How do you out-educate and out-innovate the rest of the world?
It starts with making investments in scholarly and basic research. For most, the pursuit to solve the mysteries of humankind and discover new knowledge happens in our world-class American Universities. While conventional research methods have enabled principal investigators to unlock the human genome, the Internet, and modern medicine, we need to radically rethink how to put modern research capabilities in the hands of scientists and researchers to discover what’s next.  More importantly, we need to enable the next-generation scholar the ability to spend more time, dollars, and resources unlocking the next big thing—and less time worrying about the technology to do it.
We are excited to announce a new agreement with Internet2 that enables member universities to take advantage of Windows Azure to open up new collaborative, instructional and research opportunities in the cloud. The intent is to make research in the cloud more affordable and accessible. At the same time, the Microsoft Windows Azure platform gives universities an avenue to comply with the National Science Foundation’s Data Sharing Policy and Data Management Requirements.
A major roadblock to research in the cloud is simply getting the data there—especially “big data” created by research projects.  It is cost-prohibitive for researchers to publish, share, and consume big data sets in the cloud because of the enormous bandwidth charges to move petabytes of data over the Internet. Microsoft is waiving both data egress and data ingress charges so that universities no longer have to pay to move data across the Internet. Additionally, Windows Azure currently supports a broad array of public identity systems for authentication and collaboration. For Internet2 members, we are also going to enable InCommon’s Shibboleth identity system on Windows Azure for researchers, educators, and students. The combination of the Windows Azure cloud and the InCommon identity system will enable colleges and universities to do collaborate and innovate as if it were one cloud-scale super campus. Universities will be able to use the next-generation Internet2 Network to directly connect to Microsoft’s cloud computing data centers running Windows Azure.
Microsoft is also providing a $50K grant to Internet2 to help drive pilot projects. Florida International University, George Mason University, University of California-Davis, University of California-San Diego, University of Michigan, University of Notre Dame, University of Utah, University of Virginia, and University of Washington, will be the first schools to pilot research projects in the cloud on Windows Azure.
Our universities are not just for the passing of knowledge from one generation to the next. They are also the frontier for discovering what’s next and creating knowledge. That is the work of the professional scholars. Today, research universities are being asked to do more than ever – and what they are asked to do takes considerable capital investment and time. What Microsoft is providing through Windows Azure will eliminate those instances where we only had pockets of isolated research and innovation within an institution. Now we can aggregate all of that research in our cloud not just within an institution but across education. For research universities, there is no need to build out a large data center when a federal grant only pays for research for a couple years. Institutions can invest in the actual research instead of those funds being sunk into capital costs.
The other aspect that is really exciting to us is that institutions without a research mission, such as historically black colleges and universities, women’s colleges, liberal arts programs and more, can now gain access to research data in the cloud. It is these types of public-private partnerships that are needed in education to not only create better benefits for the community, but create new actors who can participate in the generation of new ideas at the same time. The cloud creates an intersection for enabling innovation on the campus.