A silver lining on cloud computing

Earlier this week, Microsoft boss Satya Nadella announced that the company will be donating $1 billion worth of cloud computing services to “serve the public good”.

Approximately 70,000 non-profit organisations and 900 university projects stand to benefit from these complimentary services over the next three years. The rationale behind the altruistic initiative is to broaden access to cloud computing and enable people delivering human services to enhance their work.

Over the past few years, Microsoft has tried and tested the capabilities of cloud computing within university research programmes and has proven the critical difference this technology can have. One example of its success is Clouds Against Disease, which came to fruition following a partnership between researchers at Molpex (a small drug-discovery company), Newcastle University and Microsoft Research Connections. Clouds Against Disease is a computational platform which runs algorithms to calculate the numerical properties of molecules which in turn helps to predict the effectiveness of new drug compounds and their potential side effects. Without access to cloud services, the platform would have needed more than 100 physical servers to process the data which would have required significant financial investment.

The amount of computing power that the cloud can provide would normally be out of reach for all but the biggest businesses. And unfortunately the scale of deprivation extends beyond just private and public environments into physical geographies, with developing countries struggling to gain the same technological opportunities as their developed counterparts.

Microsoft hopes to change this and their donation of cloud services represents one step on their mission of “empowering every person and organization on the planet to achieve more”.

Andy Slater, Senior Virtualisation and Cloud Consultant, Networkers, commented: “It’s admirable that Microsoft is continuing to dedicate time, money and effort to helping good causes outside of the corporate world. Clearly the announcement is good PR for Microsoft but it is undeniable that extending the reach of cloud services will positively enable not-for-profit organisations to make more progress.”

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