While physical clouds may be part science and part art, the technology variant is all science. Cloud computing infrastructures are used for everything from mobile apps and enterprise software to (more recently) gaming and media streaming.

And the flexibility of cloud computing means that they are now used for scientific research ahead of high end supercomputers — as was the norm in the past.

But not everyone can pay the sky high (pun always intended) costs of renting a supercomputer, particularly small and medium research teams. For them the serious computing and processing prowess that cloud offers is a much better option.

Competing cloud infrastructure providers, including Google, already have such programs in place. And now Microsoft has just revealed its offering — Windows Azure for Research.

This collaboration between its Microsoft Research unit and Windows Azure division has several tiers that scientists can use for their projects that require cloud power and intensive computing power.

Microsoft made the announcement in a blog post confirming that it will begin training sessions around the world starting this month with the aim of helping researchers use cloud computing. The company also aims to offer technical resources and classes.

An annual Windows Azure for Research workshop is also on the agenda, as is a Windows Azure for Research Awards Program that offers grants to research teams:

“We will be accepting proposals for sizable grants of Windows Azure resources. We expect to make up to 100 of these awards each year. The awards will be for individual projects or for community efforts to host scientific data and services.”

There will be six such awards every year, and while the company will be accepting entries regularly, but the deadline for the first set of awards is set at October 15. And the actual grants will be announced two weeks later.

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