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Amazon, Microsoft offer free access to cloud resources for climate-change research

Archana Venkatraman

Technology giants AWS, Microsoft and IBM have committed to award free access to their supercomputing and cloud resources to drive innovative climate-change research.

The grant programmes are in support of the US government’s Climate Action Plan and Climate Data Initiative.

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“My administration will work with tech innovators and launch new challenges under our Climate Data Initiative,” said US President Barack Obama.  

AWS has launched a climate research grant programme under which it will award grants of free access to supercomputing resources through Amazon EC2 Spot Instances in September 2014.

According to AWS, the climate change initiatives outlined by the Obama administration require large-scale analysis of climate data. 

The cloud provider will award a total of 50 million core hours of supercomputing using Amazon EC2 Spot Instances with training and guidance from the AWS scientific computing team.

“By providing grants totaling 50 million core hours, AWS is enabling researchers to accelerate research that can result in an improved understanding of the scope and effects of climate change, and analyses that could suggest potential mitigating actions,” said the Press Secretary at the White House.

The programme offers “scalable computing resources of the AWS cloud to researchers so they can quickly analyse climate data and increase our understanding of climate change,” Jeff Barr, chief evangelist for AWS said on the company blog.

“Our goal is to encourage and accelerate research that will result in an improved understanding of the scope and effects of climate change, along with analyses that could suggest potential mitigating actions.”

AWS Spot Instance allows a customer to buy unused Amazon EC2 computer capacity at a heavily discounted rate.  

AWS Spot Instance gives Amazon a flexible way to sell extra capacity. The instances are acquired through a bidding process in which a customer specifies a price per hour they are willing to pay.

Its rival cloud provider Microsoft is also supporting the US president’s climate data initiative by planning to make available an initial collection of climate-research related datasets through its Azure Marketplace.

Microsoft Research will also grant 12 months of free cloud-computing resources to 20 awardees submitting proposals focused on food resilience and climate change by 15 September 2014. 

It will provide the free IT resources through the Azure for Research program. Microsoft will co-host vents aimed at demonstrating the value of open-data and data-driven tools to boost climate preparedness and resilience in the agricultural sector.

Meanwhile, IBM will expand its World Community Grid program, which enables members of the public to donate their computer or mobile device's unused computing power to scientists. The expansion will provide scientists studying climate change topics with free access to dedicated virtual supercomputing resources and a platform to engage the public on their research.

Under the IBM programme, each researcher will have access to up to 100,000 years of computing time, a value of $60m in today's costs, said the White House Press Secretary.


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