Mark Drapeau (Washington, DC) –
Microsoft and Internet2 have announced a new agreement enabling member universities to take advantage of Windows Azure to open up collaborative, instructional and research opportunities in the cloud. The announcement was made at the recent Spring 2012 Internet2 Member Meeting in Arlington, VA. This agreement is a significant step in making cloud computing more accessible and affordable for all researchers and instructors, and is a key step toward supporting the National Science Foundation’s Data Sharing Policy and Data Management Plan Requirements for the greater research community.
Under this agreement with Internet2, Microsoft will waive both data egress and data ingress charges for Internet2 university members through their institutions’ existing Enrollment for Education Solutions licensing agreement with Microsoft. Through this arrangement, principal investigators involved in large data initiatives — such as genomics, big data or “the long tail of science” projects — can save on bandwidth charges when moving or accessing data sets, and instead shift those resources toward research-related activities and speed discovery.
“Microsoft recognizes the vital role research plays in spurring innovation and economic recovery in the U.S.,” said Sig Behrens, general manager for U.S. Education at Microsoft. “Moving petabytes of data in the cloud can be cost-prohibitive, so universities are not able to easily collaborate and share knowledge. With the elimination of data connectivity charges for Windows Azure, and the ability to leverage Internet2’s backbone, universities can save millions of dollars and achieve critical access to big data. This will not only break down silos, but also allow for more people to participate in the world’s largest cloud research community.”
“The research and education community has played a seminal role in the creation of the modern Internet and the applications that have made it one of the most transformative technologies of our lifetime,” said Internet2 CEO and President Dave Lambert. “Our work with Microsoft around the use of Windows Azure cloud services in support of large data management and research will allow the Internet2 community to work with Microsoft in new and innovative ways, and allow for greater collaborative, instructional and research opportunities in the cloud.”
Universities to Pilot Research on Windows Azure
Microsoft is also working with Internet2 and the university research community to pilot new big-data management, archiving and curation efforts that demonstrate capabilities around research data management life cycles. Institutions such as Florida International University, George Mason University, University of California, Davis, University of California, San Diego, University of Michigan, University of Notre Dame, University of Utah, University of Virginia, and University of Washington, will be some of the first schools to pilot research projects in the cloud on Windows Azure.
“Data management and storage are things that our faculty spend too much time thinking about today. Faculty want to spend their energies addressing the science, collaborating with their peers and training the next generation of scientists,” said Kelli Trosvig, vice president and chief information officer, University of Washington. “UW faculty, using Windows Azure, have been able to introduce sophisticated data management and analysis techniques to undergraduates studying climate science and oceanography. This agreement will open the door to Windows Azure for applications studying the human genome and other areas of strength at the University of Washington.”
Research efforts will focus on four key project management areas, including the following:
• Genomics. This science area provides a key testing opportunity to show how the cloud can be used as a repository for data and tools to handle the vast output of the current generation of sequencers by creating living repositories for public data sets.
• “The long tail of science.” This includes working with research areas of science — such as sociology, geology, anthropology, transportation and oceanography — where a great need for a platform exists for analysis and collaboration, but around which researchers often work alone with little access to big infrastructure. This pilot project would provide easy tools and services that run on desktops or mobile devices but connect to the cloud where large data stores reside.
• High-performance computing. Another pilot project will examine opportunities to connect the computational tools of high-performance computing with large data repositories in the cloud.
As part of this agreement, Microsoft has committed to a grant of $50,000 (U.S.) in Windows Azure resources to Internet2 to help drive pilot projects. The award of the grant to individual members will be administered by Internet2. Interested Internet2 members can contact [email protected] for details on how they might participate in the program. The arrangement will become available to Internet2 member institutions beginning in the third quarter of 2012.
User single sign-on via Shibboleth
Finally, as part of this agreement, Microsoft will investigate support for applications deployed on Windows Azure to authenticate users via Shibboleth. The Shibboleth architecture and implementation for identity management allows for cross-domain single sign-on, which facilitates collaborative research across institutions and simplifies maintenance of user names and passwords.
Mark Drapeau is part of the Microsoft Office of Civic Innovation based in Washington, DC.