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­.s. Scientists Given Access to Cloud Computing

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The National Science Foundation and the Microsoft Corporation have agreed to offer American scientific researchers free access to the company’s new cloud computing service.

A goal of the three-year project is to give scientists the computing power to cope with exploding amounts of research data. It uses Microsoft’s Windows Azure computing system, which the company recently introduced to compete with cloud computing services from companies like Amazon, Google, I.B.M. and Yahoo. These cloud computing systems allow organizations and individuals to run computing tasks and Internet services remotely in relatively low-cost data centers.

The new program was announced on Thursday at a news conference in Washington.

Neither Microsoft nor the foundation was willing to place a dollar amount on the agreement, but Dan Reed, the corporate vice president for technology strategy and policy at Microsoft, said that the company was prepared to invest millions of dollars in the service and that it could support thousands of scientific research programs.

Access to the service will come in grants from the foundation to new and continuing scientific research. Microsoft executives said they planned eventually to make the new service global.

The government has traditionally supported a group of scientific computing centers at universities and laboratories around the country. These centers have typically housed supercomputers capable of solving scientific and engineering problems quickly. In recent years, however, increasing emphasis has been placed on computing systems capable of storing and analyzing vast amounts of data.

“It’s all about data,” said Jeannette M. Wing, assistant director of computer and information science and engineering directorate at the science foundation. “We are generating streams and rivers of data.”

From The New York Times
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