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Microsoft Waives Windows Azure Bandwidth Fees for University Researchers, Grants $50,000

Microsoft and Internet2 announced a new agreement enabling member universities to take advantage of Windows Azure to open up additional collaborative, instructional and research opportunities in the cloud.

The announcement was made at the Spring 2012 Internet2 Member Meeting today in Arlington, Va. The 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 shift those resources toward research-related activities and speed discovery,” Microsoft stated.

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.

Microsoft is also working with Internet2 and the university research community to pilot new large-data management, archiving and curation efforts that demonstrate capabilities around research data management life cycles. 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.

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,” mentions Microsoft.

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