April 10, 2014

TCG’s NITRC Project Receives Windows Azure Research Grant from Microsoft

Grant Is First Science Award from Microsoft’s VM Depot

Washington, DC, April 10, 2014: TCG announced today that Microsoft Research has awarded a grant for the Neuroimaging Informatics Tools and Resources Clearinghouse (NITRC) project to provide enhanced services downloadable from Microsoft’s Virtual Machine Depot.

NITRC is an award-winning, user-friendly collaboration environment for the neuroinformatics community, giving neuroinformatics researchers [img_assist|nid=324|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=200|height=43]around the world easy access to software tools and resources, imaging data, and a cloud-based computational environment. Most of the neuroinformatics resources are free, and many have communities of interest associated with them, allowing researchers to share advice and ideas for use of the data and resources, and to collaborate in improving them.

VM Depot is a community-developed catalog of available operating systems, applications, and development stacks that can be installed in minutes by anyone with a Windows Azure account. Windows Azure regularly solicits applications from scholarly researchers for one-year free accounts for storage and computing resources. 

The next round of applications, due April 15, is for Science VMs for Research—proposals to build virtual machine images that can be shared within the scientific community. In preparation for those awards, Azure gave its first award to NITRC to develop and test new contributions to Microsoft’s VM Depot. 

In 2006 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded TCG a contract to design, develop, and operate NITRC Resources Repository (NITRC‑R). Since then, two enhanced services have been added: NITRC Image Repository (NITRC-IR), which offers a select set of community-generated neuroimaging data sets, and NITRC Computational Environment (NITRC-CE), which offers neuroscience researchers the convenience, speed, and savings of cloud-based computing against public and private neuroinformatics data.

While it is standard practice for scientific communities to share important open-source, domain-specific software tools, using these tools often involves complex installation procedures or the resolution of library conflicts. Cloud computing obviates such impediments by enabling communities to share a complete operating system image, pre-installed with all the software applications needed by specialized groups of users. Thus, a newcomer to VM Depot can start up the NITRC-CE virtual machine, and quickly start processing massive amounts of public and private data or NITRC-IR data. The NITRC team will keep the cloud-based VM image updated with the latest versions of all the pipelined software.

“This grant award once again demonstrates that NITRC’s collaboration, big data, and cloud compute services are highly valuable to the neuroinformatics research community,” said TCG president Dan Turner. “Our team continues to do an outstanding job of promoting NITRC, expanding its capabilities, and making it available across multiple platforms. That helps the research community to save time and money, and advance neuroinformatics research.” 

“Publication of research results has been part of research for generations,” said William Heetderks, Ph. D., associate director at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. “Increasingly it is becoming important to also ‘publish’ imaging data and advanced software so that others can use it, test it in other settings, or verify it.”
“We are delighted to have the NITRC community’s popular neuroimaging tools available to our neuroimaging user base on Azure,” said Dennis Gannon, Director of Cloud Research Strategy, Microsoft Research Connections. “This project was a perfect fit for our new Science VMs so we decided to accept it well before the April 15 deadline.”

Nina Preuss, TCG Program Manager, Healthcare, said: “We work hard to provide NITRC services in a variety of formats to meet the NIH researcher community’s particular requirements. NITRC-CE was originally launched via the AWS Marketplace, then as a downloadable installer script so community members could run it on their institutions’ infrastructure. With this grant, we will soon be able to offer NITRC-CE via Microsoft Open Technologies VM Depot, and NITRC-IR via Windows Azure storage”

The development of NITRC was funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, GSA contract No. GS-00F-00F-0034P, Order Number HHSN268201100090U. 

About TCG
TCG (https://www.tcg.com) is an award-winning small business that specializes in tailored information technology solutions and advisory services with a particular focus on grants management, collaboration platforms, and budget formulation and execution. TCG transforms information technology infrastructures and inconsistent processes to integrated environments built on reusable functionality, consistent business processes, and interoperable infrastructures. The multiple awards that TCG and its clients have received demonstrate the benefits of using best practices such as CMMI, ITIL, and PMBOK to meet complex technology and management needs.

David G. Cassidy
Vice President
Tel: 202–742-8471