Interest 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
- 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:
- Wanted: new pilot project for cloud computing research
- EU researchers and Microsoft join forces to boost scientific research through the cloud
- VENUS-C project website
- VENUS-C Open Call documentation
- VENUS-C application form
- VENUS-C FAQ
—Fabrizio Gagliardi, Director of EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa), the External Research division of Microsoft Research