Microsoft has added a new application to its Windows Azure cloud computing platform that will make it possible for a larger spectrum of researchers to crunch big numbers in the field of biotechnology.

The company announced at the Supercomputing conference in New Orleans the release of NCBI BLAST on the Azure platform. BLAST is short for Basic Local Alignment Search Tool, and is an application that can be used by researchers in bioinformatics, energy, drug research and other fields to sift through large protein databases. NCBI is the acronym for the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Microsoft says the powerful computing platform can be used in a wide array of research efforts, including helping to identify new animal species, improving drug effectiveness, and conducting research into new biofuels. The application will allow scientists to access and collaborate with private data collections, as well as data on hosted on Azure. That data vault will include NCBI public protein data collections and the results of Microsoft’s large protein comparisons.

“NCBI BLAST on Windows Azure gives all research organizations the same computing resources that traditionally only the largest labs have been able to afford,” Bob Muglia, president of the server and tools business for Microsoft, said in a statement.

At the supercomputing conference Microsoft demonstrated the power of the application on Azure by showcasing how it could be used to compare some 100 billion protein sequences in a database managed by the NCBI. Microsoft is making the BLAST available to many researchers at no cost through its global cloud research initiative.



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