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November 10, 2010

2010 Cloud Education and Outreach Innovators: Microsoft

Nicole Hemsoth

For a more detailed description of how we chose our winners for our first annual HPC in the Cloud Editors’ Choice awards, please read this post, which provides some necessary background and links to the full list of winners and descriptions.

There is a chance that in the next few years this award category will become obsolete as the conversations about cloud move more into the practical and farther away from merely helping potential users understand the core technologies and concepts that make it a viable model.

While there will not be a lack of need for educational outreach programs by any stretch of the imagination, at this crucial stage during more mainstream cloud adoption, both for HPC and more vanilla purposes, these types of efforts are critical.

Earlier this year, Microsoft and the National Science Foundation partnered to provide free access to the company’s Azure cloud for scientific use and did the same thing for users in developing countries who required computational power to drive forth their business ideas. This was certainly not the first or last such engagement effort and while yes, it serves Microsoft well to get users “hooked” on their platform by making it the best possible option (free), the sheer number of these arrangements is worth noting.

Although IBM is close on its heels in terms of offering outreach and education (not to mention free access) programs to universities and institutions, Microsoft has been a clear leader in providing information about cloud computing, both in the context of its own Azure offering and beyond.  This year alone it has partnered with countless universities and institutions to provide training and guidance to help users understand what the cloud is—and for that matter, is not.

Interestingly, while they obviously want to promote their Azure offering, the company has released a vast amount of literature, some of which boils core concepts down to their basic components—and without the marketing speak. Or, if it’s there, it’s very well-disguised.

With their range of conference and prolific communications with potential customers in the form of white papers, lectures, and interesting sites like ModelingtheWorld.com, Microsoft’s effort to engage the masses of scientific and enterprise users via education and making themselves stand out as sources of knowledge about all things cloud is remarkable—and worthy of recognition.

In the above photo, HPC in the Cloud publisher, Tom Tabor presents the Education and Outreach award.