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The Obama Administration wants to leverage cloud platforms for climate change research

The Obama Administration wants to leverage cloud platforms for climate change research

Following the US government’s recently announced Climate Data Initiative, Microsoft and AWS have announced plans to offer climate change researchers free access to cloud computing resources. IBM also said it plans to offer its peer to peer research supercomputing platform to researchers.

The Climate Data Initiative is part of the Obama Administration’s plan to help cut carbon pollution by stimulating climate change research, specifically targeting the impact of climate change on agriculture supplies.

The government wants to leverage its open data platform and has also called upon the private sector to contribute resources to help underpin research focused on making global food systems more resilient against the impacts of climate change.

“Through his Climate Data Initiative, President Obama is calling for all hands on deck to unleash data and technology in ways that will make businesses and communities more resilient to climate change,” said John P. Holdren, President Obama’s science advisor.

“The commitments being announced today answer that call by empowering the US and global agricultural sectors with the tools and information needed to keep food systems strong and secure in a changing climate,” Holdren said.

The initiative will see the Obama Administration leverage the scale and reach of some of the world’s largest cloud service providers in the hopes of drawing broader community involvement with the research.

Microsoft Research announced it will co-host a series of workshops with the US Department of Agriculture aimed at demonstrating the value of open-data and data-driven tools to boost climate change research. It also plans to make an initial collection of USDA datasets available on Microsoft’s Azure Marketplace, and will host a competition that will see researchers bid for free cloud computing resources to support food resilience and climate change research.

The company said it will award 20 projects, with each award providing up to 180,000 hours of cloud computing time and 20 TB of cloud storage.

“The overarching goal is to encourage data providers, scientists, farmers, food producers and the public to discover the food supply’s key vulnerabilities and inherent resiliency,” said Dan Fay, director for earth, energy, and environment, Microsoft Research.

“This predictive information will inform a planning model built on the powerful business intelligence tools that are part of the Microsoft Azure cloud-computing platform, enabling federal agencies, along with the public, access and tools to promote data synthesis with other data sources,” Fay said.

Amazon also announced a similar programme, extending its climate change research collaboration with NASA last year. The company is launching Amazon Climate Research Grant programme and a call for proposals designed to “drive innovative climate-change research with a focus on computational analysis.”

It said in early September 2014 it will award grants of free access to supercomputing resources through Amazon EC2 Spot Instances totalling 50 million core hours, and the winners will present their research and findings at the company’s annual re:Invent conference in November.

IBM has also joined the fray, announcing it will grant climate change scientists free access to its peer to peer supercomputing platform, World Community Grid, which allows scientists to link their computers and contribute unused CPU cycles for scientific computations.

The software receives, completes, and returns small computational assignments to scientists and essentially weaves each contributor’s device into one massive computing fabric.

IBM said each approved project will have access to up to 100,000 years of computing time at a value of $60m.

“Massive computer power is as essential to modern-day scientific research as test tubes and telescopes,” said Stanley S. Litow, vice president, corporate citizenship & corporate affairs and president at the IBM International Foundation. “But due to scarce funding for research, pioneering scientists often don’t have access to supercomputers vast enough to meet their research objectives.”

“We hope that the equivalent of 100,000 years of computing time per scientist will speed the next major breakthrough to help the world meet the challenge of climate change,” Litow said.