoft partners now includes 750 hours of extra-small instances and 25 hours of small instances of the Windows Azure service, 20GB of storage and 50GB of data transfers provided each month at no charge. In addition, the Cloud Essentials Pack also contains other Microsoft cloud services including SQL Azure, Windows Azure AppFabric, Microsoft Office 365, Windows Intune and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. More information can be found here.

    Please read the press release or visit the MIX11 Virtual Press Room to learn more about today's announcements at MIX11. For more information about the Windows Azure AppFabric announcements, read the blog post, "Announcing the Commercial Release of Windows Azure AppFabric Caching and Access Control" on the Windows Azure AppFabric blog.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Windows 8 Camps May 2012

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    As of this morning we have launched the follow on Windows 8 Camps for developers around London and Birmingham. The camps primarily targets those that have attended the Windows 8 for Application Developers events and wish to further explore and learn about Windows 8 development in an hands-on environment.

    Again, our Windows 8 Champs will be delivering hands-on lab materials to get developers up to speed with app development.

    Registration details for Manchester and Edinburgh will be made available later this month. You can see all of these events on the UK Tech.Days home page.

    London, Wednesday 9th May 2012 – Register here

    London, Thursday 10th May 2012 – Register here

    London, Thursday 17th May 2012 – Register here

    Birmingham, Monday 21st May 2012 – Register here

    Manchester, Wednesday 23 May 2012 – Coming Soon

    Edinburgh, Friday 25th May 2012 – Coming Soon

    Don’t forget about Edinburgh!

    If you wish to attend the Windows 8 for App Developers in Scotland, we still have spaces available. This 1 day event which are delivered by our Windows 8 Champs with the goal of providing accelerated learning to Windows 8 application development. You can see all of these events on the UK Tech.Days home page.

    Edinburgh, Tuesday, 1st May 2012 – Register (Spaces still available)

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