Following Bill Hilf's earlier post about how the cloud is going to enable more customers to take advantage of technical computing (aka supercomputing), the New York Times recently posted an article about Microsoft making software tools and Windows Azure resources available for bio-science research (NCBI BLAST on Windows Azure.)  It showcases a real world example of what Bill discussed. Here's an excerpt:

The software maker has started grafting popular scientific databases and analysis tools onto its Windows Azure cloud computing service. This basically means that researchers in various fields can get access to a fast supercomputer of their very own and pose queries to enormous data sets that Microsoft keeps up to date. For the time being, Microsoft will allow some research groups to perform their work free, while others will have to rent calculation time on Azure via a credit card.

These moves have turned Somsak Phattarasukol, a graduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle, into a big fan of Microsoft.

Mr. Phattarasukol, like many researchers, is accustomed to waiting in line for access to large, public computers and to twiddling his thumbs – sometimes for days – as the machines work on his requests. It’s a frustrating process only made worse as the databases the researchers deal with swell alongside the time it takes to perform the analysis.

Microsoft officially opened access to the scientific bits of Azure this week, but Mr. Phattarasukol got early access to the system. He’s part of a team that’s trying to create a biofuel from bacteria that produce hydrogen gas. The work has required the research team to compare the makeup of various bacterium strains against an extensive protein database, as they try to figure out which bits of genetic code can prompt higher hydrogen gas production.

“We can do this now in hours instead of days,” Mr. Phattarasukol said, in reference to the Azure system.

Network World wrote a story about this, too,  "Microsoft turns Windows Azure into a cloud-based supercomputer" which highlights how customers using Windows HPC Server will soon be able to "burst" high performance computing workloads up to Azure for extra capacity and scale - saving time and money for technical computing projects across all fields and industries.

Joel