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Reed comments on Azure

Lots of voices in the news-o-sphere about Microsoft’s Azure cloud services offering, but not any I trust as much as Dan Reed. From his blog today

I don’t normally pitch Microsoft products in the blog, preferring to discuss science policy, technology research and development and global competitiveness. However, something big just happened at Microsoft, something I think will affect all of us.

…The simplest description of Azure is that the initial release allows you to develop hosted Windows applications using .NET Services, though future releases will support unmanaged code and open source tools as well (Eclipse, Ruby, PHP, and Python).

Dan echoes some of the same points we have made here several times with respect to the value of using hosted computing cycles, and the risks as well.

In a world of (at best) modest research budget increases, we must ask hard questions about the best use of limited funds. Cloud computing offers a potential mechanism to increase the efficiency of current research, ensure continuity of critical data and enable new kinds of research not now feasible.

In this model, researchers focus on the higher levels of the software stack — applications and innovation, not low-level infrastructure. University and Federal research agency administrators, in turn, procure services from the providers based on capabilities and pricing. Finally, the cloud service providers deliver economies of scale and capabilities driven by a large market base and energy efficient infrastructure. Remember, computing infrastructure exists to enable discovery, not as monuments to technological prowess.

This is only a sampling of Dan’s thinking on this. The post is well worth a review, and I encourage you to do accept his invitation to join him in some critical thinking.

I welcome discussion of how we can exploit cloud services and infrastructure effectively – all cloud infrastructure, not just Microsoft’s Azure. To do this, the cloud service providers, hardware vendors, universities and Federal government must work together to outline an agenda, conduct experiments at scale and speak with a united voice on the opportunities.

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