In the wake of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg donating $25 million to the CDC foundation, Microsoft is expected to announce a program allowing researchers fighting the Ebola virus unfettered access to their Azure cloud network as a part of their efforts.
Up until now, researchers were fighting the virus with the equivalent of sharpened sticks. With access to what can nearly be described as a supercomputer, Microsoft will essentially arm them with a tank.
According to Microsoft, Azure is their “cloud platform: a growing collection of integrated services.” Microsoft has given access to Azure in the past, launching a program in 2013 that gives 100 grants to university researchers. Access to Azure gives researchers fighting Ebola access to a massive network of computers to analyze unfathomable amounts of data, and it’s all entirely free for them to utilize.
The offer comes at a terrifying time in the fight against Ebola in the U.S., coming just after the CDC quarantined a passenger on a cruise liner who had contact with blood samples from Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to die from Ebola in the United States. Additionally, Amber Vinson, a nurse that treated Duncan prior to his death, has raised concerns about the CDC’s ability to control the virus after successfully boarding a passenger flight despite showing symptoms of Ebola infection. Vinson is the second nurse to have contracted Ebola from Thomas Eric Duncan.
The expectation of the announcement comes after Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella mentioned the idea in passing during a press conference on Microsoft’s Cloud services in San Francisco on Monday.
Microsoft has a lengthy history of charitable actions thanks to former CEO Bill Gates’ propensity to delve into philanthropic endeavors. Gates recently informed The Guardian that he, too, will be stepping up his Ebola efforts through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who have been active in creating new malaria vaccines. Gates has been working with those vaccine experts to determine what can be done to create similar treatments for Ebola.
Microsoft’s Azure is available in 19 countries, making it an ideal platform to upscale the fight into a global initiative and allowing teams from all corners of the planet to work in tandem to reduce the spread of Ebola. And while Microsoft’s generosity is undoubtedly aimed toward the greater good, it may also play out well for Nadella, who upon taking the helm of the Redmond tech giant, touted that Microsoft’s future was oriented around his now famous quote, “Mobile first, cloud first.” And if that Cloud ends up saving millions of lives, Microsoft is going to come out smelling like roses.
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[Image via Microsoft]